American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

William Henry Jackson, 1843-1942

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1943



Mr. Jackson, pioneer, artist and writer, was born on April 4th, 1843, and died on June 31st, 1942. The first 50 years of his life found him striking out from up-state New York, after service in the Civil War, into almost every corner of the West. Picking up one job or another as offered, he maintained his flair for photography, primitive though the equipment was in those days, and built up a reputation for his recordings of western scenery. Notable is the file of 6.5 x 8.5 wet plates of the Yellowstone, and his work in connection with the Hayden Geological Survey of the ’70’s. To the former may be due much credit for eventually establishing the Yellowstone National Park, and from the latter fan out a wide range of connections, all the way from the high standing of Hayden’s reports, the impetus given to O. C. Marsh of Yale and his work on palaeontology, the heightened public interest in the scenic beauty of the West, to the purely artistic side in the outstanding paintings by one of his trail companions, Thomas Moran (one of whose paintings is reproduced as the frontispiece of the 1941 issue of this Journal). Jackson himself did considerable painting, especially in his later years, and one of his watercolors, done at the age of 96, hangs in the Club Rooms. His murals are to be found in public buildings of Washington, and reproductions in colors of many of his paintings illustrate Howard Driggs’ Westward America (1941).

His mountaineering record was not of the classical Alpine variety, nor of the rock engineer class, but had the character one would expect to develop from a deep love of the beauties of the High West, in a man who possessed a powerful physique, was forever travelling on foot or on horseback. John Muir and Archdeacon Stuck were his prototypes.

In recognition of the contributions he made to the foundation of interest in our western country and its peaks, he was elected an honorary member of the American Alpine Club in 1940.

Gifted with a remarkable memory, he wrote his biography, Time Exposure (1940), a book containing vivid descriptions of a West that has passed, with intimate sketches of contemporary naturalists and outdoor philosophy bearing on the mountains, often reminding one of Muir’s writings. The many members of the club who had the pleasure of meeting him at the 1941 and 1942-dinners, in recalling his vigor and mellow recollections, will recognize in his life a goal to which they also may aspire.

J. E. F.

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