William Henry Jackson (April 14, 1843 in Keeseville, New York – June 30, 1942 in New York, New York) William was famous for his work of the American West. He was the great-great nephew of Samuel Wilson who was the image of America’s National Uncle Sam symbol.
Style Painter and Photographer
Beginnings In Oct. 1862 William Henry Jackson joined the Company K of 12th Vermont Infantry and fought in the American Civil War was a private for 9 months. When finished with his regiment he moved to Rutland, Vermont and started painting in the pot-Civil-War American Society. After a broken engagement he left Vermont and went to the American West.
Career William produced inventory of international and national views when he later established his own studio in Denver Colorado. He then went to Omaha, NE in 1867 and got into photography with his brother Ed. He became famous for his American Indian photographs while going off for four days as a missionary to the Indians in Omaha. In 1869 for promotional purposes he won a commission from the Union Pacific Railroad to document the scenery along their route. In 1893-95 William accepted a commission from the Marshall Field to photograph and gather specimens from around the world for a the new museum being built in Chicago. These findings were later published in Harpers Weekly magazine. He later sold his stock of negatives to the Detroit Photographic Company and shifted into publishing in 1897. He later became president of the Detroit Photographic Company in 1898. He had less time to travel and take photographs when he became the company Plant Manager. In 1906 the company changed its name to Detroit Publishing Co. William later moved to Washington D.C. in 1924 and produced his work to the U.S. Department of Interior Building. In 1932 when the sales of photography and postcards went down during World War I and new and cheaper printing methods were introduced the company closed down.
Today’s Culture In 1936 Edsel Ford, son of Henry Ford bought 40,000 of Williams negatives. His negatives were later divided between the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division and the Colorado Historical Society. Scotts Bluff National Monument has the world’s largest collection of original work by William Henry Jackson. They have his sketches, paintings, and photographs. Many are also on display in the Visitor Center at Scotts Bluff.
Challenging Photography Conditions In the 1800’s camera equipment was very heavy and there were alot of small parts that needed to be carried, including glass plates that needed to be cleaned and there were different sizes. Back them developing, exposing, preparing, fixing, washing and drying a single image could take up to an hour. So alot of his work was taken during incredibly difficult challenging conditions. And despite these conditions William’s work was so good that his photos of the Yellowstone convinced the U.S. Congress to make it the first National Park in 1872.
Honors William was honored in 1942 by the Explorer’s Club for 80,000 photographs of the American West. Mount Jackson in the Gallatin Range of Yellowstone National Park is named in honor of Jackson.
When Jackson died in June 30, 1942 he was recognized as one of the lasting survivors of the Civil War and he was buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.