Double Crossing, I utilized several photos taken by A. J. Russell during the construction of the transcontinental railroad. They came in handy for describing the historical landscapes - completely changed by now, after over 125 years. I didn't think much of these photos, except how convenient they'd been and easy to find on the internet. I saw this photo of the Dale Creek bridge and used it for my book's central danger point -- which I have to admit, came in very handy. Call it exploitation, if you will.
Shame on me.
Born and raised in New York, Andrew J. Russell worked as a portrait and landscape painter. Perhaps that's where he developed such an eye for grandeur. In 1862, he assisted in organizing the local militia to serve in the "War of Rebellion." A.J. no doubt trudged along with his Army compatriots and faced the fears and boredom until getting an opportunity in February of 1863 to learn photography. From a cameraman, E.G. Fowx, associated with Matthew Brady's studio--what a happy chance.
We have much to be thankful for when seeing these photographs. They show the American west at its most innocent, unspoiled time. Russell's work -- 200+ negatives and 400+ stereographs -- has a home in the Oakland Museum. They portray a changing America, a healing America, and the one major engineering feat that brought East and West together via the transcontinental railroad. His images were used in advertising, in a book put out by the Union Pacific, to illustrate guides for travelers and for public lecturers talking about the American West.
Russell died in 1902, back in New York. I'd like to raise a Thanksgiving toast to Mr. Russell's memory. Thanks, A.J. We'd never have seen the west before it was truly conquered if not for your work.
Images courtesy of http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/