Alexander Gardner was a talented American photographer and portraitist. He captured portraits of President Abraham Lincoln. During the American Civil war, Gardner also documented American Indian delegations.
Gardner immigrated to the United States from Scotland in 1856. He worked at the New York City studio of Mathew Brady, where he was in contact with many politicians and military figures. Brady sent his team of photographers, including Gardner, into the field after the outbreak of the Civil War. Gardner left Brady’s studio in 1862 to open his own in Washington, D.C. General McClellan also employed him as the official photographer of the U.S. Topographical Engineer Corps of the Union Army.
After the war, Gardner photographed many notable individuals, including Abraham Lincoln, the Lincoln conspirators, and Indian delegations visiting Washington in the late 1800s. Gardner joined the survey team for the Kansas Pacific Railroad in 1867. The railroad promoted plans to extend its route from Kansas to the Pacific Ocean. From Kansas through the mountains of Colorado and deserts of New Mexico, Arizona, and California, the route would please the Indians and provide access to the California market. In addition to photographing the proposed path, Gardner included studies of Indians in the region and settlements along the way. Gardner’s photographs are the earliest systematic series of photographs of the Great Plains. He also photographed many of the northern plains tribes, including Crow, Arapaho, Oglala, Minneconjous, Brule, and Cheyenne.