Monday, May 09, 2011

First Transcontinental Railroad East and West The Champagne Photo

The most famous photograph associated with the first transcontinental railroad is Andrew J. Russell’s “East and West Shaking Hands at Laying of Last Rail.” Commonly known as “The Champagne Photo,” Russell’s “East and West” was one of many glassplate exposures taken on May 10, 1869, by three photographers who were present at the Golden Spike Ceremony. More than any other image of that day, however, the champagne photo seems to capture a defining moment in our nation’s history.

Following the driving of the last spike, Union Pacific engine No. 119 and Central Pacific’s Jupiter were run up until they nearly touched. Railroad officials retired to their cars, leaving the
engineers and workmen to celebrate.

The champagne flowed and engineers George Booth and Sam Bradford each broke a bottle upon the other’s locomotive. Samuel S. Montague, Central Pacific’s Chief Engineer and his counterpart in the Union Pacific, Grenville M. Dodge, shook hands to symbolize the end of the race to build the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. This moment in time became immortalized in Andrew J. Russell’s famous photograph.

Photographer Andrew J. Russell began his career as an artist. As a commissioned officer in the Civil War, he was assigned to special duty as photographer for the U.S. Military Railroad Construction Corps.

First Transcontinental Railroad East and West The Champagne Photo"East and West shaking hands at the laying of the last rail" of the Union Pacific Railroad, by American photographer Andrew J. Russell. Black and white photograph. 28.2 cm x 35.5 cm. Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.

This IMAGE (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.This applies to the United States, where Works published prior to 1978 were copyright protected for a maximum of 75 years. See Circular 1 "COPYRIGHT BASICS" PDF from the U.S. Copyright Office. Works published before 1923 (in this case 1869) are now in the public domain.

This file is also in the public domain in countries that figure copyright from the date of death of the artist (post mortem auctoris) in this case Andrew Joseph Russell (1830-1902), and that most commonly runs for a period of 50 to 70 years from December 31st of that year.

TEXT CREDIT: Golden Spike National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service)

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