Humphrey Lloyd Hime. Photographs taken at Lord Selkirk's Settlement on the Red River of the North, to Illustrate a Narrative of the Canadian Exploring Expeditions in Rupert's Land.... London, 1860.
"A Vast Expanse of Level Prairie lying to the West...." (Photograph)
"Birch-Bark Tents, West of Red River." (Photograph)
These photographs are from the first portfolio of photographic illustrations published to accompany an account of a North American exploring expedition. Hime traveled with Henry Youle Hind to the prairies of western Canada in 1858. Many of his photographs showed the settlements and inhabitants, European and native, around Ft. Garry. One of the images here shows Indian tents typical of the region. The other shows a landscape of unparalleled bleakness, the flat landscape reaching to the horizon without relief.
Henry Youle Hind. Narrative of the Canadian Red River Exploring Expedition of 1857 and of the Assinniboine and Saskatchewan Exploring Expedition of 1858. London, 1860.
After Humphrey Lloyd Hime, "The Prairie Looking West." (Chromolithograph)
The Hind Expedition to the prairies of western Canada was one of the first surveys to use photography as a primary means of recording the landscape. This chromolithograph, based on a photograph, reduces the grimness of the scene by adding life in the form of geese and a blue sky; nonetheless, the bleakness of the scene remains clear.
S. Nugent Townshend and J.G. Hyde. Our Indian Summer in the Far West. An Autumn Tour of Fifteen Thousand Miles in Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and the Indian Territory. London. 1880.
"Otero Depot, A.T. and S.F.R.R., New Mexico." (Albumen photograph)
In the hands of the tourist traveler, photographs often shifted the evoked spirit of place from the transcendent to the commonplace. The view from the side of the railroad track became the normal experience. Townshend and Hyde lavishly illustrated their narrative with mounted original photographs, an expensive form of illustration. They provide a bleak, and presumably accurate, view of life along the railroad sidings of the West.
Thomas C. Porter. Impressions of America. London, 1899.
"View from the Summit of Pike's Peak, Colorado." (Offset photograph)
By the 1890's, when this British traveler published his account of visiting the West, photomechanical reproduction had become an affordable way to illustrate a book. Offset photoprints were serviceable but drab compared to the lithographs they replaced, and Porter obviously felt that something was needed to make the viewer's experience more stimulating. He hit upon the novel idea of reproducing stereo photographs and providing a stereographic viewer in a pocket in the rear. Although it made for a clumsy book, it gave the reader an enhanced understanding of the places the author depicted.
John W. Powell. Canyons of the Colorado. Meadville, 1895.
Unknown artist, "The Heart of Marble Canyon." (Steel engraving)
When John Wesley Powell wrote his final account of his pioneering explorations of the Colorado River, he seemed more concerned with recreating the experience of discovery and the excitement of adventure for his readers than in providing a precise chronology of his work. His narrative collapsed several trips into one and rearranged events with authorial license not taken in the official report published in 1872. Perhaps in keeping with the spirit of this text, Powell evidently preferred to illustrate his text with engravings instead of offset photographic images. The latter would have been affordable by 1895, and presumably been more accurate, but engravings better captured the spirit of adventure, just as Powell's rearrangements of fact made for a better story.
Encountering Native Americans
Customs of the Country
Valor and Endurance
An Analytic Eye
The Sublime and the Picturesque
Return to The Spirit of Place, Part I
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Send comments to George Miles, William Roberston Coe Curator of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University