Prints and Postcards

Viewing the spectacle; the Sinking Ship on the South Rim with Buffalo Bill making a toast. Top insets (viewing figures): Photographers unknown, ND, selections from half of stereo views (Courtesy of the Keystone-Mast Collection, California Museum of Photography, Riverside). Bottom left inset: Photographer unknown, 1893. Buffalo Bill and Party at Point Sublime, Grand Cañon of the Colorado. Half-tone print from Pioneer America (artists’ collection). Bottom right inset: Chromolithograph postcard, Detroit Publishing Company (William Henry Jackson), 1898. Arizona, Grand Canyon of Arizona. (Courtesy Brigham Young University).

Photographs from American land surveys found their way into many commercial enterprises and forms of entertainment. Impressive vistas from remote locations such as the Grand Canyon were popular because they made places that would have been impractical travel destinations in the 1800s feel accessible. Klett and Wolfe’s photographic compilation above helps illustrate how seemingly different industries were interconnected and the way the landscape helped promote public excitement about American expansion.

William Henry Jackson shifted from photography to publishing late in his career and became the president of the Detroit Publishing company in 1898. He brought over 10,000 negatives with him, which became the core of the company’s photographic archive. In turn, the publisher used this archive to produce items for purchase, such as the large print inset on the far right of this image. Public demand made this a lucrative endeavor. At its height, Detroit Publishing Co. sold over seven million prints per year. Today, the Jackson/Detroit collection is in the Library of Congress and serves as a document of the country’s development.

The second large inset on the left of this image is a postcard notable for its depiction of Buffalo Bill, a famous American showman whose name became synonymous with the Old West. As a young man Bill Cody had served as a scout for the US Army during the Frontier Wars (also known as the Indian Wars). A self-proclaimed “Indian Fighter,” Buffalo Bill toured the USA and Europe as an impresario promoting the image of the hero cowboy and recounting episodes of daring triumph over “Indians” on the frontier. The premise and rhetoric of his show highlighted the narrative of conquest and domination that were celebrated in the growing nation.