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[Detail] Railway train - Italy, 1894

U.S. History

The images of photographer William Henry Jackson in this archive document the around-the-world tour of 1894-1896 of the World's Transportation Commission. One purpose of the tour was to collect information about various transportation systems -- particularly railroads -- for the Field Columbian Museum in Chicago. For this reason, the majority of Jackson's photographs focus on railroads and other forms of transportation. The Commission's second objective was to investigate the prospects of opening up new markets abroad for American goods and services. Images of people going about their everyday lives, various forms of economic activity, scenic views, and popular tourist sites record the Americans' impressions of the countries visited.

1) Transportation Systems

Images in Around the World in the 1890s focus on three general categories of transportation systems: wheeled vehicles, water-going vessels, and non-wheel conveyances. Many of the images, however, are related to railroad transportation.

To view examples of trains, search on locomotives, passenger cars, railroads, street cars, and section cars. search on railway stations for photographs such as Railway Station, taken in 1895.

Search on railroad tunnels, railroad bridges, canyons, gorges, and mountains to see trains in dramatic landscape settings.

In addition to trains, the photographs show several other types of wheeled vehicles. search on carriages and coaches, jinricksha, and carts to view these images.

Images of water-going vessels reflect the Commission's interest in the variety and economic importance of these transportation systems. For examples of specific kinds of boats and ships, search on junk, sampan, dhow, steamer, raft, riverboat, and canoe. To see photographs of ships designed for a particular purpose, search on cargo ship, fishing boat, sailing boat, and houseboat. To examine the building and commercial centers that developed in response to water transportation, search on piers and wharves, harbors, and canals.

A few unusual photographs show conveyances without wheels. search on sleds and sedan chairs to view examples of these.

search also on terms for workers who provided the energy for moving people and goods: porters, guides, and bearers.

2) Economic Activity

Joseph Pangborn, who organized the Commission, charged the group with gathering information about the countries on the tour, with particular emphasis on economic activity. For this reason, the collection includes images of people at work in factories, on plantations, at ports, and in markets.

To view photographs of people at work, search on laborers, railroad employees, cargo loaders, vendors, sailors, tea pickers, merchants, and markets.

For other evidence of economic activity, search on tea plantations, rice paddies, and factories.

3) Urban Environments and Rural Landscapes

Around the World in the 1890s includes many photographs that highlight city life. Urban Canal Jammed with Sampans emphasizes crowded conditions and activity everywhere, even on the water.

For other aspects of bustling urban life, search on street scenes, street markets, and crowds.

Also featured are dramatic images of the countryside, many focusing on geographical features. To see these photographs, search on natural features by name: mountains, gorges, rifts, and canyons. search on tunnels and bridges for images of man-made structures in landscapes. search also on city names, such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Vladivostok, and Wonsan for panoramic views of cities located on natural harbors.

4) Native Cultures

Many of the photographs taken by Jackson show people going about their everyday lives and convey aspects of different cultures. For example, the photograph, Men with Mound of Food, shows a variety of native foods. How might have the members of the World's Transportation Commission reacted to cultural differences that they encountered?

To view this and similar images, search on food preparation and eating.

search on houses, processions, temples, and shrines for photographs of other aspects of native cultures. search also on contract laborers and women to find images of native men and women going about their daily tasks. To see photographs of ethnic groups, search on aborigines, Tamils, and Pongyis.