Cody – The only known set of a rare kind of prints from photos that helped create Yellowstone is on display in Northwest Wyoming. They are prints that escaped a fire which destroyed many of the original Henry Jackson photographic pictures.
Yellowstone’s spectacular scenery, thermal features, and wildlife inspire millions of visitors
to take photographs each year. But, William Henry Jackson was probably the first tourist to photograph what would later become Yellowstone when he accompanied the 1871 Hayden U.S. Geological Survey of northwest Wyoming.
His photographs were historically significant because they helped create the world’s first National Park. And an extremely rare version of these photographs is part of a new exhibition at the Center of the West in Cody. They are called Albertypes, named for a new kind of mass reproduction technique in the 1870’s. It might have created one of America’s first coffee table books, if not for a fire in Edward Bierstadt’s studio. Bierstadt was the brother of famous artist Albert Bierstadt, and was chosen by Hadyn to create
the prints because he was an expert in Albertypes.
McCracken Library Director Mary Robinson explained, “In January of 1875 he had a fire right there in his studio. It destroyed Jackson’s glass plates, and any of the proofs that they had made.”
Robinson said just a few proofs survived. But, a private collector offered to loan a newly discovered album of 76 Albertypes, the most complete ever found, to the Center.
The photos are a recreation of the Haydn expedition, which helped convince Congress to create the world’s first national park to protect the geological oddities. But, without Thomas Moran’s paintings, and Jackson’s photos, there may not have been a national park.
Robinson commented, “People were skeptical of the reports that were coming out of the region. So, this visual record was critical.”
The album is on display, but it is protected in a display case. The library digitized, and enlarged most of its photographs for people to see.
The exhibition opened this week, and will close August 14.
Robinson noted Jackson had to carry his glass plates on the back of a mule I 1871. He also had to develop his pictures in Yellowstone, after he took each photograph.