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Deadwood Closeup: 1888

Deadwood Closeup: 1888

Deadwood, South Dakota, from Mrs. Livingston's Hill. View full size. Circa 1888 photograph by John C.H. Grabill. More Deadwood here.


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Quiet place

No cars at all.
Thats what I like of this picture.


1888. It's a long time past the heyday of Al Swearengen, Seth Bullock, Sol Star and the day that Wild Bill Hickock was holding Aces and Eights when he was gunned down by Jack McCall. Though strictly speaking Bullock, Star and Swearengen were still in town when this picture was taken (but Calamity Jane was gone to El Paso by the time this picture was made). One of those substantial buildings was likely Star and Bullock Hardware, while the legendary Gem Variety Theater (Swearengen's place) is also down there. Biggest sign of civilization? One of those little buildings on the outskirts is a Cigar Factory.


This is a real cowboy town I think and from my English perspective it's kinda quiet because Black Jack Mc Slurrigall,the baddest bad 'ombre West of wherever he's East of, is either coming to Town for a pint of Rose and a ceegar or two in the 'Deadwood Dive'(run by golden-hearted Lily 'The Lip' Lonnigan since her ole man died in the shoot-out last Wednesday after the argument about whose horse was biggest); or else he's been and anybody left alive is in jail.
The rest are in Boot Hill.
It's worth pointing out that the shadows are always long in the Old West and blurry things happen.


You might notice that the shadows are long. This probably indicates an early morning image. Again, this would be a chosen time of day where activity is scarce and there would likely be little smoke from daily activities like cooking.


I agree with the time lapse and if you look very closely at the intersection of the roads at the lower left of the church you will actually see some photographic artifacts that could have been someone crossing the intersection. This moves horizontally across the intersection and is lighter in color on the right side where it disappears behind the build more than the left

Where's Waldo?

People? ~

Photographic technology at the time this photo was taken was extremely primitive. An image of this detail must have been made on a rather large glass plate and may have taken up to a full minute or more to expose. Therefore, any moving object would not have been recorded on the plate, including any person, horse or wagon, etc.

If you look closely at some of the shrubs and trees in the foreground, you'll notice they look a bit blurry. Another clue that this is a long-exposure image.

Also the image may have been made at a time of day when no one was on the street or were gathered somewhere else at the time it was taken - the church in the picture for instance. A wise move on the photographer's part if he wanted an image unspoiled by the blurry movement of people.


Deadwood, 1888....Seems like there should be at least 1 person in the photo somewhere!

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