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Carleton E. Watkins

Union Diggings, Columbia Hill, Nevada County
about 1871
albumen print
15 7/8 x 21 5/8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

The man-made geyser in this hydraulic mining scene resembles the images of rapidly flowing water in Watkins’s Yosemite scenes. He has factually recorded the mining process here, but also comments on man’s commercialization of formerly pristine countryside. Carleton Watkins achieved widespread popular recognition in his lifetime, winning scores of medals and other honors.