Auger on a Blanket
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Andrew Joseph Russell
American, July 1863
Salt print
6 x 8 in.

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In this photograph of an auger propped up by a folding wooden ruler, light and volume seem more important than the subject. For this picture, Andrew Joseph Russell treated the tool as if it were a sculpture, resting the streamlined, cylindrical handle against a makeshift stand so that the corkscrew-like component remains upright. He photographed it, however, because engineers used such augers to bore holes in the supporting timbers of bridges for the placement of explosives.

While a captain in the 141st New York Volunteers, a Union Army infantry unit, Russell worked under Union General Herman Haupt--whose experiments in military engineering are still considered quite ingenious. Russell made photographs showing various techniques for bridge and railroad track construction and destruction. He mounted this image in an album that served as an instruction manual for the use of Haupt's inventions.