The Transcription Project: Adventures in Western Americana

Last summer, Princeton University researchers set out to transcribe and explore some of the Princeton Collections of the American West’s under-catalogued nineteenth-century manuscripts.

Professor of History Martha A. Sandweiss and Curator of Western Americana Gabriel Swift were awarded a 2020 Rapid Response Grant from the Princeton University Humanities Council to transcribe these manuscripts for better access and research potential. Three graduate students from the Princeton History Department—Poorvi BellurKate Carpenter, and Brian Wright—transcribed, annotated, and researched the manuscripts.

A pencil sketch from the 1854 journals of Thomas Adams, surveyor, explorer, and U.S. Indian Agent in the Pacific Northwest during the mid-nineteenth century. Journal; Thomas Adams Papers, C1452, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

Their work culminated in a Princeton University Library exhibition, Rose Early, Grass Scarce: Writing the Journey into the Nineteenth Century American West, which highlighted the collection’s most noteworthy content and explored how the team brought these stories to life. Within the exhibition, you can access digitized files of the manuscript material and read annotated transcriptions of the journals and correspondence.

A hand-colored lithograph pasted into Daniel Gano’s scrapbook illustrating the ethnic and racial diversity of the “49ers” of California. Lithograph produced by Kelloggs & Comstock, 1849-1852. Daniel Gano Gold Rush Scrapbook, C1398, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

These little-read items, ranging from overland diaries to California Gold Rush letters to Native American treaty minutes, offer glimpses of the nineteenth century’s charged encounters between white settlers and the many peoples they encountered out West. A young man from Cincinnati describes a nightmarish race war amidst the diggings of the Sierra Nevada; a U.S. Indian Agent navigates the complexities of language, culture, and politics at the heart of Indian treaty negotiations; and a clerk stationed in Civil War-era New Mexico wonders if his country can solve chattel slavery and its “Indian problem” all at once.

A page from the diary of William Need, a clerk stationed at Fort Wingate, New Mexico during the Civil War. The author of this diary was unknown when Princeton acquired it; the Transcription Project team was able to triangulate the author’s biography, location, and handwriting with other manuscript sources to confirm Need’s identity. New Mexico Civil War Journal, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

We hope that the annotated transcriptions will help scholars of the region explore both classic and new themes, from cartography and military conflict to racialization and Native American politics.

New Acquisitions, Summer 2021

By: Brian Wright, with Benjamin Bollinger ’21, Katie Bushman ’22, Jacquelyn Davila ’22, Noa Greenspan ’23, Connor McGoldrick ’21, and Joe Ort ’21

The Princeton Collections of the American West continue to expand––the materials below, all purchased in 2021 and digitized for viewing anywhere in the world, complement Princeton’s strengths in Native American material and nineteenth century photography. Princeton undergraduates investigated each acquisition’s background and subjects to improve the Princeton University Library’s catalog records and suggest potential research avenues. The Spring 2021 seminar, “Archiving the American West,” taught by Professor of History Martha Sandweiss, in collaboration with Curator of Western Americana Gabriel Swift and Ph.D. Candidate Brian Wright, culminated in an online library exhibition showcasing the students’ work on other under-researched material in the collections.

Click the title of each item/collection to view finding aids and the digitized material.

Nellie Martin Wade, “Through Interior Alaska on Horseback and the Scenic Coast Route,” Manuscript Book Draft (1907)

“This territory, much of which is practically unknown, is too vast to be described in one small volume … There is something in Alaska for every one and it is big enough for all.” So writes Nellie Martin Wade, who claimed to be the “first woman to explore the Great Shushitna Valley and the Mt. McKinley Range” in the early twentieth century. Wade’s manuscript account, intended for publication but never published, provides a detailed glimpse of the Alaskan interior in the years after the Klondike Gold Rush. Tucked in the back of the book is a photograph of the author mounted on a fold-out paper stand, inscribed “To My dear Girl, from Aunt Nell.” While Princeton University librarians date the manuscript to 1907, this portrait is dated June 1928, suggesting that Wade gifted the book draft to a relative or friend much later in life.

