This historic albumen photograph is by William H. Jackson, the famed western photographer. Most of the photographs are of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, and Utah and were printed circa 1885. Many were taken along the line of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Rail Road. Each photograph is mounted on to large grey cards, many have period calligraphic captions in red ink. A few images, are signed in the negative by J. Young & Co. of Salt Lake City.
William H. Jackson (1843-1942) began his career in photograph in 1858 working in retouching in a studio in Troy, New York. He served in the Union Army in the 1860s, but moved to Nebraska in 1867 where he established his own studio. He worked on an extensive series of views for the Union Pacific Railroad. This work led him to be recruited by Ferdinand Hayden for the U.S. Geological Survey team where he photographed much of the West including Yellowstone and parts of Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Nevada.
Jackson was inspired by Thomas Moran, C. R. Savage and A. J. Russell. He became the first to photograph many high mountain peaks, valleys and western scenes in a more detailed and topographic style. In 1879, his work with the Survey at an end, he set up a commercial photography studio in Denver, marketing landscape photographs of the West both for his own purposes and on behalf of various railroads.
The present image date to Jackson’s time in Denver. Photographs from this era by Jackson and others “took on added significance in 1890 when the census revealed that the frontier had vanished — Americans had settled virtually everywhere in the transcontinental realm. All that remained of the Old West — that untamed expanse inhabited only by free-roaming Indian tribes, audacious mountain men, and wild animals — were the dusty memoirs of those who had lived during that epic era and the photos of William Henry Jackson” (Waitley).