Smelting Works, New Almaden

Object Details


Smelting Works, New Almaden


Carleton Watkins (American, 1829 - 1916)




Santa Clara, California, United States, North America (Place created)




Albumen silver print

Object Number:



41.4 × 52.4 cm (16 5/16 × 20 5/8 in.)

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The discovery of the Comstock Lode, one of the largest silver deposits ever mined, in June 1859 set off a chain of events that changed the landscape of the West. As in the Gold Rush of 1849, prospectors and miners migrated to the area to seek their fortunes. The New Almaden mine in California was the subject of a five-year lawsuit about the ownership of the mine and lands. Shortly after the case was settled, the victors invited Carleton Watkins to document the trophy they had won, the mine itself. The thirty mammoth-plate images Watkins made of the smelting works reveal his new appreciation for the power of a diagonal viewpoint to expose the geometry of a factory setting.

Carleton Watkins: Western Landscape and the Classical Vision (March 13 to May 27, 1990)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), March 13 to May 27, 1990
Carleton Watkins: From Where the View Looked Best (February 15 to June 4, 2000)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 15 to June 4, 2000

Fraenkel Gallery and Peter E. Palmquist. Carleton E. Watkins: Photographs, 1861-1874 (San Francisco: Fraenkel Gallery in association with Bedford Arts, 1989), pl. 76.