Nineteenth-century History

Savage Photography

In 1860, a man by the name of Charles Roscoe Savage arrived with his family in the city of Salt Lake City, Utah. It was here that he would found his photography studio and begin capturing the wild American west in photographs. The medium of photography as a means of art or even as a means of documentation had of yet not been extensively used, however, Savage blazed new trails with his photographs of the yet vastly untouched American west.

A bust of Charles Roscoe Savage.Charles Roscoe Savage (also known as C.R. Savage) was born in Southampton, England, on August 16, 1832. At the young age of 14, he joined the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which is presumably the reason for his eventual emigration to Utah. During the winter of 1856-57, he emigrated to New York where he worked for a short time as a photographer, however, he soon relocated to Florence, Nebraska on assignment from the church. His family quickly joined him there. Relocating to Iowa soon after his move to Nebraska, he founded his first independent photography studio and gallery in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

In August 1860, he traveled with his family to Salt Lake City, Utah where he established a new photography studio and gallery with a man by the name of Marsena Cannon who was a daguerreotype photographer. After Cannon left Salt Lake City, Savage formed a new partnership with George Martin Ottinger. Many of Savage’s photographs were printed in the Harper’s Weekly newspaper gaining him and the firm national attention. Linking of the two railroads at Promontory SummitDuring this time Savage also worked under contract for the Union Pacific Railroad. He traveled to California in 1866 and photographed the progress as he followed the rails back east towards Utah. Some of his most famous photographs are photographs of the linking of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads at Promontory Summit in Promontory, Utah in 1869 (pictured right). Savage also took photographs of Yellowstone National Park and Zion National Park among many other places. In 1870, Savage and Ottinger dissolved their firm and Savage formed the Pioneer Art Gallery which was subsequently replaced by the Art Bazaar in 1875 after deciding he needed more room.

Charles Roscoe Savage looking out of a windowOn June 26, 1883, Savage’s Art Bazaar burnt to the ground and with it took the negatives of his photographs. Savage died on Februrary 3, 1909 and two years later in 1911, another devastating fire destroyed the remaining negatives taken between the first fire and his death. The Art Bazaar permanently closed on December 31, 1926 after being run by his sons for several years.

Bear River Canyon, UtahA creek and mountains in the winter

An extensive gallery of photographs taken by C.R. Savage is available online at the C.R. Savage Collection at Brigham Young University.

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