Carleton Watkins first photographed the base of the grizzly giant with Galen Clark, Yosemite's caretaker, in 1861. At that time, fallen branches so large they were the size of ordinary trees surrounded the base of the giant sequoia. In this image, taken five years later, the area around the tree had been cleared, giving it a less rugged, more park-like appearance. Although Yosemite Valley attracted artists and wealthy travelers as early as the 1850s, Watkins's images helped to further promote visitation to the site, especially after the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1859.
When Watkins displayed his images of the Big Trees at the 1867 Paris International Exhibition, he added elegant redwood frames, providing a tactile hint of California for European viewers.