Friday, March 26, 2010

Pioneering Photographer Visits WNC

Sapphire, North Carolina, circa 1902. "View from the Lodge on Mount Toxaway." Glass negative by William Henry Jackson, Detroit Publishing Co.

Among the early photographers traveling through the Southern Appalachians, William Henry Jackson (1843 – 1942) was one of the most distinguished. His images from along the French Broad and the Toxaway-Sapphire area appeared on postcards sold by the Detroit Publishing Company in 1902.

Growing up in New York and Vermont, Jackson enjoyed painting and by the age of 19 earned acclaim for his artistic talent.

During the Civil War, he fought in the battle of Gettysburg before returning to Vermont. After his art career and a romance faltered, Jackson headed west and eventually got into the photography business with his brother.

"Muddy Pond" - a painting by William Henry Jackson, 1861

Among his first frontier photos were those of the Plains Indians. Jackson was hired by the Union Pacific Railroad to photograph scenery along their route. As a member of the United States Government Survey team he was one of the first to document the Yellowstone region in photos.

The photographer himself, ca. 1872

In the 1890s, Jackson accepted a commission to travel around the world taking photographs for the Marshall Field Museum in Chicago. Later, he began his association with the Detroit Publishing Company.

One of the last surviving Civil War veterans, Jackson served as a technical advisor for the filming of Gone with the Wind.

Whitewater Falls, by William Henry Jackson

Two collections from the Library of Congress American Memory project highlight the work of William Henry Jackson. One is devoted to images from the Detroit Publishing Company and the other features photos from the World Transportation Commission:

Jackson took more than 80,000 photographs during his travels through the American West and with these he earned his reputation as one of the premier 19th Century landscape photographers.

Brigham Young University has an online collection of hundreds of Jackson images from that period of his career:

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