Presumably, the Gardner Collection of Photographs, Harvard University
To the present owner, 1965-66
The promontory known as Glacier Point rises 3,200 feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley, and provides, in the direction from which this picture was made, a stunning view of both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, and a large expanse of the Valley's north rim.
In his article, 'Carleton E. Watkins in Yosemite Valley, 1861-66: Geological Theory and Photographic Practice' (cf. Lot 48), to which this entry is indebted, Paul Hickman posits that the famous name of Glacier Point came from Watkins himself. As Hickman points out, Glacier Point appears on the mounts of Watkins photographs as early as 1865 and 1866, and no prior reference can be found--not in the works of early Yosemite chronicler J. M. Hutchings, on the mounts of the photographer Charles Leander Weed, in the maps or reports of geologist Clarence King, or in the letters of California State geologist Josiah Dwight Whitney and William Henry Brewer. Indeed, the next reference to Glacier Point that Hickman locates is in Whitney's text for The Yosemite Book, published in New York in 1868. As Hickman notes, the use of the name Glacier Point soon became universal, appearing in successive guidebooks to the Valley published from the late 1860s through the 1870s.
A number of Watkins scholars have demonstrated that Carleton Watkins was a highly informed photographer, keenly interested in the scientific developments of his day. Hickman points out that Watkins's knowledge of Clarence King, and King's theory of the glacial formation of Yosemite Valley, was likely what inspired the photographer to call the promontory Glacier Point--a point from which evidence of an ancient glacier and its movement through the valley could be seen. Watkins's photographs in Yosemite, especially ones made from a high vantage point, offered support to King's theory, which, at that time, was in direct contradiction to those who favored a 'catastrophic event' formation of the Valley. John Muir, as Hickman comments, also promoted a glacial history for Yosemite, but this was years after Watkins had named Glacier Point.
Weston Naef and the Carleton Watkins Mammoth Plate Catalogue Raisonné Project locate 16 prints of this image, almost all in institutional collections, and further note that the image was included in a group of Watkins photographs at the 1867 Paris Exposition.
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