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The Railroad Photographs


Alfred A. Hart, Artist


Edited by Peter E. Palmquist

The California State Library Foundation Sacramento, California

Copyright © 1995 by California State Library Foundation
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher.

ISBN 0-929722-85-X

Printed in the United States of America

Alfred A. Hart, Artist

Table of Contents

Editor's Foreword IX

Author's Preface XI

Introduction and Brief History of the Construction

of the Central Pacific Railroad 15

Starting The Railroad 18

Judah's Death at 37 22

CPRR Tunneling Methods 25

Nitroglycerin Adventures 28

Building the World's Longest Barn 33

Racing to Utah 35

Crocker's Bet to Lay Ten Miles in One Day 36

A Day of National Rejoicing 39

The Problem of Local Time 43

Photographing at Promontory 44

Notes on railroad books and appendixes 45

Alfred Hart: Photographer, Author and Publisher 51

Dating Hart's RR Construction Stereos 54

Dating Stereos with Tax Stamps 60

Dates the CPRR reached various points 62

The Fate of Hart's CPRR Negatives 69

Hart's years after 1869 73

Hart's Photographic and Production Methods 79

Methods in the Field 79

Light Sensitive Materials 80

The Wet Collodion Process 81

Necessary Ingrediants 82

Preparing The Plates for Exposure 84

Developing and Fixing the Negative 85

Hart's Camera and Equipment 89

Shutters 95

Stereograph Production 96

Making Stereo Prints 96

Sensitizing the Paper and

Printing the Negative 99

Masking 100

Toning, and Fixing the Prints 102

Transposing 103

Title Strips 104

Viewing Stereographs 105

Looking for the Photographer 109

Hart's Non-Railroad Photographs 111


A Reproductions of Hart's CPRR Stereo Views 113

B Numerical List of Hart's CPRR Stereo Views 153

C Geographical List of Hart's CPRR Stereos 167

D Public Sources of Hart's CPRR Stereo Views 177

E Glenn Willumson's Article on Hart 187

F Transposing and some Stereo Camera Details 203

G Replicas of somePages of Hart's Travel Book 213

Reading List and Short Bibliography 231

Index 233

List of Illustrations 238

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Alfred A. Hart has been an elusive and shadowy figure until rather recent times. In 1918, ten years after Hart's death, Charles B. Turrill mentioned him in connection with his study of photographer Carleton E. Watkins. In 1969, George Kraus devoted half a page of the forward to his book, High Road to Promontory, to the historical importance of Hart's photographs and lamented the lack of recognition he had received.

In 1969, American West magazine published a seven- page article on Hart's stereographs based on Kraus's book. Hart was not mentioned again in a publication until 1975 when Weston J. Naef and James N. Wood did so in their book Era of Exploration: the Rise of Landscape Photography in the American West, 1860-1885, (Boston: New Graphic Society, 1975) p. 45. Finally in 1976, a trained researcher became focussed on Hart as an individual rather than a little understood artist and photographer who took great pictures that others valued. Pauline Grenbeaux Spear was seeking material on Carleton Watkins at the Bancroft Library in Berkeley, where she saw a letter from Hart's great grandson, John L. J. Hart then residing in Denver. John Hart was doing genealogical research and had inquired if the Bancroft Library had more information about Alfred A. Hart.

Ms. Spear, realizing the importance of this link with the past, contacted John Hart and arranged to interview him. He most graciously provided her with copies of material he had collected, and the names of other surviving family members. She followed these leads and soon began planning the publication of a fully researched book on Alfred Hart's life and work. However in 1978 her own career goals shifted, and it became apparent that it would be many years before the book's completion. In the same generous spirit, demonstrated by John Hart in sharing his research with her, she advised Dr. Joseph Baird, her former professor of art history at the University of California at Davis, that she had a possible subject for a thesis and a great deal of research available for the right graduate student.

Dr. Baird reviewed the qualifications of several of his students and suggested the name of Glenn Willumson, to whom she turned over the results of all her research on Alfred A. Hart. Mr. Willumson carried the project forward, completing his thesis in 1982. In 1988 he also published an article on Hart's life (See Appendix E). The information in the following pages about Hart's non railroad activities has been gleaned from Willumson's excellent article.

Kibbey Figure 29

(Fig. 29) Portion of Thomas Houseworth No. 1204 Sacramento -J Street from Sixth Street. Hart's 135 J Street location was in the building just to the right of the post and across the street from the camera position. He was next door to (on the far side of) McDonald's Drug Store which was at 139 J Street.

Alfred A. Hart was born March 28, 1816, in Norwich, Connecticut, and received his first training as a fine arts painter, later making his living as a portrait painter for a number of years in nearby Hartford. In 1852, he painted a long panorama portaying Biblical scenes the Holy Land on a roll of canvas. In New York, the panorama was unrolled from one vertical spool to another at the opposite side of a stage, pausing while "Professor" Hart lectured about the scene depicted (See p. 191). Five years later Hart was back in Hartford as a partner in a daguerreotype studio, and in the early 1860s he moved his family to Cleveland, Ohio, where he operated an art store. Although the reasons for his next move are not clear, by 1863 he had left his family in Cleveland with the store and was taking photographs in California. In 1864 the Cleveland City Directory indicated his store was offering "photographic stock," which could be interpreted as meaning he had returned with a supply of California photographs to sell. Hart was already 46 years old and an experienced photographer and artist at the time the Central Pacific Railroad commenced construction in Sacramento on January 8, 1863. There is no evidence of Hart's presence at the ceremony, although we know from a surviving newspaper advertisement that he was in La Porte, California, during June/July 1863 and would normally have traveled there by way of Sacramento. At that time, La Porte was an isolated and rather small town in Sierra County, and it seems likely that Hart had been in California for at least a few months before deciding that this particular village was in need of a photographer.

