It's all there—stagecoaches, Indian chiefs, tipis, bluecoats, 1880s steam engines with oversized smokestacks and cowcatchers, and the sole survivor of the Battle of the Little Bighorn—true views of the Old West. A selection of John C. H. Grabill's work, culled from the Library of Congress archives, at the Denver Post's pblog.
We have only a brief window into J. C. H. Grabill's life. Nothing is known of him before he opened a studio in Sturgis, South Dakota, near Deadwood, in 1886. He was already an accomplished photographer by then. In 1891 he moved to Chicago and operated a studio there until 1894. Then he disappears again.
He is known now from 188 photographs he sent to the Library of Congress for registration of copyright between 1886 and 1892. He photographed with a 10x12-inch view camera and made albumen prints.
Deadwood was a famous frontier mining town; the West's most famous murder happened there when Wild Bill Hickok (the original "quick draw" gunfighter) was killed in Deadwood's No. 10 Saloon during a card game. He was holding two black eights and two black aces, which ever since has been known as a Dead Man's Hand. His murderer, Jack McCall, was buried with the noose around his neck. Wild Bill is buried between Potato Creek Johnny, and, as a joke on Bill, Calamity Jane, for whom he had no affection in life.
John C. H. Grabill also photographed the aftermath of the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890.
I particularly like the one below—I know you can guess why.
(Thanks to John Camp)
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Tom Judd: "I went to the Library of Congress site and found the complete collection, with hi rez TIFF files. I downloaded a few favorites, and after some Photoshop work printed them 12" wide. Holding a large print in my hands was a real trip back in time. A much stronger experience than just viewing them on the screen. By the way, re the foreground building with the sign 'J.C.H. Grabill's Mining Exchange'—just like now, photographers in the late 1800s had to have something else going to earn a living!"
Featured Comment by carl frederick: "I couldn't take my eyes off them, anticipating the next one more than the last = my personal definition of a great set of photos."