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University of Utah Press Publishes New Book for 150th Anniversary of Golden Spike

The Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads met at Promontory, Utah, one hundred fifty years ago.  Andrew J. Russell’s meeting-of-the-railroads photograph “East and West Shaking Hands,” documented the momentous Golden Spike ceremony on May 10, 1869. This year Utah is celebrating the Golden Spike anniversary with exhibits and events across the state. The University of Utah Press joined the celebration with the publication of Across the Continent:  The Union Pacific Photographs of Andrew Joseph Russell by Daniel Davis.

Co-published with the Utah State Historical Society, this book’s focus is on the large body of work Russell produced primarily to satisfy the needs of the Union Pacific. He took nearly one thousand images that document almost every aspect of the construction of the railroad. His images celebrate working people—masons working on bridge foundations, freighters and their wagons, surveyors with their transits, engine crews posed on their engines, as well as tracklayers, laborers, cooks, machinists, carpenters, graders, teamsters, and clerks.

Across the Continent is the most detailed study to date of Russell’s life and work. He was a prolific artist who contributed not only to the documentation of the railroad but also to the nation’s visual experience of the American West and, earlier, the Civil War. His work was part of a golden age of Western photography that visually introduced the American West to the nation, changing its public image from that of a Great American Desert to a place of apparently unlimited economic potential. Across the Continent includes reproductions of 134 Russell photographs.

Author Daniel Davis is the photograph curator and associate librarian of Utah State University’s Special Collections and Archives.

Praise for the book:

“In this engaging book, photographic archivist Daniel Davis not only tells the virtually unknown story of railroad photographer A. J. Russell; he also shares Russell’s photographs with readers and helps them better understand the important role played by photo archivists in preserving the past.”

—Richard Francaviglia, author of Over the Range: A History of the Promontory Summit Route of the Pacific Railroad and Imagining the Atacama Desert: A Five-Hundred-Year Journey of Discovery

“Davis gives readers a comprehensive look at who Andrew Russell was and what his movements were both before and after the Union Pacific project. Interesting and well written, the book is both profound and informative, underscoring the cultural significance of these images and of Russell’s body of work in general.”

—Patricia LaBounty, Curator, Union Pacific Railroad Museum

Across the Continent is available for purchase at the UMFA or online.
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