On June 13, 1863, Hart placed an advertisement for his "La Porte Photographic Gallery" in the weekly La Porte Mountain Messenger, (published on Saturdays) and continued it through the issue of July 18, 1863 (Fig. 30). In the June 20th issue there was also an editorial comment:

PICTURES OF LIFE -- Alfred Hart has opened a Photographic Studio on Main Street, La Porte, and is taking excellent LIKENESSES. Those visiting our town on the day of the Masonic celebration will have a fine opportunity of getting good pictures.

Coincidentally, there also appeared an advertisement (Fig. 31) for the optical firm of Lawrence & Houseworth, offering stereoscopic equipment for sale. La Porte was not the "Paris" of Sierra County (in fact Sierra County gave La Porte to Plumas County later in 1864), and for a non recreational drinker the evenings allowed more than ample time for reading. Perhaps it was there on a Saturday that Hart saw Lawrence & Houseworth's advertisement near his own, realized the potential opportunity, and decided to contact them.

Kibbey Figure 30

(Fig. 30) Hart's advertisement in the La Porte Mountain Messenger.

Kibbey Figure 31

(Fig. 31) Advertisement in the Mountain Messenger.

They became the first to publish Hart's CPRR stereo photographs (Nos.134 to 148) and regularly purchased other CPRR negatives from him as construction progressed. While we do not know of any photographs of Yuba or Sierra Counties specifically taken or published by Hart, Lawrence & Houseworth published many early Yuba County hydraulic mining stereographs which may well have been taken by Alfred A. Hart.

These hydraulic mining stereos, like the Hart CPRR Nos. 134 through 148 in Appendix A, were first published by Lawrence & Houseworth without numbers, were copyrighted in 1865, and are quite similar in photographic style to the CPRR views. Other evidence also supports this idea: Hart was familiar with this hydraulic mining area, and took (and later published) stereo photographs of mining 18 miles away. Also the main wagon road in 1863/64 to La Porte was from Marysville and passed directly through Yuba County, only a few miles north west of some of the mining areas depicted in Lawrence & Houseworth's stereographs.

It seems probable that Hart initially planned to publish his own mining negatives commercially as he had already gone to the expense of having stereo card mounts printed with "Hydraulic Mining" on the front, and "Scenes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for the Stereoscope and Album. Alfred A. Hart, Artist, Sacramento." on the verso, (See Appendix A, No. 167). This would further support the theory that Hart actually took the hydraulic mining stereo photographs published by Lawrence & Houseworth and copyrighted in 1865. Hart had either held back a few of the negatives, or expected to regain their use as later happened with the CPRR stereo negatives.

Hart probably took many other non-CPRR stereos published by Lawrence & Houseworth in 1864-66. For example, Hart published (without title or number) a summer stereo view that Lawrence & Houseworth published as No. 816 "Grass Valley from Cemetery Hill, Nevada Co." Such photographic assignments could easily have occupied Hart throughout the summer of 1864. "Summer" is suggested because of the heavy foliage on the trees at Grass Valley and the ample supplies of water shown in the hydraulic mining scenes. The mining ditches filled as the snow melted in the mountains, and usually dried up by July or August.


Because railroad construction advanced predictably along a known route, and the precise dates when the tracks reached certain locations are known, it is possible to state that a photograph showing track in place was taken after a certain date. Some 30 well-identified checkpoints are known for the early progress, but dating photographs made on later trips requires additional information. The season of the year in some instances is indicated by flowering fruit trees in spring or the lushness of the tall, deciduous Valley Oaks.

Kibbey Figure 32

(Fig. 32) CPRR Locomotive No. 1, the GOV. STANFORD next to the railroad docks at the foot of I Street in Sacramento. The building at the right houses the city hall, jail, and waterworks. The man in the white coat on the pile of rails may be Chief Engineer Sam Montague.

Kibbey Figure 33

PAGE TO LEFT: (Fig. 33) Hart No. 135, Locomotive on Trestle. Taken March 16, 1865, three miles from Sacramento on the trestle leaving the American River Bridge. The supports are 12 x 12 timbers on 12-foot spacing (See p. 59).

Kibbey Figure 34

ABOVE: (Fig. 34) Alfred Hart: Untitled. Railroad town, probably Truckee. A team of oxen are at the right, and (in the original) one can see men lined up to enter "Railroad Chop House" and a sign for a boot maker. As in all the railroad scenes there are no fat men--the only even "heavy" one being Judge Crocker in a few scenes below Auburn. Back imprint is Q in Appendix. A.

Kibbey Figure 35

RIGHT: (Fig. 35) Lawrence & Houseworth's offer to purchase stereo negatives in the Downieville Mountain Messenger of May 7, 1864.


Kibbey Figure 36

(Fig. 36) Thomas Houseworth No. 1213. Enlarged right image of a stereograph taken from the State Capitol to the northwest. The shadows and the season would suggest it was taken about 2 p.m. In taking this scene a few minutes before (Fig. 37) the photographer, Hart?? has moved forward to the edge of the dome base and turned his camera a bit to the left. The broken stones on the ground are in identical positions, but the person pushing the small cart to the left on 10th street in Hart's view has not yet appeared.

