Thursday, May 11, 2017

1903 Buffalo County Farm Nebraska

Nash residence, Long View, Buffalo County, Nebraska. Photographer: Solomon D. Butcher. ca. 1903. Glass plate negative 6x8. Nebraska State Historical Society. Library of Congress.

Every Thursday a carefully selected old agricultural photo is featured here on Big Picture Agriculture — lest we forget how things used to be.


  1. Wow-- that's a tidy place. Everything is painted and kept up and there aren't any piles of junk (old machinery, fence posts or lumber) as there are in many of the other photos.

  2. Do you know why these old agriculture photos were taken? 1903 was before the FSA paid photographers during the depression (eg Dorothea Lang).

    Were the photos, like this one above, taken for a government record? Were they taken by traveling photographers and sold to the landowner?

    The farm families in these photos you've been posting obviously are participating by taking time off work and posing with their livestock and horses/buggies/wagons.

    Glass-plate photography seems to be a little too bulky and expensive to have been done as a mere hobby-- or was it?


    1. That is an excellent question.

      From wikipedia:

      Solomon D. Butcher (January 24, 1856 – March 18, 1927) was an itinerant photographer who spent most of his life in central Nebraska, in the Great Plains region of the United States. A settler under the Homestead Act, he began in 1886 to produce a photographic record of the history of white settlement in the region. Over 3,000 of his negatives survive; more than 1,000 of these depict sod houses. Butcher wrote two books incorporating his photographs: Pioneer History of Custer County and Short Sketches of Early Days in Nebraska (1901), and Sod Houses, or the Development of the Great American Plains (1904).

      Butcher was unable to achieve financial success as a farmer, as a photographer, or in a number of other schemes later in his life, and at the time of his death felt that he had been a failure. However, the number and scope of his photographs of Nebraska pioneer life have made them a valuable resource to students of that period of history, and they have become a staple of historical texts and popular works alike. His oeuvre has been described as "the most important chronicle of the saga of homesteading in America".

      END wiki

      Seems he was following his bliss as a photographer hopeful to make an income off of it. That's an age old artist's sob story, isn't it?

      Butcher was born in W. Virginia and died in Colorado.

    2. Also, the write-up about Butcher on Wikipedia goes far beyond my 2 paragraph excerpt above if anyone wants to know more.

      I was in Custer County Nebraska yesterday, by the way.

    3. Thanks for the story about Soloman Butcher. More than 3,000 photos and 2 books indicate this was a passion, not just an attempt to make some money. It's always a shame when a person's work isn't widely appreciated until after they die.

      Is this a good time to mention that I really appreciate the Big Picture Agriculture website? :-)


    4. Thanks, Tam. I appreciate the feedback any ol' time. !!