A semi-wealthy tourist from Seattle, Wade describes in the manuscript’s 200-plus pages her journey through the extreme environments, abandoned mining villages, and indigenous settlements of the Manatuska-Susitna Valley. For example, she writes in detail about the boomtown of Eyake, which was nonexistent six weeks before her arrival in summer, reportedly contained fourteen saloons and a secondhand store at the time Wade visited, and had completely vanished again when she returned on her way back to Seattle in October.

The lengthy book draft would be of significant interest to scholars researching both the natural and human history of Alaska during a transition period, between the rapid changes of the Klondike Gold Rush and the coming of large-scale oil extraction in the 1920s. The work is also notable because so few white women were traveling through this country at the time; her perspective in that time and place were truly unique. While Wade exhibits surprising scientific literacy on Alaska’s glaciation and an eye for detailed landscapes, her romantic depictions of Alaska as a “new frontier” also strike the reader:

Alaska scenes do not fade when one has left its shores … oftimes there drifts into the mind a dream of beauty that seems almost heavenly and we awake from a reverie with a yearning desire to again linger on Alaska’s peaceful shores …

William Ridings, Diary of Military Service in Minnesota and the Dakota Territory (1867-1870)

This nearly 200-page pocket diary, kept by U.S. Army Sergeant William Ridings during his time in Minnesota and Dakota Territory in the late 1860s, offers a portrait of military life in the West at a time of major change: from the mass conscription of the Civil War to a leaner, more professionalized force for territorial conquest out West; and from a U.S. government policy of relative autonomy for equestrian Plains tribes to an all-out war for their ancestral homelands. Like most soldiers, Ridings mostly concerned himself—and his diary—with what was right in front of him: the daily drills, periodic inspections, guard duty, cleaning tasks, and frequent dress parades of regimental life. Ridings is unafraid to critique aspects of military life that he found distasteful: ill-disciplined soldiers, widespread drunkenness, and some of his peers’ decisions to desert entirely.

From constructing and supplying forts to repairing public bridges, Riding demonstrates that U.S. Army grunts were more than just soldiers; they built much of the infrastructure that facilitated westward expansion. Not only did the soldiers repair bridges as they traveled through the landscape and patched the roofs in Fort Abercrombie; they also took on more traditionally gendered tasks like cooking and cleaning.

Historians of the American military, especially out West, will find this diary a decidedly un-romantic record of everyday soldier life in a turbulent region undergoing rapid transformations.

John P. Soule, Photograph Album of the Aftermath of the Great Seattle Fire of 1889

The Occidental Hotel along 1st Avenue in downtown Seattle, destroyed by the fire of June 6, 1889. From the Soule album. Courtesy Princeton University Library.

A photograph album containing twenty-eight photographs by John P. Soule, illustrating the destruction of the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 and its aftermath. The first seventeen photographs capture the fresh ruins of Seattle’s business district that June, showing the immediate damage to specific buildings. By contrast, the last eleven photographs focus on the recovery efforts of July, portraying tents full of businesses and restaurants (over 100 within one month of the fire) that remained up and running as the city was being rebuilt. Soule may have arranged this album to tell a chronological story of urban renewal, taking the viewer from the destruction of June to the resilience of July.

Tent structures along the docks of Puget Sound illustrate the city’s initial efforts to rebuild downtown. July, 1889. Courtesy Princeton University Library.

This album would be of great value to historians researching Soule’s career as a regional photographer and to explore the history of urban growth, destruction, and renewal in the West. As an obscure piece of Soule’s work, it fits into his and the American public’s lasting taste for disaster imagery––Soule also photographed Portland, Maine’s Great Fire of 1866 and Boston’s Great Fire of 1872, in addition to publishing 1866 photographs from war-torn Charleston, South Carolina. By the summer of 1889 Soule was already well-established as a photographer and publisher, known for his stereographic views and photographs of famous paintings (many examples of these formats are available in the Library of Congress’s Soule holdings). Initial research suggests that some of the images in this album were used in other formats, sold by Soule and others, in the decades to come. Researchers might consult a similar album held by the University of Washington that points to

Some affiliations for scholars to investigate might be Soule’s early partnership with sculptor John Rogers; his relationship to photographers George Curtiss, George Barnard, Martin Mason Hazeltine, and James W. Campbell; and that to his own brother William Stinson Soule, a photographer of the West (especially Oklahoma and Kansas) who also took over Soule Photograph Company in 1882.