(Fig. 37) Alfred Hart: Enlarged right image of an untitled stereograph he published on a card with "Valley of the Sacramento, 135 J Street" back imprint. Taken in the winter of 1867/68 from the base of the dome of the California State Capitol while it was under construction. The view is to the northwest over the intersection of 10th and L Streets and the close bricks give a strong stereo effect. A person pushing a small white cart is just visible at the right on the far side of 10th street.

However, constructing the railroad involved removing all trees along the right of-way, and because the constant need for firewood caused the cutting of many more, distant trees must generally be relied on for determining the season in Hart's early railroad photographs.

Some dating is aided by a knowledge of traits peculiar to wet-plate photography, for instance, at lower elevations the highly blue/green sensitivity of Hart's plates tend to make the leaves of the evergreen Live Oak look white and dead even in summer. Unfortunately, trees are of little use in determining the season in the high mountains because 95 percent of them are evergreens and look the same all year.

Occasional news accounts of the delivery of the locomotives and regular construction progress reports provide additional help, but the usual detective work is still required. The task of determining the publication dates of Hart's stereographs often depends primarily on circumstantial evidence and an unfortunately large amount of conjecture. Hart himself left only minimal information as to his working locations in California prior to 1866, consequently the following summary will only outline what is available today.

After La Porte, the next certain date for Hart's location is based on his No. 135 of the large locomotive CONNESS, on its maiden trip,on one of the approaches to the American River Bridge taken March 16, 1865, as reported in the Sacramento Union the next day. This was probably the only such excursion of the CONNESS because it was particularly wasteful to send a locomotive of this size up the line without any cars and most unusual to have it loaded so heavily with such well-dressed passengers (imagine the insurance premium for such a trip today).

A similar locomotive, headed away from the camera and with its tender loaded the same way as the CONNESS, can be seen with a magnifier, at the far end of the American River Bridge (Fig. 5.) In this same scene, Judge E. B. Crocker stands looking at the small locomotive HUNTINGTON in the foreground. The Valley Oaks seen in the distance are without leaves, substantiating a March date. Taken shortly thereafter is Hart's No. 139 of the locomotive CONNESS barely squeezed onto a turntable at Newcastle, California. The presence of the CONNESS and the unfinished trestle confirms a date after March 16, 1865, and before the track layers worked eastward from Newcastle in late April to reach Auburn (4 miles away) on May 13th. At Newcastle's 900-foot elevation, the Oaks are already leafing out by April, and many in this view are bare: so a close guess would date the photograph in late March 1865.

As mentioned earlier, the negative for this and a number of other Hart stereos (No. 135 through No. 148) were first sold by Hart to Lawrence & Houseworth who published them, with titles, but frequently without series numbers. Later Hart regained control of these negatives and incorporated them in his own series. The Lawrence & Houseworth versions are not common, but are still seen more frequently than those published by Hart.

Although he continued to take stereo negatives for Lawrence & Houseworth, sometime in 1865, Hart became the official photographer of the CPRR, possibly through the influence of his friend and CPRR director, Judge E. B. Crocker. Between June 10, 1865, when the rails reached Clipper Gap and late December 1865, Hart completed a series of 32 stereo negatives picturing the progress of the CPRR between Newcastle and just above Clipper Gap.

He submitted the bill for these (in the amount of $150.00) in late December and was paid by the CPRR on January 2, 1866. The negatives were then forwarded to Huntington in New York, who arranged to have them printed and mounted by the firm of Whitney & Paradise. These stereo cards were identified by back labels giving the image number and description followed by the statement: "Negatives by A.A. Hart". Most of these stereographs (Numbers 1 through 32 in appendix A) are generally unexciting overviews of distant trestles and cuts with the track in place, above Newcastle. Although some of the Whitney & Paradise stereographs were sold to the public, they were probably also used by Huntington in New York to share with potential bond buyers.

These negatives were eventually returned to Hart's control, although the date of their return is not certain, and he began publishing them himself using Whitney & Paradise numbers, but sometimes altering the title. For example Whitney & Paradise called No. 3, "Newcastle and R.R. from the East," while Hart published it as, "Depot and Trestle, at Newcastle." The sale dates of the Whitney & Paradise stereographs is further evidenced by the tax stamps affixed to the back of the mounts.


Between September 1, 1864 and August 1, 1866, as a Civil War measure, paper "luxuries" like bank checks, photographs and invoices were required to have a revenue stamp affixed at the time of sale or use. The user or retailer was further required to cancel this stamp by handwriting in ink or with a rubber stamp impression. For photographs, the denominations to be used were:

Retail Sale Price Denomination of Tax Stamp

25¢ or less 2 ¢

26¢ to 50¢ 3 ¢

51¢ to $1.00 4 ¢

The correct stamps for photographs said "Proprietary" at the bottom. At least three of the early Whitney & Paradise views were sold for less than 26 cents before August 1, 1866, as they have an orange two-cent internal revenue "bank check" stamp on the back. The use of bank check rather than proprietary stamps can be explained by the fact that by the summer of 1866 it was known the tax would end soon. Nobody wanted to buy stamps to pay for a war that had already been won--one can also imagine how popular they were in the former Confederacy! Thus, in the last months before August 1, 1866, the government allowed the use of other types of documentary stamps and even ordinary postage stamps. From these data, it may be deduced that the three Whitney & Paradise cards were sold in the summer of 1866 at a time when they were using up their stock of bank check stamps.

