Photography was still in its infancy when emigrants began crossing the Great Plains to Oregon and California in the 1840s. Cumbersome cameras, fragile glass negatives, and perishable chemicals made photography difficult outside the studio, and almost impossible during an overland journey in all kinds of weather. These rare examples are the only photographs held by the Nebraska State Historical Society that show emigrants crossing the Plains, and they were taken during the later years of overland wagon travel.
Mormon camp, Wyoming, Nebraska. Wyoming was a small village near present Nebraska City that was a jumping-off point for Mormons traveling to Utah in the 1860s. Carte-de-visite by Charles R. Savidge, June 1866. (RG3351.PH0-000031)
Oxen-drawn wagons passing a stone roadhouse as they enter Echo Canyon in Utah, en route to Salt Lake City. Note the telegraph lines that run along the left side of the image. Carte-de-visite by C. W. Carter, 1867. (RG3351.PH0-000033)
Mormon wagon train fording the South Platte River near Fremont’s Spring, close to the present town of Hershey, Nebraska, in Lincoln County. Carte-de-visite by Charles R. Savidge, August 1866. (RG3351.PH0-000032)