Researchers might also complement Soule’s album with Princeton’s collection of Seattle photographs from the period: one 1898 stereograph from the Keystone Views Company depicts the steamer Rosalie departing for the Klondike Gold Rush, another 1900 stereograph from Underwood & Underwood Publishers depicts the rebuilt and busy docks of Seattle, and a third album of images collected by Norman Selfe shows the Washington-area from roughly 1880 to 1884.

Sarah Goodspeed Papers, 1913-1915

The Sarah Goodspeed papers present a substantial personal archive of a white female missionary who spent time on the Crow Reservation in Pryor, Montana in the 1910s. The Goodspeed papers will allow researchers to explore Indigenous resistance to government-mandated cultural destruction, the emergence of religious syncretism on Indian reservations, and the changing status of (white) women in the early twentieth century. Hired in 1912 as a teacher for the Women’s American Baptist Home Mission Society, Sarah Asenath Goodspeed lived and worked among the Crow nation in Pryor and, over the years, developed an ambivalent perspective on the plight of her Indian students.

Goodspeed’s collection includes a Phrase Book, letters and postcards addressed to family and colleagues, personal notes, poems, and checks, newspaper articles and essays, photographs, and notecards describing Crow cultural objects. Goodspeed’s documents date from a Phrase Book entry in February 1913, her second year on the Crow reservation, to a newspaper article from May 1944, long after she had left Montana for the American South.

A missionary and interpreter baptizing “The Old Corn Woman,” according to Goodspeed’s caption on the reverse. Courtesy Princeton University Library.

Goodspeed’s correspondence, photographs, and collected ephemera reveal the moral conflicts at the heart of missionary work in the West. She was capable of great sympathy for the plight of the Crows, and counseled her colleagues in more gentle techniques of conversion and education; and yet she could also use degrading and stereotypical language to describe Crow children and their parents. She witnessed time and again how Crow families adapted to their new reality on the reservation, blending traditional beliefs and practices with the mandates of the missionaries. Through Goodspeed’s personal journal entries, letters, and collection of newspaper articles and photographs, scholars can explore a critical transition period for both an Indigenous tribe adapting to life on a reservation and for women like Goodspeed who gained social autonomy through mission work.

John Frippo Brown Papers, 1873-1875

A page from the notebook of the John Frippo Brown papers, showing the typically haphazard note-taking style. Courtesy Princeton University Library.

The papers of John Frippo Brown, the last chief of the Seminole nation before Oklahoma statehood in 1907, present a collection of ledgers and inventories in addition to scraps of poetry, tintype photographs, instructions for remedies and brews, and Mvskoke translations. As such, the papers contain valuable cultural information about Seminole politics, medicinal practices, and Mvskoke linguistics. As a prominent politician, Brown negotiated with other leaders of the Seminole community for decades. As a successful businessperson, he involved himself in sales of all kinds. As the father of twelve and a minister, he reckoned with family and faith. And as a leader of a Native American tribe with past ties to slavery, Brown ushered the nation through a difficult reckoning of its racial past and future. Elements of all of these roles appear in the papers.

One of the four tintype photographs in the John Frippo Brown papers. The man on the left appears to be John Frippo Brown, and initial research suggests the man on the right is Cesar Bruner, a Seminole Freedman who crossed paths with Brown in business and politics. Courtesy Princeton University Library.

One research lead that may prove most interesting to scholars of Seminole freedmen is a tintype photograph apparently showing Brown standing next to a Black man, almost certainly a Seminole freedman. Initial research suggests the man may be Cesar Bruner, a prominent freedman interpreter for the Seminoles who may have crossed paths with Brown in business and in dealings with the federal government. The two men in the tintype stand with dignity, equals for at least a moment––what kinds of stories might emerge from these men and their relationship?