Many of the earliest Hart CPRR stereographs, published by Lawrence & Houseworth without catalog numbers have green three-cent "Proprietary" stamps on the back and, on the front a copyright notice dated 1865. The required cancellation was accomplished with a round rubber stamp by someone who was seemingly careful to avoid placing the cancellation mark directly on the image of Washington's face. This consistent method, together with the fact that parts of the word "Houseworth" appear, would indicate they were sold at retail for 50-cents or less by the firm and not wholesaled to others, who would have used their own cancellation methods.

Because of the absence of revenue stamps and the fact that the majority of his views depict scenes that occurred after September 1, 1864, Hart must have started publishing, or at least selling views on his own stereo cards at some point after August 1866. (If Hart sold cards before September 1, 1864, he also wouldn't have needed to affix tax stamps.) Other evidence suggests a sale date at least a year later. It also seems reasonable that Hart would not go to the expense of having a stock of labels and card mounts printed until a commercial volume of views had been taken, and the return to his control of the Whitney & Paradise and Houseworth CPRR negatives would be an added incentive to commence self-publishing. That would help explain the insertion of the previously unnumbered Hart/Houseworth negatives at Nos. 135 to 148 and maintaining the previously low numbered Hart/Whitney & Paradise views at the start of the series.

If these suppositions are correct--and since no view before No. 135 shows a scene that can be definitely dated after November 30, 1867, when the Summit Tunnel was completed--it's highly possible that Hart began publishing stereographs in the winter of 1866/67. As further support, the Grizzly Hill Tunnel (No. 1) was completed August 27, 1866, and Hart No. 89 pictures it finished without rails. Hart No. 78 shows rails at Green Bluffs, six miles to the west which was reached on approximately August 15, 1866. Further, view No. 118 is of the eastern end of the Summit Tunnel (tunnel #6) before the huge fill between it and tunnel #7 had been made, again suggesting late fall of 1866. Hart could very well have started publishing at a later date, but the insertion in the series of the block of CPRR negatives used earlier by Lawrence & Houseworth again suggests an 1866 date. The scenes pictured on the stereographs just before the inserted series (Nos. 134-148) show areas around the summit taken well before the tunnels were finished in 1867. The negatives for the stereographs just after the inserted series were taken of the finished track between Colfax and Grizzly Hill Tunnel completed August 27, 1866.

If the negatives first used by Lawrence & Houseworth had been returned in 1866 as suggested, when Hart had completed and numbered 133 views, it would have been logical and convenient for him to place the lot at the end of the series already completed and number them accordingly. Inserting each negative at the proper distance from Sacramento would have required renumbering all those being further from Sacramento (and thus having higher numbers).

Hart took great pains to arrange most of the first 133 negatives by distance from Sacramento--for example, No. 8 shows the west end of Bloomer Cut, and No. 9 is 200 yards further in the cut; No. 132 shows the north side of Donner Lake, and No. 133 the Donner Camp about a mile further east. This would suggest that Hart, like some of us today, accumulated a large number of negatives and then organized and numbered the entire set. Still his Nos. 56-60 are out of order, as are Nos. 73-78, where he jumped back to pick up views further to the west.

Sometimes additional information can be obtained when a Hart stereograph is found with a specific date and the name of the buyer written on the back. Presumably the date written would be the time of purchase, although in an isolated case it might refer to the time the place depicted was visited.

Two collections yielded ten such Hart cards (Nos. 3, 43, 90, 100, 132, 163, 171, 181, 195, and 203) with the name of "J. W. Allyne, August 1868" in a contemporary hand on the reverse. Nine of these show (printed on the reverse) "ALFRED A. HART, Artist, 135 J Street, Sacramento," probably indicating Hart was publishing from that address before August 1868. No "Allyne" card depicts a construction scene finished after the summer of 1867, which would tend to support August 1868 as the purchase date rather than the date of a visit.

Unfortunately the Sacramento City Directories for 1866, 1868, and 1869 (no directory was published in 1867) list neither Alfred A. Hart nor his place of business. On the other hand, imprints on the back of his published stereo cards show either 135 J Street, 65 J Street, Sacramento, or no address. It is very probable that 65 J Street was his last location in Sacramento, as his immediate successor, Frank Durgan, (See Appendix A, backs F & G) also used that address, and Hart's views of the 1869 portions of the CPRR construction list the same location on the reverse.

The office at 65 J was in a large edifice occupied by professional tenants, while 135 J was a small building with Sam Levy's clothing store on the ground floor--hardly suitable for Hart's Golden State Photographic Gallery.

(For the earliest dates possible where tracks are shown in a Hart view, the following list may prove helpful.) Barry Swackhamer, who is an astute researcher of the Hart stereo cards and their variations, has gleaned additional supporting information. He has observed that while the 65 J Street address can be found on almost any of the 364 views, he has not found any cards with a 135 J Street address showing CPRR construction later than No. 338 of the Palisades where rails arrived in January 1869.

Since the card mounts were rather expensive, Hart could well have had a stock of the old ones and used them after the change to 65 J Street. Offsetting this presumed chronology would be any natural delay in developing and printing the images and preparing the title strips. The sum total of the data suggests that Hart could have moved in late 1868 or early 1869. Additional support for 135 J Street as the earlier location is given by the J.W. Allyne notations mentioned above.

