The American West, 150 Years Ago

In the 1860s and 70s, photographer Timothy O'Sullivan created some of the best-known images in American History. After covering the U.S. Civil War, (many of his photos appear in this earlier series), O'Sullivan joined a number of expeditions organized by the federal government to help document the new frontiers in the American West. The teams were composed of soldiers, scientists, artists, and photographers, and tasked with discovering the best ways to take advantage of the region's untapped natural resources. O'Sullivan brought an amazing eye and work ethic, composing photographs that evoked the vastness of the West. He also documented the Native American population as well as the pioneers who were already altering the landscape. Above all, O'Sullivan captured -- for the first time on film -- the natural beauty of the American West in a way that would later influence Ansel Adams and thousands more photographers to come.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Anto Sembiring / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: Dancing Noses, Olympic Jumps, Analog Astronauts

    A flour war in Greece, mountain hares in Scotland, students marching against guns in the U.S., the Mach Loop in Wales, and much more.

  • Mark Wallheiser / AP

    Photos: Teenagers Demand 'Never Again' in an Age of Mass Shootings

    A week after 17 people were murdered in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, teenagers across South Florida, in areas near Washington, D.C., and in other parts of the United States walked out of their classrooms to stage protests against the horror of school shootings and to advocate for gun law reforms.

  • Stéphane Mahé / Reuters

    A Quiet, Ancestral Farm Life in Western France

    Reuters photographer Stéphane Mahé visited a farmer named Jean-Bernard Huon on his farm in western France, where he deliberately lives a traditional, non-mechanized farm life.

  • Guadalupe Pardo / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: Skiing Robots, a Bichon Frise Wins Best in Show

    The U.S. Toboggan Championships in Maine, scenes from New York Fashion Week, a camel trip on a Siberian steppe, and much more.