Other entries translate traditional Mvskoke medicines and healing rituals, and note Mvskoke phrases and their apparent pronunciation. In contrast to the subsistence farming practiced by many Seminoles, Brown and his brother Andrew amassed what one historian has called a “financial empire” built on “commerce, industry, and agriculture.” The Brown papers seem to provide an accountant’s perspective into the complex workings of this unique outfit. Apparently, John and Andrew Brown would issue scrip for annuity payments awarded to each Seminole citizen, which was only redeemable at stores they owned. Numerous scribbles and scratch-outs attest to somewhat haphazard bookkeeping.

An undated postcard depicting a group of men in front of the Wewoka Trading Company, the first store in Wewoka, Indian Territory. John F. Brown and his brother Jackson purchased the store in 1880. Courtesy Gilcrease Museum.

The John Brown papers suggest some of the ways that personal and family archives help explain or obscure the lives of their keepers.

A Roundup of Notable Acquisitions

A selection of notable acquisitions from 2015 (with a few holdouts from 2014).

Photo Albums, Portfolios, and Photographically Illustrated Books

Roundup-013F. Jay Haynes Yellowstone National Park and Columbia River Photograph Album, ca. 1880s. (C1485)

The album consists of forty-eight albumen prints primarily of various sites in Yellowstone National Park taken by F. Jay Haynes, the park’s first “official” photographer. Included in the album are some of the earliest winter photographs of Yellowstone, which Haynes took during a daring expedition in 1887. A few of the photographs include people, such as the one shown here, “Our Sketch Artist,” which depicts a heavily bundled Henry Bosse, a photographer and artist who accompanied Haynes on the expedition. The album also includes a series of photographic scenes along the Columbia River in Oregon. The last photograph in the album, presumably relating to Haynes’ position as Northern Pacific Railway’s official photographer, captures a train crossing the Bismarck Bridge over the Missouri River.

Roundup-022William Henry Jackson Photograph Album of Colorado and New Mexico, ca. 1880s. (C1488)

This photograph album includes 115 images, primarily of Colorado, though some images are from New Mexico. The photographs capture various frontier towns, railroads, and natural landscapes. Most, if not all, of the prints in the album include the label “W. H. Jackson Photo., Denver, Colo” and also display the titles and numbers from the negatives. The album’s spine reads “Souvenirs of Colorado.”

00000057Edgar Cherry & Co.,  Redwood and Lumbering in California Forests. San Francisco: Edgar Cherry & Co., 1884. (2015-0138Q, View Online)

As noted in the introduction, this illustrated essay on redwood lumbering provided “visitors” the ability “for imparting to others what methods are employed in the felling, logging, and transporting of these monster trees to sawmills, as well as the equally giant proportions of the machinery used in reducing them into building material.” The publication highlights the emerging use of photography in book illustration, and the introduction clearly notes the choice of medium: “The object desired to be attained in presenting views by the photographic process is, to set aside all doubt as to the enormous growth of the Redwood, the number of feet per acre, and the superior qualifications that recommend it to builders and others. Inasmuch as engravers are usually cut from sketches, drawn perhaps by enthused artists, perfect satisfaction is not given; but with photographic views, which cannot lie, argument as to truthfulness is unnecessary.”  No two copies of the publication were issued with identical sets of prints, which “were mounted separately upon heavy cardboard, and liable to be appropriated by ‘admiring friends.'”  The Princeton copy has twenty-four mounted albumen prints, as well as manuscript annotations and two loose notes identifying various people and places in the photographs.

Roundup-002D. C. Herrin “Columbia River Scenery” Photographs, ca. 1892-1897. (C1512)

This collection consists of thirteen albumen card photographs by Oregon photographer David C. Herrin (1863-1909?). The series of photo-graphs, titled “Columbia River Scenery,” were taken via The Dalles, Portland, & Astoria Navigation Company (DP&AN Co.) steamers and the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company (OR&N Co.) line. The photographs vividly document the opening of the Cascade Locks in 1896, as well as the general progress of commercial development along the Columbia River at the end of the nineteenth century.

