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Jackson, William H., Artist and Photographer

Artist and photographer William H. Jackson (1843-1942) was an outstanding figure of the American West and popularized many of its images. His autobiography, Time Exposure, written when he was in his mid-nineties with the aid of his extensive diaries, was first published in 1940. His experiences included an early trip across Nebraska Territory as a bullwhacker in 1866.

Jackson begins the narrative of his bullwhacking days with his arrival at Nebraska City from St. Joseph on June 26, 1866, with a small group of friends and their subsequent reception at the company store, where they were outfitted. "We received according to our needs, some more, some less; but every new teamster started away from Nebraska City with a pair of blankets, a white rubber coat, shoes, stockings, pants, shirts, and an old-fashioned carpetbag--plus a Colt .44 revolver with a supply of cartridges. Our store bills averaged about $40 and were charged against our still unearned pay."

Jackson described his fellow drivers as a "curious, mixed crew" and noted that many had never seen an ox-drawn wagon before. "During the first few days out of Nebraska City we made, as I have already stated, only one drive a day. And it was an utterly exhausting drive. Hours were needed for the operation of fitting three hundred oxen to the twenty-five wagons and many hours more were needed to cover the few miles to the next camp."

Jackson commented upon Nebraska landmarks: "On July 11, after exactly two weeks on the road, we reached Fort Kearny, about halfway between Nebraska City and Julesburg, Colorado, our next great landmark. We came 197 miles, at an average speed of fourteen miles a day." At Courthouse Rock he had the "first opportunity in more than a week, to do some sketching. I completed two pictures of the rock. The following day, August 1 [1866], I was able to bring out my drawing book again, and this time the subject was the aptly named Chimney Rock."

From 1867 to 1869 Jackson was a photographer in Omaha. He was the official photographer of the Hayden Geological Survey, which took him to Wyoming's Yellowstone region, and used this opportunity to take thousands of striking photographs of the American West. In his later years Jackson interpreted his earlier sketches and photographs in watercolors.

(November 1999)



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