Jump to Navigation

Kansas Historical Quarterly - Additional Notes on the Gardner Photographs of Kansas

May 1937 (Vol. 6, No. 2), pages 174 to 117
Transcribed by lhn;
digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.


Kansas Historical Quarterly, May 1937IN the Quarterly for February, 1934, attention was directed to the stereoscopic photographs of Kansas made by Alexander Gardner, of Washington. [1]

A catalogue of the 150 Gardner views owned by the Kansas Historical Society was published in this paper and 1868 was assigned as the year of their origin. I was not altogether satisfied with the authenticity of this date, which was based on indirect evidence. Since the publication of the original article several extended searches have been made, and additional data has come to light which now makes it possible to fix the date when these photographs were made with reasonable certainty.

In the Lawrence Daily Tribune for September 21, 1867, [2] there appears among the local items the following note:

Mr. Gardner, a photographic artist from Washington City is in Lawrence, having come to Kansas for the purpose of taking photographic views of remarkable and noted places in our state. He comes here, we believe, under the auspices of the Union Pacific Railway to make draughts of points on the road He will take a view of Massachusetts Street this forenoon. These views will be a fine advertisement for our state and we hope the artist may have all the assistance and courtesy which our citizens can render him.

This item, together with the fact that the printed labels on the individual photographs of the Gardner collection bear the caption "From Gardner's Photographic Art Gallery, 511 Seventh street, Washington. Across the Continent on the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division" leave little room to doubt that the photographs referred to in the Tribune item and those of corresponding title in the Gardner collection are one and the same. The matter is settled without doubt, however, by the additional evidence described below. [3]

In my original paper I called attention to the fact that the Gardner photographs were reported to have been made in larger sizes

(175)

176 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

than the stereoscopic views. Mrs. Laura Perry Carpenter of St. Louis, a granddaughter of John D. Perry, president of the Union Pacific when under construction, wrote me that she had in her possession a number of Gardner views of Kansas which bore the caption "Across the Continent on the Kansas Pacific Railroad-1867." These views were subsequently given to the Missouri Historical Society. Through the courtesy of its curator, Mrs. N. H. Beauregard, information concerning Mrs. Carpenter's collection was obtained and may be summarized as follows:

The prints donated by Mrs. Carpenter measure 6 x 8 inches and are mounted and titled in print. The size, including mounting, is 12 x 18 inches. There are 115 photographs in the collection, 12 numbers being missing. Several of the views are identical with those reproduced in my original article, in particular No. 38 and No. 152. [4] In addition there is one view, obviously the last in the series from a chronological standpoint, slightly different from No. 152, which bears the date in print, October 19, 1867.

It is thus established that the photographs were made in the period beginning about September 15, 1867, to October 19, 1867. The last date is that of the last photographs in the series. The first date is based on the fact that the Lawrence views, at least those of Massachusetts street (Nos. 34 and 34³) were made on September 21, 1867. As these come early in the sequence of views it is reasonable to assume that the first ones (those made at Wyandotte) were made approximately a week before the Lawrence views. Attempts to secure exact dates upon which other photographs of this series were taken have as yet not been successful. The date of the item from the Lawrence Tribune obviously suggests an examination of the newspapers of neighboring towns for reference to Gardner's activities. A search of the newspaper files available in the Historical Society's possession failed to disclose any such reference.

The authentication of the date of origin of these Gardner photographs serves to enhance further their historic value. They record a typical cross-section of the state of Kansas when it was a little under seven years of age. Indeed, some of the western towns on the Union Pacific were yet in their swaddling clothes. Thus the views of Ellsworth (Nos. 139, 140, 141, 142 and 143) were made when the town was but three months old. [5]

TAFT: THE GARDNER PHOTOGRAPHS OF KANSAS

177

Again, the view of McCoy's cattle yard (No. 115) was made only a few months after McCoy had decided to establish a cattle depot at Abilene.6

The views made at Hays City (Nos. 146 and 148) were likewise taken when the town was in its infancy. Andreas [7] states that Hays was platted early in 1867 before the arrival of the Union Pacific. Upon the arrival of the railroad, the growth of the town was extremely rapid. The railroad probably arrived at Hays October 5,1867, [8] and consequently the Gardner views of the town were made two weeks later than this event. An examination of the view of the town (No. 146) reflects its rapid growth, for a considerable proportion of the dwellings are tents.

It should also be pointed out that this set of photographs, with the time of origin so definitely established, furnishes a valuable reference date for many moot paints of Kansas history and local geography. For instance, it has been stated [9] that the first frame residence in Salina was built in 1868. An examination of the views of Salina (Nos. 120, 121) actually shows frame residences, which from the date of the photographs, were in existence by October, 1867.

Notes

1. "A Photographic History of Early Kansas," by Robert Taft, The Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 3, pp. 3-14 (1934).
2. Page 3, column 1.
3. It should be stated that the item from the Lawrence Tribune is confirmed in part by the photographs (Nos. 34 and 34³) themselves. The Tribune stated that the view of Massachusetts street would be made "this forenoon." An examination of these photographs shows from the position of the shadows that they were made in the forenoon. Further, if one accepts the date of September 21, 1867, as that of their origin, the angle made by the shadows shows that the photographs were made about 10:30 a. m. of that day.
4. Numbers refer to catalogue as published in my original paper (see footnote 1).
5. A. T. Andreas, History of the State of Kansas, 1883, pp. 1276-1277. According to Andreas, Ellsworth was laid out on the banks of the Smoky Hill river in the spring of 1867. As a result of a devastating flood, the town was moved back to higher ground in July of 1867. As the photographs of Ellsworth were made approximately October 1, 1867, the town as then located was but three months old.
6. Joseph C. McCoy, Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade, 1874, p. 51. McCoy states that the decision was made in July, 1867.
7. Andreas, History of Kansas, p. 1291.
8. The Junction City Weekly Union of Saturday, October b, 1867, p. 3, contains the following item of interest in this connection: "The R. , is progressing at the rate of 2 mi. per day and is expected to be at Hays City this (Saturday) evening. Wednesday it was within six miles of this place." That the railroad reached Hays early in October of 1867 is also borne out by the Gardner photographs themselves. No. 152 shows the end of track on October 19, 1867. According to the label on the photograph this location was twenty miles west of Hays on this date. Accepting the rate of construction as "2 mi. per day" and allowing for no halts, the arrival of the railroad at Hays would be October 8 or 9. A description of the town of Hays a few days before the arrival of the Union Pacific is given by a correspondent of the Weekly Union of October 12, 1867, p. 3.
9. Andreas, History of Kansas, p. 701.