To say merely that he was a photographer is only to brush at the truth. In a career that began in 1867 and was rarely interrupted until his death in 1942 at the age of ninety-nine, William Henry Jackson produced more than forty thousand photographs, most of them of the American West during the last stages of a frontier condition. Throughout most of the last thirty years of the nineteenth century, on both private and government expeditions, Jackson loaded as much as a ton of equipment on the backs of pack animals and struggled across all the rocks and hard places of the West, immortalizing a now almost vanished panorama in crystals of silver nitrate.
It was the Rocky Mountain region, however, that had a special appeal for him; thousands of his negatives were exposed here, and thousands were of the people and places of Colorado before, during, and after it became a state in 1876. On this page and those that follow we offer a portfolio of Jackson’s Colorado photographs. Modest, perhaps —but like all the rest of the images he fixed in glass, these too have become a part of our national iconography.