Cover of Pioneer Photographers of the Far West by Peter E. Palmquist and Thomas R. Kailbourn

Foreword by Martha A. Sandweiss
Pioneer Photographers of the Far West
A Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865
Peter E. Palmquist and Thomas R. Kailbourn Foreword by Martha A. Sandweiss


704 pages.

Cloth ISBN: 9780804738835



Winner of the the 2001 Caroline Bancroft History Prize, sponsored by the Western History/Geneology Department and the Denver Public Library.

This extraordinarily comprehensive, well-documented, biographical dictionary of some 1,500 photographers (and workers engaged in photographically related pursuits) active in western North America before 1865 is enriched by some 250 illustrations, many of them previously unpublished.

The territory covered stretches from Alaska through Central America, and embraces all of the present-day states of the United States that fall, at least partially, west of the Continental Divide. The work is distinguished by the sheer number of entries, by the engaging quality of the biographical narratives that cover both the professional and personal lives (wherever possible) of the subjects, and by the careful, detailed documentation. It will be an indispensable reference work for historians, libraries, institutions with collections of early western photographs, and many enthusiasts and collectors in the field.

In addition to photographers, the book includes retouchers, printers, manufacturers and sellers of photographic instruments and stock, publishers, lithographers, and engravers. Since western photographs often figured prominently in the creation of moving panoramas and popular optical amusements such as dioramas and magic lantern shows, the people behind those exhibitions are also covered.

Far from being simply a reference tool, this book provides a rich trove of fascinating reading with a colorful cast of characters, including: Epifania de Guadalupe Vallejo, a teenaged Mexican girl who was the earliest known daguerrotypist on the West Coast; John Charles Frémont, who attempted to photograph the Rocky Mountains in 1842; John Wesley Jones, whose adventures while photographing and sketching the California Trail included the indignity of being stripped of his clothes by Crow Indians; and the eccentric Frederick Coombs, an accomplished photographer who was convinced he was the reincarnation of George Washington.

About the author

Peter E. Palmquist and Thomas R. Kailbourn are independent researchers and writers. Palmquist is the author or editor of some fifty books and monographs.

"The research done to compile this volume is obvious and impressive. All medium and large academic libraries, as well as public libraries, will want this documentary history of photography in the west."

American Reference Books Annual

"Pioneer Photographers of the Far West: A Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865 is a fascinating window into our photographic past. . . . [and] is indeed an authoritative text. . . . Palmquist and Kailbourn have assembled a monumental work that is thorough, readable, and enjoyable at the same time as informative. All historians of photography and western America should have a copy of this book on their desk."

Women in Photography International

"An extraordinary presentation of exhaustive research. . . . The biographies at the core of the work are an extraordinary contribution to the history of photography and the history of the West. . . . Unlike most reference works, this one is a pleasure ot read. We must commend the authors, who outside the scope of academia, have so thoroughly documented these photographers and workers and shared their research with us. We must also commend the press who published it. It will be an enduring reference work and an inspiration to other researchers to range as widely and deeply."

History of Photography

"After fifty years (between them) of photo-historical research, the authors have produced a volume that profiles some 1,500 photographers, retouchers, printers, makers and dealers of equipment, publishers, lithographers, and engravers. . . . Martha A. Sandweiss minces no words of praise in her foreword: "Phtographic history, long a stepchild of art history, has been slow to acquire a basic set of reference tools," she writes. "This volume immediately rises to the very top of the pack" (xi)."

Utah Historical Quarterly

"Peter Palmquist, who lives in northern California, is likely the world's most prolific photographic historian. Certainly in North America he is unequalled for the depth and quality of his research and writing. . . . This massive volume is the capstone of a brilliant and dedicated second career as an independent researcher, along with his co-author, into the history of photography. . . . Aimed at a specialized audience as well as the library and archives reference market, Pioneer Photographers of the Far West, as historian Martha Sandweiss concludes in her foreword, "becomes the standard that future biographical compendia and photographic history books will aspire to match."

British Columbia Historical News

"This most impressive volume sets a new standard for reference books on early western photography. . . . Peter Palmquist and Thomas Kailbourn have used their fifty combined years of research experience to create a work that will greatly enhance our knowledge of those men and women who went to the western frontier and took its picture."

Western Historical Quarterly

"Peter Palmquist, with the aid of Thomas Kailbourn, has compiled this massive, informative, and readable—interesting—reference source book."

The Book Club of California

"Pioneer Photographers of the Far West is the finest reference work I have ever read."

—Brian W. Dippie, University of Victoria, British Columbia

" of the most interesting and significant books on the early history of American photography published to date."

—Terry Toedtemeier, Portland Art Museum