Skip to main content

Frontier Photographer

July 2024
1min read

When the Northern Pacific Railroad first opened for business in the 1880’s the far Northwest from the Dakotas to the Pacific was raw, new land where a few pioneers dwelt in enormous open spaces. It was at that time that a young photographer named F. (for Frank) Jay Haynes travelled the new rails in his own Pullman car, converted into a rolling studio complete with backdrops (a snow scene, a romantic balustrade) and a darkroom. Heralded by posters (left) in much the same way as a travelling circus, he was met at every station by unwontedly well-pressed and barbered customers eager for likenesses of themselves to send back East. He also made photographs of scenery, potential farmland, and burgeoning towns, and sold them to the Northern Pacific for use in publicity campaigns. The study (right) of Helena, Montana Territory, in 1883 includes Haynes himself in the foreground. During a long career, he photographed over 36,000 subjects; those pictures reproduced here and on the next twelve pages will appear in Following the Frontier , by Freeman Tilden, which will be published this November by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.