A portion of an 1870 bird'seye view of Sacramento's J Street showing both Hart's 135 and 65 J Street locations is included in Fig. 28. Hart's move to the more expensive location at 65 J Street could well have been in anticipation of the new business he expected in publishing his railroad stereographs and the Photographic Railroad Advertiser.

Glenn Willumson has proposed the possibility that all 364 of the Hart CPRR railroad stereos were taken on a relatively small number of expeditions, perhaps as few as five.

He tentatively proposed that these trips consist of the following chronological sets:

Nos. 1 to 133 1865 or 1866

Nos. 134 to 148 1864 or 1865

Nos. 149 to 239 1867

Nos. 240 to 342 1868

Nos. 343 to 364 May 1869

The general principle Willumson suggested is certainly sound and represents a lot of serious study. However by studying the different locomotives and rail cars appearing in the photographs, checking the time required to reach some of the camera sites and estimating the time of day from shadows, it appears the total number of different excursions was more likely ten and possibly as many as 20. Willumson has provided a logical grouping, but unfortunately, without information from sources other than the photographs themselves, it is extremely difficult to determine the locations photographed on a given excursion up the railroad. Much of the difficulty stems from Hart's basic system of assigning view numbers by distance from Sacramento rather than chronologically. The photographs taken at Promontory illustrate this point very well (See Appendix B, footnotes 142 and 144 on p. 166).

Kibbey Figure 38

(Fig. 38) Alfred Hart: No.163 Frame for Snow Covering, interior view. Probably taken very near Emigrant Gap, California, as No. 162 in the series is a few miles below Emigrant Gap and No. 164 is there. If viewed in stereo (impossible with this illustration because of the 140 percent enlargement) this scene gives a tremendous feeling of depth. In the extreme distance one can see the last car of the same train appearing in Nos. 153, 156, 158, and 165. The snowshed pictured was of rather light construction compared to those at Donner Summit built to resist avalanches. At the 5,200 foot elevation of Emigrant Gap snow over 4 feet deep is very rare, and there were no overhanging cliffs. The roof and sides of the frame had not been covered, resulting in the interesting interplay of light and shadow.

Kibbey Figure 39

(Fig. 39) Portion of Hart No. 225 showing shadow of Hart, his camera, and dark-cloth. The camera shadow is clear, but Hart's is fuzzy indicating he may have moved to uncap and recap the lenses during the exposure. (This bridge is on the Truckee River west of Reno.)

Kibbey Figure 40

(Fig. 40) Portion of Hart No. 167 Emigrant Gap looking West. Hart's black photo wagon is on the fourth flat car. In Nevada, he usually used a white wagon, and in some views, one can see he has unhitched the horse from the wagon to allow it to graze or drink from a nearby stream.

Kibbey Figure 41

(Fig. 41) Alfred Hart: No. 323 Shoshone Indians looking at Locomotive on the Desert. Probably taken shortly after rails reached Winnemucca, on October 1,1868. This locomotive, named CHAMPION, appears to be a fast passenger type built by McKay & Aldus of Boston in late 1867. The headlight is unusual, and a coat (Hart's?) is under the right cowcatcher brace.

Throughout his working association with the Central Pacific, Hart's mentor was Judge E. B. Crocker. Payment for Hart's first invoice was approved by the Judge and he also selected and favorably commented on later Hart views. Because of this influential connection and in his role as the official CPRR photographer, Hart had the power to halt trains at photo opportunities and even to stop and pose the rushing construction workers on the job. Unfortunately, Judge Crocker suffered a heart attack and retired from the Central Pacific board of directors in the latter part of 1869, and Hart's special connection with the railroad terminated within a few months.

When in late 1869 Hart placed his advertisement in the upcoming 1870 Sacramento Directory (Fig. 19), he did not seem to realize that Carleton E. Watkins (a great photographer and close friend of CPRR Vice President, Collis Huntington) was already at work taking views in eastern Nevada and Utah for the railroad. Careful research has produced no hard evidence that Hart ever took, or at least published, any photograph after 1870. There may be exceptions to this statement assuming the following conjectures are correct: within a few days following the Gold Spike ceremony, Sacramento newspapers noted that hundreds of construction wagons were being hauled in from Utah to be shipped down the river for use in speeding completion of the CPRR's Western Pacific (WPRR) branch into San Jose and San Francisco. This railroad is not to be confused with the much later Western Pacific built up the Feather River in 1910 under independent ownership and now a part of the Union Pacific.

Many of the top construction men Hart knew from the CPRR, including Strobridge, were working on this branch line. The railroad approached San Francisco by building south from Sacramento and passing through Stockton, Livermore pass, Altamont and Niles Canyon to a junction at Niles. At this point the route divided with one branch going south through Milpitas to San Jose and then north to San Francisco on the already completed San Francisco & San Jose RR (later the Southern Pacific). The other branch headed north through San Leandro to Alameda and a huge pier from which San Francisco was reached by passenger and rail car ferries. In 1869 Thomas Houseworth, to whom Hart had sold railroad views of the CPRR for years, copyrighted at least one of a long series of views of the Oakland branch.

The similarities of many of these stereos with those taken by Hart on the CPRR are very noticeable. The dry vegetation, progress of construction, and coats worn by the few men depicted would indicate the date as early fall of 1869 when Hart was already finished with the CPRR, and available for a new assignment.

