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Hart (Alfred A.) Photo Project Collection
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights
  • Access to Collection
  • Scope and Contents
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Biographical / Historical

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: Department of Special Collections and University Archives
    Title: The Alfred A. Hart Photo Project collection
    creator: White, Jesse.
    creator: Stanford University. The Spatial History Project
    Identifier/Call Number: SC1111
    Physical Description: 5713.9 megabyte(s) 253 files in 16 directories
    Date (inclusive): 2008-2017

    Preferred Citation

    [identification of item], The Alfred A. Hart Photo Project Collection (SC1111). Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.

    Publication Rights

    All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, California 94305-6064. Consent is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission from the copyright owner. Such permission must be obtained from the copyright owner, heir(s) or assigns. See: http://library.stanford.edu/depts/spc/pubserv/permissions.html.
    Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Access to Collection

    The materials are open for research use.

    Scope and Contents

    From 1864 to 1869, Alfred A. Hart took 364 pictures along the line of the Central Pacific Railroad in order to help solicit investment in the railroad. Between 2008-2011, Jesse White repeated Hart's journey taking photographs from exactly (or approximately) the same sites.
    The materials consist of digtial images and the project web site.

    Biographical / Historical

    Jesse White is a professional photographer working out of Sacramento and Los Angeles Ca. He is a graduate of Lewis and Clark College, and has spent the last fifteen years working both as an IASTE member in the film industry as well as a private photographer. He is using a digital 35mm camera with lenses of equivalent focal length to that which Hart used. Complete modern replication of the Hart collection is anticipated in the spring of 2010.

    Biographical / Historical

    Alfred Hart was born in Norwich, Connecticut in 1816. Hart initially worked as a portrait painter before he moved to California in 1863 to work as a photographer. By 1864, he was the official photographer for the Central Pacific Railroad. As the railroad's photographer, Hart could pause railroad construction to pose the railroad workers or even stop trains at photo opportunities. He published 364 images as the Central Pacific Railroad photographer between 1864 and 1869. Eventually, Charles E. Leonard of the publishing company Horton & Leonard published a book of Hart's Central Pacific photos in 1870, titled "The Traveler's Own Book." In spite of Hart's publishing success, Central Pacific director Collis Huntington hired a new railroad photographer in 1870 and Hart traveled east to offer his services as a photographer for both the Nevada and Utah Railroad and the Pullman Company. Hart did not publish a photo after he left the Central Pacific Railroad. Throughout the 1870s, Hart traveled the country before settling in New York in 1881. While he filed multiple patents for new photographic devices, Hart's inventions never made him much money. He lived in relative poverty in New York City before he returned to California in 1906. He died on March 5, 1908 in Alameda County Infirmary. While Hart is primarily remembered for his brief period as a railroad photographer, he always considered himself an artist.
    Hart used a Steno wet-plate camera, an American-made camera that was commonly used in the 1860s. Wet plate cameras required mixing collodion, a thick liquid made of dissolved nitrated cotton in alcohol, with light-sensitive salts on a pane of glass. Once the alcohol in the collodion evaporated, one placed the glass in silver nitrate to form a light sensitive compound silver iodide on the glass surface, but the pane of glass had to be exposed in the camera before the collodion dried. This process meant Hart had to act quickly, especially as he frequently took several shots of the same place within minutes of each other. His photo pack likely weighed about eighteen pounds, with his tripod making up much of that weight. His cumbersome tripod did not allow the camera to tip or turn, and it could not be adjusted much for height. Hart often chose dangerous spots to take his photos, from precarious cliffs to the top of railroad cars.
    [Information gathered from Mead Kibbey's excellent book, The Railroad Photographs of Alfred A. Hart, Artist]

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Photography -- History.
    Photographers -- California.
    Railroads -- History -- Photographs
    California -- Pictorial views
    Documentary photography
    Hart, Alfred A., 1816-1908
    White, Jesse.
    Stanford University. The Spatial History Project