Then and now: Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah – 1869 and 2006

March 18, 2011

Photographer Timothy H. O’Sullivan toured the western territories — not yet states — for either the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the U.S. Geological Survey, around 1868 and 1869.  Color photography hadn’t been perfected.  His plates were black and white only.

He had been one of the photographers who captured parts of the Civil War on film, with particularly poignant photos of the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, within hours after the battle ended on July 4, 1863.

O’Sullivan’s photos appear in the collection at the Library of Congress, and at the George Eastman House (Eastman was the founder of Kodak, as you know).

O’Sullivan’s photos show the mineral and mining operations of Nevada, Utah and Idaho, and Arizona and New Mexico, so far that I’ve found.  Particularly in the mountains, the places he photographed can be tracked down today.

In this post we compare O’Sullivan’s photo up what he called “Great Cottonwood Canon of the Wahsatch,” what is today one of the beautiful canyons leading out of Salt Lake City, Big Cottonwood, in the Wasatch Front.  O’Sullivan took a shot up the canyon, then very much unroaded, at an enormous block of granite that came to be known as Storm Mountain.

In 1869:

"Great Cottonwood Canyon, Wahsatch Mountains," 1869 photo by Timothy H. O'Sullivan - USGS photo from Eastman collection

"Great Cottonwood Canyon, Wahsatch Mountains," 1869 photo by Timothy H. O'Sullivan - USGS photo from Eastman collection

Rich Legg of Salt Lake City captured the same mountain in 2006, and graciously consented to let us use it here for comparison.  This is Storm Mountain, now:

From LeggNet:

Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah, 2006 - photo by Rich Legg, copyright and rights reserved

Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah, 2006 - photo by Rich Legg, copyright and rights reserved; image here by express permission

Note from LeggNet blog: This recent capture was made in Big Cottonwood Canyon just outside of Salt Lake City. The striking shadows along with the jagged ridges create a dramatic lighting effect.

Legg’s camera and film allowed a quicker shot, I’ll wager (if he used film at all — it may be an electronic image).

The granite didn’t change much.  Storm Mountain is literally a fraction of a mile outside the city limits of Salt Lake City.  A photo the other way would show dramatic change.  A photo of Storm Mountain, which consists chiefly of naked granite, appears almost unchanged in over a century.  It’s difficult even to find places where the vegetation has changed.

In the past 20 years we have seen comparisons of America’s and the world’s glaciers, from photos through the late 19th and 20th centuries, compared to photos of today.  The archives of landscape photos held by groups like the George Eastman House offer opportunities for historians and land managers and policy makers to compare American lands from more than a century ago, to those same lands today.  Much of those older photo archives are available on line, at least for searching.  Will scholars make methodical use of these resources?


Can’t dance to it, but can you learn with it?

July 14, 2010

It’s an awkward scene.  John Goodman has a lousy role (and I’m not fond of the direction for him or Melanie Griffith here).  I’ve never seen the movie, “Born Yesterday,” and I don’t know the context.

But ten important amendments to the Constitution, to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” a potentially useful mnemonic device for your U.S. history, and government students; it’s mostly accurate:

There is some skipping around —  the song covers the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments, then skips to the Thirteenth, Fifteenth, Sixteenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Amendments.  The First Amendment’s five freedoms are covered completely, other amendments not so much.

The actor in the scene, playing the senator who sings the Fifteenth Amendment, is former Tennessee U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson.  Thompson staffed the Watergate Committee chaired by Sen. Sam Ervin of North Carolina, earlier — wouldn’t it be interesting to hear his views on this scene, and song, and what other tricks he may have encountered in the Senate, from Sen. Ervin, or the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd?

It’s not Schoolhouse Rock, but it’s really very good.  Everything covered in the song is in Texas TEKS, but some things skipped, like the Fourteenth Amendment, are also required.  Can you use it in your classes?

And by the way, does anyone know a rap for the Bill of Rights?

Tip of the old scrub brush to the Facebook status of the Bill of Rights Institute.


Annals of What is it about librarians?: Bananas do not soothe the savage beast, and porn titles

April 17, 2010

No Marian-Madam-Librarian for these people.

The Hot Librarian had an adventure with a dancing banana.  And Foxy Librarian gets the giggles from porn titles.

Just What IS It About Librarians?

Don’t even get me going about Judge a Book By Its Cover.

(Oh, and are you looking for a mnemonic on how to remember Van Buren as the 8th president?)

(Video clip from the movie “The Music Man,” Meredith Willson’s brilliant musical play.)


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