Andrew J. Russell

Andrew Joseph Russell (1830 – 1902)

One of a handful of landscape photographers who shaped our perception of the American West in the 19th century, A. J. Russell’s work stands alongside of Carleton Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge and Timothy O’Sullivan in its aesthetic power and technical virtuosity. A large group of Russell’s original glass-plate negatives are preserved in the Collection of the Oakland Museum of California.

A painter as well as photographer, Russell worked for Matthew Brady before documenting the U.S. Military Railroad as a captain during the Civil War. After the war, he secured a position as official photographer for the Union Pacific Railroad in its massive endeavor to construct a transcontinental railroad. His photographs, culminating in the iconic “Joining of the Rails” at Promontory, Utah, capture the majestic scale of western lands, the gritty enterprise of railroad building, frontier boom towns, and the effect of railroads on Native Americans.

Russell’s photographs brought the railroad, and the American West, to a mass audience. Disseminated internationally as stereo views and engravings in newspapers, and filtered through Hollywood films and even advertising, Russell’s visual style continues to influence our image of western history and mythology.

In 1969 the Oakland Museum acquired nearly 650 collodion “wet plate” negatives in both stereo and “imperial” (10 X 13 inch) formats. The original glass camera negatives were made in the field by Russell himself, making the collection unique, among major 19th century landscape photographers. The Museum also holds one of the few surviving copies of The Great West Illustrated, an album of vintage albumen prints by Russell, as well as mounted stereo views and more than 100 glass lantern slides.

Russell’s photographs illuminate powerful themes in American history: westward expansion and Manifest Destiny, the displacement of native peoples, attitudes toward landscape and the natural environment, technological history (both engineering and photographic), and the important role of art and photography in shaping and expressing cultural concerns.

For the first time, high-resolution digital scans of the original glass-plate negatives are now available for online viewing. These scans are highly detailed and rich in searchable content.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. National Endowment for the Arts

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The Old Grist Mill, Utah
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: 151 The Old Grist Mill Utah (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative, 10"X13". Sub. Cat.:...

Tunnel No. 2, Head of Echo
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: No 105 Tunnel No 2 Head of Echo (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative, 10"X13". Sub. Cat.:...

High Rocks Mining District, Dale Creek Canyon
circa 1868

No 27 High Rocks Mining District Dale Creek Cannon (Scratched on Negative). Massive rocks with posing on them in otherwise rolling hills.

Church Buttes, Winter Time
circa 1868

81 Church Buttes Winter (Scratched on negative). Snow on ground.

Commission at Fort Sanders, No. 2
circa 1868

Commission at Fort Sanders No (Scratched on negative)."Note the number of people whose faces are blurred due to exposure times. Note also African-American posing behind those seated in chairs."...

Western Approach of Dale Creek Bridge, Granite Cut
circa 1868

Western approach of Dale Creek Bridge, Granite cut. (30)"Sign telling locomotive engineers to slow down to 4 miles an hour to cross the rickety Dale Creek Bridge" remarks per Glenn Willumson for...

High Rocks, Weber Valley, Mouth of Echo Canyon
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: No 122 High Rocks Weber Valley Mouth of Echo Cannon (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative...

Round House and Machine Shops at Rawlings
circa 1868

58 Round House and Machine Shops at Rawlings. (Scratched on negative).

Round House and Machine Shop, Northeast Front, Laramie
circa 1868

No 39 Round House and Machine Shop North East Front Laramie (Scratched on negative). Shows buildings and engines.

Temple Street, Salt Lake City
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: 167 Temple Street Salt Lake City (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. All business along street are well marked with signs. Physical Description: "...

Machine Shops of Laramie from the Wind Mill
circa 1868

No Machine Shops of Laramie from the Wind Mill 40 (Scratched on negative).

Lime Kiln Cut near Granite Canyon
circa 1868

"Granite Canyon is located in Wyoming." Remarks per Glenn Willumson for the NEA Russell Grant, July 2013 - June 2015.

Group of Ute Indians on the War Path
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: 234 Group of Ute Indians on the War Path (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Indians mounted on horses. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate"...

Castle Rock, Echo Canyon
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: No 107 Castle Rock Echo Cannon (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative, 10"X13". Sub. Cat.:...

Conglomerate Peaks of Echo, General View
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: 139 Conglomerate Peaks of Echo General View (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative, 10"X13...

Black Buttes from the Station of that Name, U.P.R.R.
circa 1868

(61) Black Buttes from the station of that name, U.P.R.R. Train in middle ground.

Warehouse of U.P.R.R. at Laramie City, Grain Stored for Transportation
circa 1868

No 52 Ware House of U.P.R.R. at Laramie City Grain stored for transportation (Scratched on negative). Buildings, train and men also in view.

Embankment No. 1, East of Granite Canyon
circa 1868

"Granite Canyon is located in Wyoming." Remarks per Glenn Willumson for the NEA Russell Grant, July 2013 - June 2015.

Bitter Creek Valley from Coal Mines near Point of Rocks
circa 1868

(62) Bitter Creek Valley from coal mines near Point of Rocks. Miners in view with train in distance. See 69.459.1905 and 69.459.1908 to complete Russel panorama. 69.459.1902 similar view."Because...

Warner and Whitman's at Echo
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: 125 Warner and Whitmans at Echo (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Buildings with rooling hills. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass...

Railroad Hotel Dining Room, Laramie
circa 1868

(48) Railroad Hotel Dining Room, Laramie. All prepared for dinners.

Brigham Young's Theater, Salt Lake City
circa 1868

Photograph. Title: 159 No Brigham Young's Theater Salt lake City (Scratched on negative) Image Description: See title. Physical Description: "Imperial Plate" collodion glass negative, 10"...

Eagle's Nest, Red Buttes near Red Buttes Station, U.P.R.R., Soft Red Sandstone, about 80 Feet High
circa 1868

(35) Eagle's Nest, Red Buttes' station, U.P.R.R. Soft red sandstone, about 80 feet high."Note large nest on top of tallest rock formation, left of center" remarks per Glenn Willumson for the NEA...

Miller and Patterson's Cut No. 6, East of Tie Pile
circa 1868

No 34 Miller and Patterson's Cut No 6 East of Tie Pile (Scratched on negative)"UPRR print notes West of Dale Creek. Title sheets pasted on the verso of photographs in the collection of the Union...

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