Hart also published, without a printed title strip, at least three interior views of Pullman Palace sleeping cars. In one of these, the door at the end of the car is open and a flatcar and seemingly a palm tree are just visible, suggesting a possible Oakland pier location. Two of these cards are imprinted "Central Pacific Railroad" and "California" on the front and Alfred A. Hart's "Golden State Photographic Gallery," on the back. In addition, one of them has a small label glued to the back reading:

CELEBRITIES for the ALBUM E. LOVEJOY 110 Clark Street, Chicago

The other stereo card is unusual in that the front is imprinted "PULLMAN PALACE" at the left end and "SLEEPING CAR" at the right. The back imprint is also unique (The card's obverse is in Appendix A, No. 1000 and the back is C). As in the case of Hart's having printed "Hydraulic Mining" cards, he may well have intended to publish a series on passenger car interiors after selling a few trial negatives to Houseworth. The Houseworth car interiors are very similar to the Hart views in the angle of lens coverage and the careful inclusion of ceiling detail at the cost of overexposing the side windows.

These facts indicate a possibility that Alfred Hart's last photographic activities, before leaving Sacramento, were the development and printing of negatives taken in the fall and winter of 1869 for Thomas Houseworth & Co. An item of additional support for this theory has nothing to do with logic. Who else but Hart, the man who photographed Chinese drillers proudly showing their rock drilling technique at Donner Summit, a Piute Indian mother turning shyly to display her baby on her back at Reno, or James Strobridge standing at the scene of his triumph on the Utah desert could have taken "Decoy Sheep-Oakland Wharf?"

The view pictures a bearded gentleman affectionately resting his hand on a sheep that had been trained to lead other sheep on and off railroad cars. Admittedly the "training" may not yet have been complete as a long rope is attached to the decoy's collar, but the owner's pride is still evident, and the sheep also seems quite pleased with itself. This is simply not a photograph planned by an editor, but instead was an on-the-spot decision by a photographer who understood what would interest the largely agrarian public of that day.

Kibbey Figure 42

(Fig. 42) T. Houseworth: No. 1498 Decoy Sheep -Oakland Wharf.


The events of late 1869 and the subsequent fate of Hart's railroad negatives deserve special review. In addition to the 32 negatives Hart sold to the CPRR in January 1866, it appears the railroad had also retained control of the remainder of his CPRR stereo negatives and was allowing others to print stereographs from them, notably the partnership of Eli S. Dennison and Frank Durgan who followed Hart in being given use of the negatives. Durgan assumed the role of "photographer" and continued to use Hart's old 65 J Street address (although this was a large building and he could have easily located in a different room). Dennison was identified as the sales agent and had previously been listed as a CPRR conductor in the 1869 directory (prepared in late 1868). He was also the conductor of Stanford's train to Promontory. The 1870 directory indicated that Dennison was news agent of the CPRR and the Western Pacific Railroad with offices at 3 Front Street.

In the style then prevalent, Durgan proclaimed on the back of his cards that the Hart view on the other side was "Photographed and Published by Frank Durgan" (see Appendix A, backs F & G ). Frank Durgan was not listed in the 1869 Sacramento directory and in the 1870 directory he was listed as "photographer, with J. A. Todd, 82 J Street." Neither Dennison nor Durgan was listed in the 1871 directory. In addition to these publishers, a few Hart stereo negatives appear printed on cards bearing the imprint of J. H. Heering of San Jose. John H. Heering is listed as a photographer on First Street in San Jose in Langley's Pacific Coast Business Directory for 1867 (San Francisco: Excelsior Steam Presses, 1867).

In one such view of Meadow Lake (Hart No. 180), a Hart label with the correct number and title has been pasted on the back, but the relationship between Hart and Heering remains unclear.

By 1870 Carleton E. Watkins was at work publishing most of the Hart CPRR negatives, with Hart's original numbers and nearly identical titles, but without credit to Hart. Watkins mounted the prints from the Hart negatives on cards identified as "Watkins' Pacific Railroad", "Central Pacific Railroad," "Watkins' Pacific Coast," and after 1876 "Watkins' New Series, Central and Union Pacific R.R's." This latter group also included photographs of the Union and Central Pacific Railroads actually taken by Watkins.

Watkins and C.P. Huntington (Vice President of the Central Pacific) were friends and had both lived in Oneonta, New York before coming to California. This may have influenced the transfer of the use of the negatives, although Watkins was already recognized as one of the best and most visible photographers in the West and had previously done work for the CPRR in 1869.

Kibbey Figure 43

(Fig. 43) Hart No 217, Showing loading Wells Fargo stage coaches at Cisco Station in 1867. The passenger station and Wells Fargo office were in the upper part of town next to the main line. Until completion of the Summit Tunnels in 1868, stage coaches and freight wagons loaded here for Virginia City and the Comstock mines.

Kibbey Figure 44

(Fig. 44) Same location in 1990. The tall tree obscures the left end of the flat-topped mountain visible in Hart's view. (MBK photo)

Kibbey Figure 45

Kibbey Figure 46

Kibbey Figure 47

PAGE TO LEFT: (Fig. 47) August 1992 Looking east in reinforced concrete snowshed below Crested (now Donner) Peak. Compare with Hart No. 252 taken in 1868 at the same location. (MBK Photo)

The fact that Watkins retained the use of the Hart negatives after his 1876 bankruptcy further supports their ownership by the CPRR. As described by Charles B. Turrill: "...a sale was made of his [Watkins'] entire property at his studio, 26 Montgomery Street. At that sale the negatives and photographic equipment were purchased in the interest of I.W. Taber." Had the Hart negatives belonged to Watkins, or even been on loan from another person, Taber, who was a very successful businessman, would probably have taken them as part of the purchase. But in California in 1875, no one would have dared to illegally take the property of the owners of the Central Pacific Railroad, known as the "Big Four."