Roundup-026Frederick Monsen Portfolio of Ethnographic Indian Photographs, ca. 1910. (C1539)

A portfolio of twenty-five sepia-toned silver prints by Norwegian-born photographer, essayist, and lecturer Frederick Monsen (1865-1929).   Prints are of various sizes (approximately 16″ x 20″), each signed by the photographer. Monsen, who immigrated with his parents to Utah Territory in 1868, worked throughout the Southwest, documenting the vanishing culture of the Indians.  He lectured widely on the subject and authored works such as “The Destruction of Our Indians: What Civilization is Doing to Extinguish an Ancient and Highly Intelligent Race by Taking Away its Arts, Industries, and Religion” (The Craftsman, Vol. XI, no. 6, 1907) and With a Kodak in the Land of the Navajo (Eastman Kodak Company, 1909).


Roundup-011Allen & Smith Company Account Book, 1860-1871. (Q-000021)

A 360-page ledger documenting the daily accounts of the mining and mercantile firm of Allen & Smith Co. in Nevada City, California, one of the original gold rush towns settled in 1849. The company started as mining firm in 1860, but, like several other successful ventures, the proprietors soon opened a general store after recognizing the profit to be made in selling goods and mining equipment to those seeking to make their fortune. Along with a detailed account of daily transactions (dates, prices, vendors, cash balance, etc.), the ledger also includes non-business related topics, such as various recipes and cures (“To Build a Shed,” “To Cure Warts on Cows”), as well as entries on the rights of women and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Roundup-010Diary of an Officer on John M. Macomb’s Expedition in Utah, 1859. (C0938 no. 679, View Online)

An unsigned manuscript diary attributed to Lieutenant Milton Cogswell (1825-1882), who led the military escort that accompanied John N. Macomb’s exploring expedition of 1859. As part of the government’s search for a military route into Utah (a consequence of the Utah War), the expedition followed sections of the Old Spanish Trail from Santa Fé, New Mexico, into the canyons of southeastern Utah in search of the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers. Cogswell’s diary offers a fascinating first-hand account of the expedition’s encounters with Native Americans, voices concerns regarding the Mormons, and provides descriptions of landscape and canyons encountered throughout the journey.

Roundup-008New Mexico Civil War Journal, 1862. (C0938 no. 665, View Online)

A manuscript journal kept during the Civil War by “Simon,” a New York Times correspondent in New Mexico. The 124 page journal covers the period from September 25 to December 28, 1862, and records local military affairs, addresses issues regarding the trials of Confederate prisoners from Texas, and notes relations with hostile Apaches and other Indians.

Roundup-005Chester H. King Diaries, 1875-1883. (C1510, View Online)

This collection consists of three diaries, two of which chronicle Chester King’s overland journey to the southwestern frontier from Kansas along the Santa Fe Trail. They include observations about various towns and important landmarks, such as Starvation Rock and the Great Salt Lake, as well as commentary on various groups met along the way, including Native Americans, Scots-Irish immigrants, Mexicans, and Mormons, and the clashes between them. The diaries also include self-described “field notes,” sketches, and illustrations.

Books and Printed Works

Roundup-024Harlequin Cherokee, or, The Indian Chiefs in London. London: Publish’d as the Act directs … by Robt. Sayer, map & printseller, no. 53, in Fleet Street, 1772.  (N-001845)

Number twelve in a series of children’s harlequinades published by English bookseller and printer Robert Sayer, who devised the format in the mid-1760s. Harlequinades, or turn-up books, are arranged as series of four illustrated panels with movable flaps which, when “turned-up,” transform the scene and continue the narrative. The stories, inspired by pantomimes, make frequent use of Harlequin as the main character.  The Harlequin Cherokee, or Indian Chiefs in London, published in 1772, highlights the British public’s fascination with three Cherokee chiefs that arrived in London in 1762. Although the chiefs were not invited by the British government, they successfully gained an audience with King George III, and their visit enthralled Londoners. In 1762 the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane produced The Witches, or Harlequin Cherokee  (online playbill).

