Scope and arrangement
The William Henry Jackson Papers, 1862-1942, consist chiefly of his diaries, (including diary transcripts, reconstructions, and narratives) which span the years from his enlistment in the Union army during the Civil War at the age of 19 until his death in 1942 at the age of 99. The remainder of the collection consists of letters written to his wife while abroad, 1894-1896, two sketchbooks, four notebooks, and a few pieces of ephemera that had been tucked into the diaries.
The diaries vary in depth and breadth of coverage, as well as in format. Some are original holograph journals. Others are holograph or typed transcripts made by Jackson from the originals. Some which appear to be transcripts are Jackson's narrative reconstructions based on the original diaries; others are memoirs based on brief notes.
These "diaries" as a whole cover his nine months in the Vermont Regiment, 1862-1863; his first trip West in 1866-67; the opening of his studio in Omaha; his photography along the line of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1869; his "photographic campaigns" with the U.S. Geological Survey, 1870-1878; his travels abroad with the World's Transportation Commission, 1894-1986; and his years in retirement, 1925-1942.
There are no diaries covering his years as a commercial photographer in Denver, 1879-1897, and only one diary (1901) and one notebook related to the 27 years he worked for the Detroit Photographic Company (later Detroit Publishing Company).
His years as photographer for the World's Transportation Commission are the most extensively documented. Supplementing his five diaries of the world tour, 1894-1896, are approximately eighty-five letters written to his wife during the three years he was abroad; twenty-nine photographs taken in India, New Zealand, and Korea; two pieces of printed ephemera; and two typescript essays, "A Brief Account of My Travels Abroad with the World's Transportation Commission" and "The World's Transportation Commission Calls On the Maharajah of Kashmir."
The William Henry Jackson papers are arranged in three series:
This series contains approximately eighty-five letters Jackson wrote to his second wife, Emilie Painter Jackson, during his travels abroad with the World's Transportation Commission. The letters recount the pleasures and many frustrations he experienced while working as the Commission's photographer. He comments on local customs, the foibles of his travelling companions, (especially the Commission's leader, Joseph G. Pangborn), varied eating and sleeping arrangements, hardships met with in his photographic work, and his nagging financial worries and concern about the welfare of his family during his extended absence. Many of the letters are quite long, but break off abruptly, often without closing or signature, so that they could be included in the day's outgoing mail.
The letters are addressed from many locales including London, France, Algeria, Gibraltar, Egypt, India, Siam, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Macao, Korea, Japan, China, Siberia, Moscow, and Berlin.Jackson's letters from Russia are dated according to the Julian calendar (Old Style) but are interfiled chronologically with his other letters as if the dating system were unchanged.
This series contains Jackson's original diaries for the period of his service in the Union Army, 12th Vermont Regiment, Company K (1862-1863); the summer spent photographing along the line of the Union Pacific Railroad in Nebraska, Wyoming and Utah (1869); his first field excursion as unofficial photographer with the United States Geological Survey in the Wyoming Territory (1870); and fragmentary diary notes for his final summer with the Survey in Yellowstone (1878). The series also contains five diaries covering his world tour with the World's Transportation Commission, 1894-1896; three of the five are devoted to the Siberian portion of the trip. These are accompanied by transcripts of the diaries, typescripts of two articles Jackson wrote about his experiences on the trip, and twenty-nine photographs taken in India, Korea, and New Zealand. Finally, there is one diary, 1901, covering three months spent in California, Oregon, and Washington shooting and purchasing photographs for the Detroit Publishing Company, and twenty volumes of diaries kept during his retirement, 1925-1942. Some of the 19th century diaries contain his sketches and doodles, which are not always reproduced in the transcripts.
The series also includes Jackson's transcripts and reconstructions of his diaries for 1866-1867, 1873, 1874, and 1875. The original diaries are in the Stephen H. Hart Library of the Colorado Historical Society in Denver.
Finally, the series contains typed narratives made by Jackson during the preparation of his memoirs. Some recount the same material covered by the diaries and transcripts; others cover periods for which there are no diaries extant.All the material in this series has been arranged in rough chronological order according to the time period of the subject matter. Jackson's original diaries are accompanied by transcripts and narratives covering the same period, even though the latter may have been prepared many years later.
The final series consists of two undated sketchbooks containing sketches and floorplans of pueblos, presumably made during his U.S.G.S. field work; four notebooks containing lists of photographs taken for the Detroit Publishing Company (1903, 1904, 1906); undated notes on art history; notes (1929 and undated) on the history of the American West, made in the course of his work for the Oregon Trail Memorial Association; and a few pieces of ephemera that had been tucked into the diaries, including a roster of Company K of the 12th Vermont Regiment, a military pass issued to Jackson (1863), a map of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and a death notice of his second wife, Emilie Painter Jackson (1918).