- Get Involved
“My mule enjoyed the joke:” A.J. Russell’s
Western Adventures, 1868-1869
Presenter: Daniel Davis, Photograph Curator and Associate Librarian, Utah State University Libraries Special Collections and Archives
Andrew J. Russell took nearly 1,000 photographs of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1868 and 1869. Today his photographs are analyzed as art, as historical evidence, and as cultural objects. But who was he as a person? Daniel Davis, author of Across the Continent: the Union Pacific Photographs of Andrew J. Russell, (co-published by University of Utah Press and Utah State Historical Society, 2018,) will discuss Russell’s background and personality and how that influenced the photographs he made. the lecture will be held at the Park City Museum’s Education and Collections Center located at 2079 Sidewinder Drive on Wednesday, May 1st from 5-6 p.m. Davis will examine Russell’s images as well as contemporary sources and explain how he came to the conclusion that Russell was, “an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary events.”
Taken as a whole, the photographs show that Russell did not want viewers to forget who built the Union Pacific. His images celebrate working people – masons working on bridge foundations, freighters and their wagons, surveyors with their transits, engine crews posed on their engines, as well as tracklayers, laborers, cooks, machinists, carpenters, graders, teamsters, and clerks pushing paper.
Russell contributed to a golden age of Western photography that visually introduced the American West to the nation, changing its public image from that of a Great American Desert to a place of unlimited economic potential.
Daniel Davis grew up in Worland, Wyoming and attended the University of Wyoming earning a master’s degree in history in 1997. He worked as the photograph archivist at the American Heritage Center from 1996 to 2000. In 2000 he moved to Logan becoming the photograph curator with the Special Collections & Archives Department at Utah State University. He received tenure as an associate librarian in 2006. In 2014 he became the coordinator of instruction for Special Collections. His research interest is with 19th Century photographers of the American West and he has published in the Utah Historical Quarterly and the Annals of Wyoming. He lives with his wife Ashlee and daughter Emilee in Nibley, Utah.