Making the West American
By Tyler Green.
Cloth with dust jacket, 6x9", 536 pages, 76 color images, 1 map. 2018.
"[a] fascinating and indispensable book." - Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times
"Carleton Watkins (1829–1916) is widely considered the greatest American photographer of the nineteenth century and arguably the most influential artist of his era. He is best known for his pictures of Yosemite Valley and the nearby Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias. Watkins made his first trip to Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove in 1861 just as the Civil War was beginning. His photographs of Yosemite were exhibited in New York for the first time in 1862, as news of the Union's disastrous defeat at Fredericksburg was landing in newspapers and while the Matthew Brady Studio's horrific photographs of Antietam were on view.
"Watkins's work tied the West to Northern cultural traditions and played a key role in pledging the once-wavering West to Union. Motivated by Watkins's pictures, Congress would pass legislation, later signed by Abraham Lincoln, that preserved Yosemite as the prototypical 'national park,' the first such act of landscape preservation in the world.
"Carleton Watkins: Making the West American includes the first history of the birth of the national park concept since pioneering environmental historian Hans Huth's landmark 1948 Yosemite: The Story of an Idea. Watkins's photographs helped shape America's idea of the West, and helped make the West a full participant in the nation. His pictures of California, Oregon, and Nevada, as well as modern-day Washington, Utah, and Arizona, not only introduced entire landscapes to America but were important to the development of American business, finance, agriculture, government policy, and science. Watkins's clients, customers, and friends were a veritable “who’s who” of America’s Gilded Age, and his connections with notable figures such as Collis P. Huntington, John and Jessie Benton Frémont, Eadweard Muybridge, Frederick Billings, John Muir, Albert Bierstadt, and Asa Gray reveal how the Gilded Age helped make today's America.
"Drawing on recent scholarship and fresh archival discoveries, Tyler Green reveals how an artist didn’t just reflect his time, but acted as an agent of influence. This telling of Watkins's story will fascinate anyone interested in American history; the West; and how art and artists impacted the development of American ideas, industry, landscape, conservation, and politics."
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
1. Sunrise in the Foothills of the Catskill Mountains
2. Arriving in California
3. Creating Western Culture at Black Point
4. Secession or Union?
5. To Yosemite in Wartime
6. Sharing Yosemite
7. Exhibiting Yosemite in Wartime
8. Expanding the Western Landscape
9. The Birth of the Nature Park Idea
10. Assisting American Science
11. To Oregon (for Industry)
12. Volcanic Landscapes
13. Basking in Achievement, Building a Business
14. Celebrating Gilded Age Wealth
15. Taking Shasta, Discovering Glaciers
16. The Boom Years
17. San Francisco's Borasca
18. The Comeback
19. Creating Semi-tropical California
20. Showing California Its History
21. Enter William H. Lawrence
22. Rebuilding a Business
23. Mapping from the Mountaintops
24. Becoming Agricultural
25. Traveling the West (Again)
26. The New Industrial Agriculture near Bakersfield, California
27. The Last Great Picture
28. The Long, Slow End
List of Abbreviations