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Bozeman, Montana - Ogden, Utah

Portrait of Joshua Crissman.

Little is known about Bozeman photographer Joshua Crissman (1833-1922) before he came west in the late 1860s. He was born July 29, 1833, in Madison, Ohio. Just when he began his photographic work is unknown, but he may have begun making photographs during the Civil War. Crissman apparently came west in 1868 or 1869, following the route of the Union Pacific Railroad.

The earliest known example of Crissman’s photography dates from 1869. It is a portrait of a woman taken in Cheyenne, which has the date 1869 handwritten on the back. By July 1869, Crissman had moved on to Corinne, Utah, a railroad town created along the route of the Union Pacific. It was there that William Henry Jackson said Crissman loaned Jackson and his partner, Arundel C. Hull, the use of his darkroom. Crissman may have been in Corinne for the official joining of the rails at Promontory, Utah (although no photos have surfaced by him).

By 1871, Crissman had moved to Bozeman, Montana. He joined the 1871 Hayden survey at Bozeman, and served with the 1872 party as well. He assisted William Henry Jackson, and we now know that at least some 1871 Jackson images should be credited to Crissman; in fact Jackson himself credited a number of 1872 images to Crissman.

In addition to Jackson’s acknowledgment, Crissman’s own tendency to sell his Yellowstone photographs to photographers and publishers led to his work being extensively published and then attributed to others. At least seven photographers or publishing companies offered his Yellowstone images, including: W. I. Marshall, C. D. Kirkland, L. A. Huffman, the Gates Brothers, E. H. Train, W.R. Cross and Lovejoy and Foster.

Crissman returned to Yellowstone during summer months for two years following the Hayden surveys (1873 & 74). His photographic efforts seem to have been focused on completing his series of stereoviews, adding several views of the geysers and springs, the Mammoth area, and recording events related to the park’s tourists.

Original Crissman stereoviews remain quite rare, but a number of them have survived at the Montana Historical Society, the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana, and in private collections. From these we know that Crissman's stereograph series was called "Views in the Yellowstone National Park" and apparently contained at least one hundred images taken 1871-1874.

By fall 1874, Crissman had spent four summers photographing in Yellowstone. Soon after however, Crissman apparently moved from Bozeman. Where Joshua Crissman moved to when he left Bozeman in 1874 or 1875 is not known, but appears he went directly to Ogden, Utah. Some cabinet portraits by Crissman display a studio in Ogden, Utah, and one rare stereoview from the Yellowstone series with a Joshua Crissman credit in Ogden, was recently found in the Crissman family collection.

In 1880, Crissman was operating a photography studio in Laramie City. A series of three stereoviews taken of Laramie City (circa 1880) from atop a downtown building turned up on eBay. He moved again in 1884 or 1885, this time leaving the Rocky Mountains for Southern California. Again, he set up a portrait studio, this time in Santa Ana, and seems to have produced traditional cabinet card portraits for the local population. He was in his early fifties, and this may have been his last portrait business before he retired.

Crissman's Yellowstone stereoviews have many styles. The majority of them are listed here and examples are shown below.

Type 1 Yellow Mount - No credit on front or reverse. Hand-written titles.

Type 2 "YELLOWSTONE PARK" on both sides of obverse, (checklist on reverse) Pink, Green or Yellow Mounts.


Type 4 "YELLOW STONE NATIONAL PARK Illustrated by J. Crissman" on both sides. Sometimes the Crissman line is partially obscured. Yellow Mounts.

Type 5 No credit on front. "J. CRISSMAN, PHOTOGRAPHER BOZEMAN, M. T." on reverse. Yellow Mounts.

Type 6 "J. CRISSMAN Photo" on left – "Bozeman M. T." on right. Yellow Mount.

Type 7 Plain Orange Mount – no credit on front – "Yellowstone Park" is printed on both sides of a pinkish reverse side.

86. Old Faithful, near view, (instantaneous.)

An example of Crissman’s Pink Mount. These are perhaps the most common of known Crissman views. This image shows Old Faithful in Eruption.

Crissman Pink Mount Verso Checklist

Crissman’s viewlist on the reverse side of his pink mounts. He produced these in green and yellow as well.

46. Crystal Cascades.

Here is a view of Crystal Falls near Canyon. Mounted on green, its style is identical to the pink mount above.

Crissman Green Mount Verso Checklist

Crissman’s viewlist on the reverse side of his green mounts. The list is identical to those of other colors.

Untitled view of mountain cabins (non-yellowstone)

Although stamped Yellowstone on the reverse, this view is not in Yellowstone, but perhaps Idaho or western Montana. No red mounts of Yellowstone are known, but this one is included here because of the reverse stamp.

75. Scene Among the Geysers.

One of many yellow mount styles by Crissman, this image shows Geyser Hill from the woods to the southwest.

Crissman Yellow Mount Verso Checklist

Crissman’s yellow mount viewlist. Its titles are the same as the other two shown above.

Above the Yellowstone Falls.

A yellow mount with no credit on the obverse, this scene was captured just above Upper Falls on the Yellowstone River near Canyon.

Lake Beach

Some Crissman’s have hand-written titles only. This view of a beach on Yellowstone Lake was taken just north of West Thumb Geyser Basin.

Untitled view of Terraces

Other views by Crissman have no title information at all. Here is a view of a Mammoth Terrace with only the photographer credit.

Group of Upper Basins of the Mammoth Springs.

This style of view has a typed title on the lower right front. It is of higher production value than many other Crissman views.

Untitled View of man peering into Terrace Formation.

This type of Crissman stereoview is the most difficult to identify. No credit of any kind on the front or back. Only recognition of the photo itself identifies this image as a Crissman stereoview.

Untitled view of people at Castle Geyser.

Crissman did capture superb views of early Yellowstone tourists. Unfortunately in most cases the individuals are not identified as is the case here.


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