Best known for his Civil War photographs, Alexander Gardner also documented the construction of the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division (later the Kansas Pacific Railroad), across Kansas beginning in 1867. This book presents recent photographs by John R. Charlton of the scenes Gardner recorded, paired with the Gardner originals and accompanied by James E. Sherow's discussion. Like most rephotography projects, this one provides fascinating information about the changes in the landscape over the last century and a half.
The book presents ninety pairs of Gardner's and Charlton's photographs. In all of Charlton's photographs he duplicates the exact location and time of day of the Gardner originals. Sherow uses the paired images to show how Indian and Anglo-American land-use practices affected the landscape. As the Union Pacific claimed, the railroad created an American empire in the region, and Charlton's rephotography captures the transformation of the grasslands, harnessed by the powerful social and economic forces of the railroad.
James E. Sherow is a professor of history at Kansas State University. A specialist in the environmental history of the American West, he is the author of The Grasslands of the United States: An Environmental History and Watering the Valley: Development along the High Plains Arkansas River, 1870-1950. He is also the editor of A Sense of the American West: An Environmental History Anthology (UNM Press). John R. Charlton was for many years a photographer with the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas. He provided the rephotographs for Donald L. Baars's The Canyon Revisited: A Rephotography of the Grand Canyon, 1923/1991.