introduction

Carleton E. Watkins

Timothy o' Sullivan
Photographs

William Henry Jackson

John K. Hillers

Frederick I. Monsen

Edward S. Curtis

Maison Bonfils

Felice A. Beato
Timothy O'Sullivan (1840-1882) is best-known for his stark panoramas of western landscapes. After assisting Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, the Irish-born O'Sullivan joined the "United States Geographical Surveys West of the One Hundredth Meridian." Directed by Army Lieutenant George M. Wheeler, the survey had field seasons in 1871, 1873, and 1874. Although earlier surveys had stressed scientific documentation, Wheeler hoped to encourage settlement. O'Sullivan's pictures were among the first to record the prehistoric ruins, Navajo weavers, and pueblo villages of the Southwest. Returning to Washington, D.C., he spent the last years of his short life as official photographer for the U.S Geological Survey and the Treasury Department.

Working by himself and with others, O'Sullivan printed these large-format images, which were included in several limited edition sets of fifty plates each. While some albums were sold to the public, sets were also distributed to members of Congress; this one may have come to the donor, Phoebe Hearst, through her husband George, Senator from California (1886-91).