RebusJ. Goldsborough Bruff, Rebus Letter Depicting a Miner’s Life during the California Gold Rush.  Washington: August, 1856. (WA Broadside 3, View Online)

A rare and wonderfully bizarre lithographic rebus letter by J. Goldsborough Bruff (1804-1889), adventurer, topographer, architectural draftsman, and “49er” who led a party of sixty-six men in 1849 on an overland journey to California from Washington, D.C. Rebus letters present visual puns through the substitution of symbols or pictograms for conventionally spelled words, as seen in the opening address of this letter which uses an image of a deer and man for “My dear sir.” Kurutz, in his California Gold Rush (1997), describes Bruff’s journey to California “with the intention of writing an overland guidebook.” Bruff’s memoirs were never published during his lifetime, and the letter (Rebus symbols and all) provides some insight into the reasoning: “Manuscript and (papers) R in N. York; the publishers (will) (knot) publish it unless a (sale) is guaranT’d – So for the want of a few hundred names it has been kept (back).”

Life_Among_MinersLife Among the Miners, No. 2. San Francisco: Hutchings & Rosenfeld, [ca. 1858]. (WA Broadside 2, View Online)

A California pictorial letter sheet published by James Mason Hutchings, editor and publisher of Hutchings’ Illustrated California Magazine. The uncommon double-sheet format of this letter sheet allows for the inclusion of thirteen illustrations with accompanying verse describing a Gold Rush miner’s daily life. Like modern-day postcards, pictorial letter sheets provided visual stationary for correspondence with friends and family. On the verso of this sheet is a manuscript letter from E.L. Porter to “Commodore J.B. Porter, Esq.” written on September 3, 1859, from Devil’s Hill mining camp. Poter’s correspondence highlights the usefulness of pictorial stationary:

Last maile [sic] I sent to Major General Captain Esquire Franklin Porter and sent or wrote on a sheet that told all about the way the Californians mined out the Chunks. Now as you survy [sic] how that is done I send the discription [sic] of the gold mining opporations [sic] so you can have an idea of how we live and how we fare.

Oregon Atlas-2Edgar Williams & Co., Historical Atlas Map of Marion & Linn Counties Oregon. Compiled, Drawn, and Published from Personal Examinations and Actual Surveys.  San Francisco: Edgar Williams & Co., 1878. (2014-0018E)

The earliest published Oregon county atlas, Williams’ Historical Atlas Map of Marion & Linn Counties (1878) includes nineteen double-page maps (including a state-wide map of Oregon) and fifty-nine additional illustrations depicting town views, notable households, farms, and various industries, such as flour and saw mills, as well as the state capitol building in Salem. Along with the illustrations, the text provides a detailed history of Marion and Linn counties and biographical sketches of several of the counties’ leading citizens.

Roundup-017Gustaf Nordenskiöld, Ruiner af Klippboningar i Mesa Verde’s Canons [The Cliff Dwellers of the Mesa Verde]. Stockholm: P.A. Norstedt & Soners Forlag, 1893. (2014-0242Q)

The Swedish edition of The Cliff Dwellers of the Mesa Verde by Gustaf Nordenskiöld (1868-1895). Published in 1893, the work represents the earliest scholarly monograph on Mesa Verde and documents the archaeological sites as well as the controversial excavations by Nordenskiöld that would eventually lead to the founding of Mesa Verde National Park in 1906. With its seventeen full-page plates (such as the double-page photogravure of “The Cliff Palaces” shown here), approximately 160 additional illustrations, and detailed textual account, Nordenskiöld’s publication brought international recognition to the ruins and represents an important historical record of late nineteenth-century archaeological practices.

Looking at the West: Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley!

Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley! : Now Exhibiting for a Short Time Only … this Gorgeous Panorama, with All the Aboriginal Monuments … Painted by the Eminent Artist I. J. Egan…. Newark, N.J.: Printed at the Mercury Office, ca. 1851. Western Americana Collection: (WA) E78.M75 M65e

In the history of the theater there are no productions so nearly incredible as the panoramas of the Mississippi. Five times within the 1840’s the Father of Waters sat—or kept rolling along—for his portrait. Five times artists made lengthy, laborious, and expensive trips sketching river scenery and then spent weeks and months transferring those sketches to canvas. (McDermott, 17)

Painted “panoramas in motion,” a popular touring entertainment in the 19th century, presented a perfect medium in which to capture the expanse of the Western landscape, and in 1846, John Banvard captured the imagination of Boston with an exhibition of his Panorama of the Mississippi River, self-proclaimed as “the largest picture ever executed by man” with its “painted three miles of canvas … exhibiting a view of country 1200 miles in length.” The success of Banvard’s exhibition, which left “the enterprising artist … reaping a golden harvest,” was soon followed by four competing panoramas of the Mississippi River by John Rowson Smith, Samuel B. Stockwell, Henry Lewis, and Leon D. Pomarède. Regretfully, none of these panoramas exist today.

The Western Americana collection holds a printed broadside announcing the exhibition of Professor M. W. Dickson’s and J. J. Egan’s Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley!, “a gorgeous panorama” that covers “over 15,000 feet of canvas.”  The broadside was printed in Newark, NJ, circa 1851.  Unlike the five earlier panoramas of the 1840s, however, John J. Egan’s original canvas panorama still survives.

In the summer of 2011, the Saint Louis Art Museum embarked “on an ambitious conservation project to save a historic treasure of local significance, the only surviving panorama of the Mississippi River.” A team of conservators restored the surviving 348-foot long painting in the museum’s main exhibition gallery, giving visitors an opportunity to view the painting and witness its restoration.  For an interview with Paul Haner, SLAM’s painting conservator, see “Navigating the West.” Images of the of the 25-scene panorama can also be viewed online in the Saint Louis Art Museum Collections, Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley.


Description of Banvard’s Panorama of the Mississippi River, Painted on Three Miles of Canvas: Exhibiting a View of Country 1200 Miles in Length, Extending from the Mouth of the Mississippi River to the City of New Orleans…. Boston: John Putnam, 1847. Internet Archive.

McDermott, John Francis. The Lost Panoramas of the Mississippi. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958.

Sandweiss, Martha A. “Of Instruction for Their Faithfulness” in Print the Legend: Photography and the American West (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 47-86.

Saint Louis Art Museum. Restoring an American Treasure: The Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley.

Fort Stanton, New Mexico Territory, ca. 1887

No. 230, Fort Stanton N.M. from the N.W.

No. 230, Fort Stanton N.M. from the N.W.

The Western Americana Collection recently acquired a set of four 5 x 7 albumen cabinet cards of Fort Stanton, New Mexico.  The photographs are undated and the photographer is unattributed. Three of the photographs, however, include print numbers and titles:

No. 230, Fort Stanton N.M. from the N.W.

No. 231, Fort Stanton N.M. from S.W.

No. 233, Fort Stanton from N.E.


No. 233, Fort Stanton from N.E.

An identical print of no. 233 housed in the University of South Carolina Bonneville Collection is annotated in a contemporary hand with the following inscription:

Photograph taken at Fort Stanton, New Mexico Territory, March 1887.  1) launderers’ quarters, 2) garrison, 3) Fort Hospital, and on the north side of the Rio Bonita where tents can be seen, are situated the company gardens.


Grooming Horses at Fort Stanton

The fourth photograph in the collection lacks a print number but is titled “Grooming Horses at Fort Stanton,” and several of the soldiers appear to be African Americans.  Buffalo Soldiers, African American cavalry and infantry troops that served in the Civil War and were later sent to the Western frontier to fight in the Indian wars, began serving in the New Mexico Territory in mid-1860s.  The 9th Cavalry participated in the Colfax County War in 1876 and the Lincoln County War in 1878, where they were stationed at Fort Stanton.  While the 9th Cavalry left New Mexico in 1881, the 10th Cavalry returned to New Mexico in 1887, and one of the final duties of the Buffalo Soldiers stationed in New Mexico was the dismantling of Fort Stanton in 1896. For more about African American troops in New Mexico and additional works on the history of Buffalo Solders, see William H. Wroth’s “Buffalo Soldiers in New Mexico.”


Wroth, William H. “Buffalo Soldiers in New Mexico.” New Mexico Office of the State Historian.