Watkins continued to publish Hart's CPRR negatives after 1876, but by the time of their destruction in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, they were no longer being published as stereo cards. Glass lantern slides of some Hart views were still in the possession of the CPRR's successor, The Southern Pacific Company, as late as 1963, but they had obviously not been used for many years. We will probably never know the entire sequence of events surrounding the use of Hart's negatives.

Sometimes an occasional Hart view turns up with a rubber stamp on the back reading: "From F. Durgan & Co. Opp. Wood's Block, Lisbon St. LEWISTON" [Maine]. Also from Lewiston, but with a different publisher, Barry Swackhamer found another interesting Lewiston stereograph of Hart's labelled No. 130. We know that Watkins used the same title and number, but since he used a different scene there exists the possibility the original negative had already been removed before he assumed control of the negatives in 1870. The reverse of this view reads: "California Series A./ Androscoggin Photograph Rooms,/ Pilsbury Block, Lewiston, Maine." There follows a listing, (also on the verso of the card) of 18 Hart views with correct numbers and titles going eastward to Reno (No. 281). Strangely the view (No. 130) on the front side was not included in the list on the back. Although it is generally agreed that all of Hart's negatives were destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, Swackhamer's find might mean that a small group of Hart negatives survived in far-off Lewiston--unlikely, but an interesting possibility. Until recently, the only available list of all Hart's 364 titles was attributed to Charles B. Turrill, who presumably obtained it from Watkins' records. The titles are very short versions of Hart's original ones, and include the 13 views Watkins never published. It is thus probable that the list was compiled by Hart himself and came into Watkins' possession with the negatives he obtained from the CPRR in 1870.


Hart's transition from "Official CPRR Photographer" to general entrepreneur certainly took some interesting turns over the next few years--traveler, author, publisher, painter, and inventor to name but a few of his later undertakings. A short notice in the Rocky Mountain News mentions that a Mr. Hart, portrait painter, had located in Denver during July 1869. Without an awareness of Alfred A. Hart's incredible mobility, this item would seem an argument against his having taken the 1869 photographs of the line from Sacramento to Oakland.

Kibbey Figure 48

(Fig. 48) January 1993 in a very dry winter. Frozen waterfall in the snowshed below Crested Peak. In the terrible winter of 1866/67, Gillis described this area as one solid sheet of ice. (MBK photo)

Kibbey Figure 49

(Fig. 49) January 1993. Looking east in Tunnel 8 toward the snowshed below Crested Peak. During construction, one reached the far end by a tunnel outside in the snow while holding a rope secured to the cliff. (MBK photo)

On the other hand, no initials are indicated in the article and it could have referred to Alfred Hart's son, John, who settled in Denver about that time. In 1870, Alfred A. Hart traveled east at least as far as Chicago, possibly to promote his plan of photographing Pullman Car interiors--the company was located in Chicago--and to put the final touches on his travel book and illustrated CPRR maps. His publisher and the man preparing the book's chromo lithographs were both in that city. In June of 1872, Hart was back in Sacramento where he was awarded the gold medal for portraiture painting and first prize for the "Most Meritorious Exhibition of Paintings." The second prize went to William Keith who, five years before, had prepared a series of woodcuts of the Central Pacific for the California Weekly Mercury of San Francisco. These illustrations appeared in various issues from October 1867 to March 1868 and although each is clearly based on a Hart stereograph, rather liberal "artistic license" was apparent and Hart is not mentioned. Hart's first prize may have been even more welcome to him than one would expect!

His personal criteria for excellence in painting and by extension, photography, may be gleaned from the following portion of a written statement he was requested to submit to the 1872 Gold Medal Committee of the California State Board of Agriculture:

Any painting, to be entitled to high rank as a work of art, must not only be finished in the sense that it leaves nothing more to be added to its composition in the way of thoroughly elucidating the story intended to be told by the artist. It should tell the story at a glance. It should represent nature in a grand manner in her most beautiful and attractive forms and colors...Unity of effect and story are as important to the painter of an epic landscape, and certainly require as much power in the originating mind of the artist who designs and paints it as is involved in the writing of a drama. The highest type of all painting--of all art--is that which, comprehending all the qualities I have enumerated above, joins to them a careful finish of every detail, and which leaves on the mind of the beholder as unmistakable a sign of refined intelligence of the artist who produced it as it is possible to discern in any work of human agency. Upon what principle of criticism the judges could find the qualities I have mentioned as entitling Mr. Keith's landscapes to rank in any respect above mine, I am at a loss to discover...."

In 1874, Hart was still in San Francisco, but the following year he moved to New York, where in 1878/79, he was a dealer in photographic materials. In 1880, he was back in San Francisco working as a painter. In 1881, Hart was again listed as a resident of New York in his United States Patent No. 242,323 for a folding magic lantern which was granted to him on June 14, 1881.

The magic lantern was first described in English in 1674 and consisted of a light source and projection lens capable of casting an enlarged image of a picture on glass placed between the light source and the lens. Hart's improvement involved a sheet-metal lamp house with hinged sides and roof which cleverly folded back around the box containing the condensing and projection lenses.

