1821 - 1882
Prominent Photographer of Civil
War and the American West
Though overshadowed by the eminent Civil War
photographer Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner was
considered to be one of America's top-ranking
photographers when photography was in its
infancy. Gardner left behind a remarkable
photographic legacy of the Civil War and
American life in the mid-19th century. Gardner
was born in Paisley in 1821 when photography was
virtually unknown. The first photo in Scotland
was taken in 1843.
■ Fascinated by photography, Gardner took up
portraiture in late youth and practiced his art
in the Glasgow area. At age 35 he became known
to Matt Brady and was invited to join Brady in a
Washington portrait studio. Gardner accepted and
proved to be a remarkably astute businessman.
His Washington, D.C. studio was more successful
and earned more profit than Brady's headquarters
in New York. ■ When the Civil War broke out,
Gardner assisted Brady with his plan to make a
complete photographic record of the conflict.
However, Brady refused to give Gardner any
public credit for his work and they parted
company. Gardner opened his own studio in
Washington and continued to photograph the war.
He published a Sketch Book of the Civil War
containing 100 of his best photographs.
After the war, both Brady and Gardner offered
their collections to Congress for purchase.
Congress bought both. Gardner made more
photographs of Lincoln than anyone else,
including the last one of the Great Emancipator
a few days before his death. ■ As official
photographer for the Union Pacific Railroad,
Gardner photographed western life and western
scenery. He also published a book of
photographs, Indians of the Great Plains.
■ He retired to Washington, D.C., where he died
Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546