Solomon D. Butcher and the Nebraska pioneers.

Or: homing-in on the homesteaders.

The mud was high, the sod-roofs were damp, the watermelon was sweet, and in the lens of newfangled camera’s men never smiled. It was Nebraska in the late 1800’s and at “only one-ninth of principle due annually, beginning two years after purchase” it was destination soon crowded with homesteaders. One of them was Solomon D. Butcher who arrived in Nebraska in 1880 to farm. After five years of struggle he realized that he was not tough enough to meet the demands of the homesteader’s life but having in those five years developed a genuine love of the life, and realizing that the period of settlement would soon be over, he set out instead to create a photographic history of what it was to be a pioneer. Between 1886 and 1912 Butcher generated a collection of more than 3,000 photographs. Like most men “he died believing himself a total failure.” His work, however, for its breadth and specificity, has proven to be one of the most important chronicles of homesteading ever exposed to the light.



More americana from The Nonist. Basically, this nonist is an Americanist. Incredible photos, though, of an unbelievable way of life. Most of the people seen here must have been deeply depressed. Rural americans seem rooted in wilderness, loneliness, and retarded children. I like Butcher’s writings and drawings on the photos. He probably thought photos did not give an accruate depiction of the reality, he had to add more.
By the way, I’m into Three Weeks, those days, one of your previous posts from some weeks ago. It is indeed great writing, I enjoy the classical writing skill, the irony, the urban life seen through the microscope, the way he speaks of insects, the weather, the art.
Thanks for all this, Jaime.

posted on 07.08 at 01:05 PM.


My pleasure Laurent.

“Most of the people seen here must have been deeply depressed.”

Well, lucky for them they didn’t bandy the word “depression” about constantly to describe any reaction to the difficulties of being a living creature with a consciousness. Otherwise they might really have been screwed. I’m sure some of the lady folk got put away due to “hysteria” but then that was one less fount of “retarded children” to worry about right?

posted on 07.09 at 08:57 AMjmorrison


I really enjoyed the old pictures. Any look into the past is an interesting image to
behold. Mrs.Hamilton must have suffered on the plains. Poor soul had to bring out
her Victorian Organ to show some dignity in her photo. She must have detested her
sod abode. Imagine the interior being very very primitive and her organ set out like
the great treasure of the East that it was. I suspect that she brought one or two very
dressy frocks with her, and some delicate, dainty, and lacey hankies to offset the
ugliness of the wilderness.

The writings of Butcher were very interesting also.

posted on 07.14 at 11:55 AM.

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