Again in 1887, at the age of 71, Hart used a New York address in filing for Patent No. 376,802 granted January 24, 1888, and bearing the title "Method of Making Photographic Pictures." As in nearly all process patents, the patent description has the modest literary charm of the Internal Revenue Service writing instructions for assembling a bicycle kit. The patent actually covers a very ingenious method of preparing printing plates directly from photographic negatives "without the intervention of an artist." In Hart's method, the negative was projected on a white surface covered with a black network of wires like ordinary window screen.

The resulting image was then photographed and reduced to the size of the printing plate. The line spacing on the finished plate could be adjusted to any number per-inch by changing the size of the projected image. That is, a large image reduced in being rephotographed gave a high number of lines-per-inch, and a smaller image resulted in fewer lines-per-inch. Further manipulations available in Hart's system included increasing the reflectivity of the black wires by rubbing them with white chalk to darken the highlights in the printed image. He also described the use of a black background screen in preparing three-color printing plates. In making the negative for the printing plate meant to receive red ink, only areas containing reds, oranges, browns, etc. would be rubbed with white chalk (using considerable pressure) so that the background behind the wires became reflective, and an image of those parts could be photographed. After this whitening, and before the exposure, the black wires were rubbed clean.

For the blue plate these red areas would be restored to black by rubbing with a damp rag, and the areas containing blues and greens whitened with chalk. Purple resulted if an area was left white and reflective for both plates. Although not mentioned in the patent, Hart must have worked out the special problem of the projector and the camera not being co-axial so as to avoid distortion in the finished plate.

A passage of particular clarity, which may have been written by Hart himself, begins at line 24, page 3 of the "Specification" part of the patent:

Either a positive or a negative of the picture may be thrown upon the screen and treated upon the principles described; but there is a special advantage in the use of a negative, whether the shades are to be varied by treatment or not. If a positive were thrown up, the lines or design of the screen would be more distinct in the lights than in the shadows of the resulting picture, while the contrary is desirable. Again, it is the shadows which constitute the greater part of photographic pictures, and it is the shadows chiefly which require treatment upon the screen; but with a positive the shadows are the non-illuminated part of the screen, and those cannot be treated on account of the absence of light there.

This quotation is included to show Hart's detailed knowledge of the subject and to add support to the impression that he had actually used the processes described.

These inventions did not bring Hart great financial success, and he seems to have lived on for another 18 years in poverty in New York, attempting to support himself as an artist and receiving financial help from his daughter and son.

In 1906, at the age of 89, he was still listed in a New York business directory as a publisher of artistic blueprints. Hart's reasons for his next move are not clear, but sometime in his ninetieth year he returned to California where he later died in the Alameda County Infirmary on March 5, 1908, a few days before his ninety second birthday.

His body was disposed of the next day and although his death was noted under "obituaries" in the Oakland Tribune, no regular obituary was published. In the space on Hart's death certificate indicating the "place of burial," the undertaker filled in "For Anatomy." In 1908, the only nearby medical college was at the University of California in Berkeley, where it had been "temporarily" moved from San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake (it was returned to San Francisco in 1958) Their sources of cadavers for dissection were by donor bequest, or from unclaimed bodies. It is not clear under which category they received Hart's body, but in the sad tradition of so many early California photographers, it was probably the latter. Research in this area is difficult as most of the medical school records were destroyed in the 1923 Berkeley fire.

In reviewing the life of Alfred A. Hart, one is struck by the irony that he is known today for his photographic accomplishments, yet he appears to always have regarded himself as an artist, particularly a painter in oils. Even in his last days at the Alameda Infirmary he must have spoken of this, as his death certificate lists his occupation as "artist." There further appears to be no record that in the 38 years after 1870 until his death, Hart ever publicly mentioned his work for the CPRR; possibly because of the circumstances of his termination as their official photographer.

Hart was fortunate in a way that his years in stereo photographic publishing covered a period of relative prosperity in the profession. Almost all his contemporaries in that field were either dead or destitute by 1908 and stereograph publishing was an industry restricted to three or four large firms facing a slowly shrinking market.

Alfred A. Hart did not copyright his photographs, and did not legally pursue people who reprinted them without crediting him. As a result his photographic work has remained effectively in the public domain from the date of first publication, and has appeared (and will continue to do so) in hundreds of books and articles on early photography, Western history, and railroads. For generations to come the photographs of Alfred A. Hart will delight and inform us. As the architect, Sir Christopher Wren, had inscribed by his son near his tomb in London's St. Paul's Cathedral: Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice ("Reader, if you seek a memorial, look around.")

Kibbey Figure 50

ABOVE: (Fig. 50) Map (36" x 14") on back of 1875 Central Pacific timetable including times for seven connecting railroads, one river line, one ocean steamer line, and several stage lines. The surrounding woodcuts (each 3" x 3") are all careful copies of Hart's RR views.

Kibbey Figure 51

LEFT: (Fig. 51) Woodcuts from the center of the top of the map above. The left one is from Hart No. 213, Snow Covering below Cisco, and the one on the right is from Hart No. 252, Snow Gallery around Crested Peak.



Courtesy Mead B. Kibbey, Author, and a Director of the California State Library Foundation. Reproduced by permission.
This web page which is not for republication was generated from a revised version of the original manuscript file that according to the author, "contains all the text of the Hart book, corrected for the errors found after publication. The section on 'Location of Stereos' has been brought up to date in the K column and some corrections in the Swackhamer and Huntington Columns."

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