The construction of the transcontinental railroad (1865–1869) marked a milestone in United States history, symbolizing both the joining of the country’s two coasts and the taming of its frontier wilderness by modern technology. But it was through the power of images—and especially the photograph—that the railroad attained its iconic status. Iron Muse provides a unique look at the production, distribution, and publication of images of the transcontinental railroad: from their use as an official record by the railroad corporations, to their reproduction in the illustrated press and travel guides, and finally to their adaptation to direct sales and albums in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Tracing the complex relationships and occasional conflicts between photographer, publisher, and curator as they crafted the photographs’ different meanings over time, Willumson provides a comprehensive portrayal of the creation and evolution of an important slice of American visual culture.
Glenn Willumson is a professor of art history and the director of the graduate program in museum studies at the University of Florida. Professor Willumson is the recipient of fellowship support from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Yale University, Stanford University, and the Samuel Kress Foundation. In 2013, he was named Florida Foundation Research Professor of Art History by the University of Florida. He has published numerous articles and his first book, W. Eugene Smith and the Photographic Essay, was awarded a J. Paul Getty Publication Grant.