Carleton Watkins: Making the West American
"[A] fascinating and indispensable book."—Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times
Best Books of 2018—The Guardian
Gold Medal for Contribution to Publishing, 2018 California Book Awards
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, 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.
What people are saying - Write a review
We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.
Sunrise in the Foothills of the Catskill Mountains
Arriving in California
Creating Western Culture at Black Point
Secession or Union?
To Yosemite in Wartime
Exhibiting Yosemite in Wartime
San Franciscos Borasca
Creating Semitropical California
Showing California Its History
Enter William H Lawrence
Rebuilding a Business
Mapping from the Mountaintops
Expanding the Western Landscape
The Birth of the Nature Park Idea
Assisting American Science
To Oregon for Industry
Basking in Achievement Building a Business
Celebrating Gilded Age Wealth
Taking Shasta Discovering Glaciers
The Boom Years
Other editions - View all
American arrived artists Asa Gray become Billings Black Brewer building built California called camera Carleton Watkins Central Coast Collection Columbia County Creating cultural early East eastern Emerson especially Falls feet Frémont gallery glacier gold helped hundred idea important interest Jessie John Kern King knew known Lake land landscape late later least letter Library lived look Mariposas miles Mills mining mission Mount mountain moved Muir named nature needed North NOTES offered Olmsted Oregon OSNC Pacific painting Park photographer plate Point prints probably railroad Ralston River road rock San Francisco seems seen Shasta side Sierra Southern Starr stereographs suggests thing Thomas thousand Today took traveled trees trip turned Union University Valley wanted Watkins’s pictures West western Whitney wrote York Yosemite