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Monday, 07 March 2011


Mike, I'm not sure how you got bluecoats from a black and white photograph :)

Sorry, Mike, I was just kidding. In regards to the first photo - isn't it nice to see a landscape unemcumbered with cell phone towers?

An incredible collection of historic photos. Thanks, Mike!

Wonderful. Thank you.
It brings to mind the "Most tourists take pictures from the same spot" you recently posted. It would be fun to go back to some of those places to shoot 'then and now' photos.

On a broader note, these feed into one of my biases about scenic photos. I find that scenery alone has relatively little enduring interest. You can after all go back and shoot the same mountain or the Grand Canyon next year or next century. Millions have. Back to the "same spot' tourist shots.
Photos with people, activities and their artifacts as part of a scenic vista are more interesting. At least for me.

I'm amazed at how quickly changes happen, and how the face of this country has changed in the years since these photographs were made. From horseback overlooking an Indian nation in teepee's, to interstate highways and motel 6's within the lifespan of 2 men.

Something slightly Atget about the one you liked I think

Paul Mc Cann

Little aside about the deadman's hand: There seems to be a distinct lack of evidence that it was aces & eights ... and that it originated with the death of Wild Bill. (wikipedia and other sites have more details)

One of those things we may never know ... if only someone had taken a photo :)

What amazing images. I've just finished watching the TV series "Deadwood" (for the second time!) so it was a real plus to see these.

Note the Mining Exchange building, in the lower front. Tall windows and transoms provide daylight deep into the interior of the building. An awning folded against the front wall, for use in hot weather. A rainbarrel catching roof runoff, even though a stream is located a short distance away. A furnace or fireplace in the back, providing heat in the darker areas of the building. Excellent attention to both environmental and cultural constraints, something our present, energy-intensive culture has largely forgotten.

Some (many?) years ago a composer named Libby Larsen put to song letters Calamity Jane had written (but had never mailed) to her daughter. The sentiments in the letters range from touching to humorous. I remember being excited when I learned about the project and immediately looked for the recordings. Unfortunately, my low-brow sensibilities had led me to expect music with a rustic and western character. I was sorely disappointed to find that the music was much higher brow than my taste finds palatable. And I might be way off base, but I could hardly square the Libby Larsen music and voicing with what is known about Calamity Jane. This is no slight, of course, to Ms. Larsen. She is a successful and famous composer. If anything, the fact that I can't appreciate her music means that it must really be good.

I am not arguing the eco-fiendly nature of the building, but the chimney could have been used for a small smelter to prove ore.

"It brings to mind the "Most tourists take pictures from the same spot" you recently posted. It would be fun to go back to some of those places to shoot 'then and now' photos."


John Fielder did exactly that with the photos that William Henry Jackson took in Colorado in the 1870s. The books are called Colorado 1870-2000 and Colorado 1870-2000 II.

Hi Mike,

Thanks. Considering my new focus (pardon the pun), the intersection of history and photography, this was quite timely.


It appears to me that the direction of the light on the mountains in the distance is quite different from the direction of the light on the buildings in the foreground. Am I missing something?

Wonderful historic photography. I haven't enjoyed myself this much since I saw the Felice Beato exhibit at the Getty.


By some accounts, the term Deadman's Hand had already been popularized many years before...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Bill_Hickok

I think that's snow, not light, on the mountains.


I especially liked the use of the prominent watermark and copyright notice, more than a century before our modern right-click, save culture!

I just made a beautiful 13x19 print of the Villa of Brule picture. It moves me. Thank you Mike, thank you John Grabill †, and thank you People of the United States of America for making this available. And most of all, thank you native Americans for offering this vision.

Thanks Mike for something you probably hadn't expected, the Wild Bill Hickok link. I was interested in learning a little more about Wild Bill, so I Wikipedia'ed him as a first generic reference. In the entry, I noted

"Despite all Hickok photographs indicating he had dark hair, all contemporary descriptions confirm he was in fact golden blonde. Reddish shades of hair appeared black in early photographic processes, which were sensitive primarily to blue light."

...and that information gives me a clue into deciphering a family mystery of the 1860s.

My grandfather was raised near the Rosebud Reservation and used to have regular contact with the Sioux. As young doctor, he worked in hospitals associated with the Jesuit missions. He was born in 1888, so he was probably seeing many of the same things that Grabill was. I have sent the link for these pictures to my children. Thanks for sharing.

I think it's safe to suppose that Grabill came from back east, where he learned his skills, and that in the years he spent in the west, he was haunted by the thought that on a Monday, ox teams would water in the draws and Indians would camp on the edge of town, and on a Tuesday, he would wake up and it would all be as gone as it could possibly be. Ours are not the only times to which change comes like lightning. Coming from back east, he knew what was bearing down on the territory, and he knew he urgently needed to photograph what was left of the old times. Or so I intuit..
Thank you T.O.P for another great heads-up....

"I particularly like the one below—I know you can guess why."

Because it's a whole plate picture? ;)

The studio and livery photo has got to be Buena Vist Colorado- I'd put money on it. That would be the view looking at the courthouse and toward Cottonwood Pass.

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