Railroad Empire across the Heartland
Rephotographing Alexander Gardner's Westward Journey
Publication Year: 2014
Best known for his Civil War photographs, Alexander Gardner also documented the construction of the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division (later the Kansas Pacific Railroad), across Kansas beginning in 1867. This book presents recent photographs by John R. Charlton of the scenes Gardner recorded, paired with the Gardner originals and accompanied by James E. Sherow’s discussion. Like most rephotography projects, this one provides fascinating information about the changes in the landscape over the last century and a half.
The book presents ninety pairs of Gardner’s and Charlton’s photographs. In all of Charlton’s photos he duplicates the exact location and time of day of the Gardner originals. Sherow uses the paired images to show how Indian and Anglo-American land-use practices affected the landscape. As the Union Pacific claimed, the railroad created an American empire in the region, and Charlton’s rephotography captures the transformation of the grasslands, harnessed by the powerful social and economic forces of the railroad.
Published by: University of New Mexico Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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From Alexander Gardner to John R. Charlton
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In 1934, Robert Taft, a chemistry professor at the University of Kansas and the president of the Kansas State Historical Society, delivered an address titled “A Photographic History of Early Kansas.” On that occasion, Taft celebrated the enormous accomplishments of famous Civil War and western photographer Alexander Gardner’s work in depicting “towns, scenes and ...
"The New Pioneer of Population and Settlement": The Making of an American Imperial Landscape
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Around nine o’clock during a warm mid-June evening in 1867, diners had just finished a sumptuous and elegant banquet in the Southern Hotel, one of the finest in all of St. Louis, Missouri. Sen. Richard Yates of Illinois, speaking for the indisposed president pro tempore of the United States Senate, Benjamin Wade, stood and addressed an audience of other U.S. senators, local politicians, and reporters from the...
Imperial Photographic Pairings
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Most of the Gardner photographs that follow in this section depict an area of Kansas that bears the marks of those people who inhabited the area prior to when Kansas became a state in 1861. Shown are roads surveyed and graded by the U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Leavenworth. The towns of Leavenworth and Kansas City, Missouri, initially served soldiers, overlanders,...
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Alexander Gardner took many more stereographic photographs than he made in the imperial format. Stereo photographs had immense popular appeal given their 3D effects, and Gardner, being the astute businessman he was, certainly understood the potential market for these photographs....
Epilogue: What Kind of Empire?
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An American empire has taken root, but it has not produced all of the fruits anticipated by its proponents nearly 150 years ago. Railroad building has had the most lasting effects on the urban contours of the state. Railroad executives determined which towns would eventually become market and cultural centers. Town boosters understood clearly that their efforts were doomed without a railroad link. Consequently,...
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Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2014