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Remarkable 19th century photographs by Timothy O'Sullivan
September 1, 2013 11:48 PM   Subscribe

How the Wild West really looked: Gorgeous pictures show the landscape as it was charted for the very first time 150 years ago. Previously.

Over 1100 images of his at the Library of Congress site

The expedition images, not the Civil War images

126 photographs of his at the U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library

The life of Timothy H. O'Sullivan
The story of the Irishman who helped shape American--and Arizonan--photography.


Western Development - The photographs of Timothy O'Sullivan (1840-1882) have long inspired a reverence among contemporary artists that may baffle the general public.

About Timothy H. O'Sullivan on Wikipedia
posted by nickyskye (13 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite

 
These photos are stunning!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:07 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stunning photographs.

for the very first time 150 years ago

Photographed maybe, but the Spanish had been all over this territory for more than a century as you see in the 20th photograph:

"Nearly 150 years ago, photographer O'Sullivan came across this evidence of a visitor to the West that preceded his own expedition by another 150 years."

And of course the original colonists were there a few thousand years before that.
posted by three blind mice at 12:11 AM on September 2, 2013


The USGS site will provide jpegs at really huge resolution, by the way. More than good enough for poster printing, even at large (24x36") sizes. I am currently decorating my bedroom with pictures like this, though I don't think any of them are by Mr. O'Sullivan. His stuff is definitely great though.
posted by Scientist at 12:32 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The scenery is breathtaking but I especially like the picture of Canyon De Chelly with what looks like a flowering tree, maybe a peach tree that survived Kit Carson. There's another picture with Navajos and one of their remarkable upright looms, taken when they'd been returned to their land a mere five years. They'd endured a four year incarceration at Bosque Redondo where they'd been force marched after surrendering to the great Indian fighter who had burned them out in the dead of winter, even cutting down those precious trees in the canyon. Eight thousand cold and hungry Navajos surrendered and, although some did not surrender but escaped, it was considered the biggest victory of the Indian Wars. Many who began the march, however, did not survive.
posted by Anitanola at 3:56 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


From my experience, a lot of these are what the west looks like now. There's still a hell of a lot of it that has barely been explored, much less settled. It is big.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:20 AM on September 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Marston: You'll make this land real nice one day. Me and your mother, we do our part. By the time your turn comes, hell, this could be the nicest farm in the county.

Jack: Maybe, Pa.

posted by cromagnon at 6:26 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The quarantine mentioned in the Tuscon Weekly article was later photographed by another 19th century Staten Island photographer, Alice Austen.
posted by Venadium at 6:45 AM on September 2, 2013


I like photograph 18, where he just gathered up the people as they were (some in Anglo/US clothes) and photographed them. The Tucson Weekly article mentions this and compares it to other photographers who photographed native Americans in costume.
posted by immlass at 8:09 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm stunned to see how much THERE WILL BE BLOOD got right.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:13 AM on September 2, 2013


"From my experience, a lot of these are what the west looks like now. There's still a hell of a lot of it that has barely been explored, much less settled. It is big."

Yeah, other than Santa Fe and Alta not a lot in those pictures has changed.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:52 AM on September 2, 2013


The pictures are wonderful!

"I like photograph 18, where he just gathered up the people as they were (some in Anglo/US clothes) and photographed them."

What really struck me is picture 8. You can see that one of the Wheeler Survey team members is African-American, mixed in with the others, and no different from the rest. In 1871.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:46 AM on September 2, 2013


By the way, I just when down the rabbit hole on the Library of Congress site, putting Timothy O'Sullivan and "Civil War". An extraordinary historical, visual journey that. Worth doing. Wish I'd included that in my main post link.
posted by nickyskye at 11:47 PM on September 2, 2013


Thanks for this! I'm amused that the three options from LOC for image sizes are small and medium scaled JPGs, and HUGE RESOLUTION TIFF. The jump from JPEG (101kb) to TIFF (150.4mb) is huge.

Also, I like seeing so many stereoscopic photos on the LOC site. That, paired with the high image resolution, tempts me to make a stereoscope viewer and print off a ton of these as fun distractions and conversation pieces.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:14 AM on September 4, 2013


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