Later Years

After parting from the USGS in 1878, Jackson set up a photography studio, the Jackson Photographic Company, in Denver. His prolific output included portraiture, as well as landscape photography from his travels by rail throughout North America. By the 1890s, economic downturns, advances in technology, and changing public tastes rendered his studio work unprofitable. Relocating to Detroit, Jackson found work with the Detroit Photographic Company (later the Detroit Publishing Company), where he remained for over a quarter century.

In 1893 Jackson became the official photographer for the World Transportation Commission, an initiative to promote American manufacturing and rail transportation worldwide. Led by publicist Joseph Gladding Pangborn, the group traveled across Egypt, Indonesia, Siberia, Australia, Korea, and beyond with the ostensible goal of researching modes of transportation. The Commission's lofty aspirations soon became a 17-month pleasure trip. While it was financially disastrous for the Commission and Jackson, his photographs provide a singular record of time and place.

Jackson’s retirement from professional photography in 1924 hardly slowed his artistic career. In the last two decades of his life, Jackson traded his camera for a brush, producing hundreds of paintings and drawings in watercolor, oil, pencil and ink. These included vignettes from his youth and idealized tableaus of American westward expansion, as well as commissions from the National Park Service. Jackson recreated several of his original Oregon Trail sketches for inclusion in his autobiographies, The Pioneer Photographer (1929, written with Howard R. Driggs) and Time Exposure (1940, written with Karl Brown). He also redeveloped negatives from his expeditions and created hand-tinted slides of his USGS photographs.

Jackson died due to complications from a fall on June 30, 1942, at age 99. Over 125 friends and associates attended his funeral service. Among their number was former National Park Service Director Horace Albright, who referred to Jackson as "the grand old man of Yellowstone."

William Henry Jackson in Mancos Canyon
William Henry Jackson and Horace M. Albright at Yellowstone
William Henry Jackson and Secretary Ickes

Studio Work

Jackson with friends inside of a railcar
Gate Way and Pike's Peak
Old Faithful is located in Yellowstone National Park
postcard featuring Washington Monument
Postcard featuring Santa Catalina Rock

Globe Trotting

Ruins of Carthage
Egyptian Pyramids
Three Indian Elephants
William Henry Jackson in Korea
Jackson (foreground) with wooden structure in background


Paint Box
Painting of mule falling off the side of a mesa onto the cedar trees below
homas Moran (second from right on horseback, foreground) and William Henry Jackson (standing, middle ground) with Old Faithful in eruption in the background
Pony Express Rider
Mount of the Holy Cross, Rocky Mountains
Watercolor of Two males, pack animals and boxes of glass negatives to depict the process of wet plate photography
Two Story House, an Ancestral Puebloan site, is visible in the background of this painting