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W. H. Jackson photochrom print collection

Identifier: Ayer-Photographs-Jackson

Scope and Content of the Collection

The collection consists of 479 prints, mostly 7 x 9 inches but including 14 panoramic views, one as long as 39 inches. Oversize prints (in boxes 2-4) have been matted by the Newberry Library's Conservation Department. Most of the images are outdoor scenes, but there are a few indoor shots, some close-ups of plants and artworks, and a handful of American Indian portraits. All but one of the prints has a number and description printed at the lower left on the front, and these numbers are used to organize the collection. Roughly, the geographical distribution of subject is:

No. of PrintsArea
38Other Western States
52Southern States
64New York State
35Mid-Atlantic States
40Foreign (Canada, Bahamas, Cuba, Mexico)


  • Creation: 1898-1906



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The W. H. Jackson Photochrom Print Collection is open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The W. H. Jackson Photochrom Print Collection is the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of William Henry Jackson

American photographer and artist specializing in western scenes.

Born in Keeseville, New York, on April 4, 1843, William Henry Jackson was a self-taught artist who, at the age of 15, was working as a retoucher in a photographer's studio. He was successful in this pursuit and later moved to a more prosperous studio in Rutland, Vermont. In 1860, Jackson enlisted in the Union Army. Though present at the battle of Gettysburg, he was stationed in the rear areas guarding supply trains and saw no action. Mustered out in 1863, he returned to Vermont where he went to work in Style's Photographic Gallery in Burlington. In the spring of 1866, Jackson, despondent after a broken engagement, decided to follow Horace Greeley's advice and go west. In Nebraska City, Nebraska Territory, he was hired to work as a bullwhacker for a freighting outfit bound for the gold fields of Montana. Along the old Oregon Trail, Jackson sketched the landmarks and lifestyles that have become a large part of the American experience. After his return from the west, Jackson opened a photographic studio in Omaha, Nebraska.

During the summer of 1869, Jackson began photographing the construction along the new Union Pacific Railroad. His work came to the attention of Ferdinand Hayden who was organizing a geologic survey to explore the Yellowstone region, and he was asked to accompany the expedition. As a result, Jackson became the first photographer to successfully capture the wonders of Yellowstone on film. Jackson's photographs were an important factor in convincing Congress to establish Yellowstone as the United States' first national park, in 1872.

For the next several years Jackson accompanied other geologic surveys of the west and southwest. In 1879 he decided to open a new studio in Denver, Colorado, where he spent a great deal of time photographing western railroads and engineering marvels. He also became famous for photographing the Mount of the Holy Cross in the Colorado Rockies.

Jackson made a popular series of photographs of the World's Columbian Exposition and in 1894 set out on a world tour that included Europe, Africa, India, Australia, Japan, and Russia. He wrote his autobiography, and once again took up the paintbrush in an effort to depict the history of the west that he had experienced firsthand. Jackson celebrated his 99th birthday in 1942, and died two months later on June 30, 1942.

"Photochrom" was the name of a proprietary photolithographic printing process that produced continuous-tone, full-color renditions from black and white negatives. It was developed in Switzerland, and during the summer of 1897 William A. Livingstone of the Detroit Photographic Company went to Zurich and succeeded in arranging a contract with the Swiss owners by which he obtained exclusive ownership and rights to the Photochrom process in America.

Concurrently, the United States Congress authorized the One Penny Postcard. Livingstone immediately saw the lucrative potential of the souvenir postcard illustrated with color photographs, a field in which he had the means to be a pioneer. At the urging of a new acquaintance, photographer Edwin H. Husher, Livingstone invited Jackson to join his Detroit company as a partner. Jackson accepted the offer in 1897, bringing with him to Detroit an estimated 10,000 negatives which would provide the core of the company's now wide-ranging photographic archive. The color produced by the Photochrom process was astonishingly naturalistic, and it was to this process that Jackson devoted his final years of active photography.


1.7 Linear Feet (4 boxes)


Color lithographic prints, made using the "Photochrom" process, published by Detroit Photographic Company from negatives made by W.H. Jackson.


Prints arranged by size and print number.

Collection Stack Location

4 23 6

Ownership and Custodial History

Forms part of the Edward E. Ayer Photograph Collection (Newberry Library)


Gift, Howard Gottlieb, 2005.

Processed by

Elizabeth Bond and Robert Karrow, 2006.

Inventory of the W. H. Jackson photochrom print collection, 1898-1906
Robert W. Karrow
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States