Old Faithful

William Henry Jackson1870

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum

A journey into Yellowstone Valley required several days of arduous travel via rail, stagecoach, and mule train when Jackson went there in 1870. His pictures, combined with extensive reports from the government-sponsored expedition, moved the United States Congress to designate the area a national park in 1872. Jackson captured Old Faithful geyser with a mammoth-plate camera, which exposed negatives that are the same size as this print. He included a figure at lower left to convey the enormity and heighten the romanticism of this awesome natural phenomenon.

Old Faithful, a geyser that throws about ten thousand gallons of water and steam up to one hundred seventy feet in the air, was so named in 1870 by the Washburn-Langford-Doane geological expedition because it seemed to spout "faithfully" for about five minutes every hour or so. In actuality, the eruptions occur more irregularly, with intervals varying from as much as half an hour to two and a quarter hours.

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  • Title: Old Faithful
  • Creator: William Henry Jackson
  • Date: 1870
  • Location Created: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, United States
  • Physical Dimensions: 51.4 x 42.4 cm (20 1/4 x 16 11/16 in.)
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Albumen silver print
  • Source Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Object Type: Print
  • Object Status: Permanent Collection
  • Number: 85.XM.5.38
  • Markings: (Recto, print) somewhat faint white lettering in negative, at lower left edge: "OLD FAITHFUL"; very faint white lettering in negative, at lower right corner: "W.H.J."
  • Inscription: (Recto, mount) inscribed in pencil, at lower center below image: "Old Faithful Geyser / [flourished underline] / Yellowstone Park"; in pencil, at lower right edge: "Monogram / WHJ / [space] / [William H. Jackson]"; in pencil, at lower left edge: "AS#71" (Verso, mount) inscribed in pencil, at upper left corner: "1,500 --"
  • Display Location: Not currently on view
  • Department: Photographs
  • Culture: American
  • Classification: Photographs