The University of Wyoming Press (UWyoP) has published its first book, “The Art and Life of Merritt Dana Houghton in the Northern Rockies, 1878-1919,” a biography by UW alumnus Michael Amundson.
Between 1891 and 1915, pen-and-ink artist Merritt Dana Houghton made over 200 bird’s-eye sketches of towns, ranches, mines, businesses, historic sites and animals in Wyoming, northern Colorado, Montana, Idaho and Washington. Amundson brings these many views together for the first time in his 238-page book.
Amundson details Houghton’s life and work from his birth in Michigan in 1846 to his death in 1919 in Spokane, Wash., through extensive genealogical records, newspaper accounts and his illustrations — including historic ranches and bird’s-eye views of Fort Collins, Colo.; Dillon, Mont.; and Spokane and the only known illustrations of long-lost places such as Pearl, Colo.; and Rambler. Also included are a reproduction of a 4-by-8-foot view of Sheridan and a 60-image sample portfolio of his best-preserved illustrations organized by type.
Houghton’s work depicts the infrastructure of the new settler society that was remaking the West in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Amundson demonstrates how Houghton’s vision of the American West remains active today.
“Not only does Amundson’s book lead the way in a new venture in scholarly publishing for the University of Wyoming, but it’s also a fine example of recording and promoting the remarkable history of Wyoming and its neighboring states,” says Ivan Gaetz, dean of UW Libraries. “The book contains over 200 black-and-white sketches and photographs that show parts of Colorado, Montana and Washington — but mostly Wyoming. The accompanying text provides an account of Houghton’s adventures during the formative years of Wyoming that will capture the imagination of readers of all ages.”
When he was an undergraduate studying history and journalism at UW, Amundson spent time traveling Wyoming to work on his repeat photography project, recreating images based on the works of Cheyenne photographer Joseph Stimson.
“In Encampment, I ran across a Houghton drawing of the mining districts. His drawings became an offshoot of the original rephotography project,” Amundson says. “I started cataloging his work in the early ’90s and found about 200 images at the time. In 2018, I again presented the drawings at the Grand Encampment Museum, which ultimately rekindled the project.”
Besides gathering information from the Grand Encampment Museum, Amundson used resources from many museums and archives throughout the state and region to develop and complete his 30-plus-year project. He says he was able to access a lot about Houghton’s life and works through the Wyoming State Archives, the Wyoming State Museum and the Wyoming Digital Newspaper Collection, a collaboration with UW Libraries and the Wyoming State Library.
Amundson plans to tour Wyoming this summer to present on his book and Houghton’s work.
“The Art and Life of Merritt Dana Houghton in the Northern Rockies, 1878-1919” is available to purchase at https://upcolorado.com/university-of-wyoming-press. Purchasers can receive 40 percent off with promotional code AMUN23. The code expires March 31. The book also can be purchased from online retailers, and it will be available at several retail and museum outlets throughout Wyoming.
Amundson is a professor of history at Northern Arizona University. He is the author of “Yellowcake Towns: Uranium Mining Communities in the American West”; “Passage to Wonderland: Rephotographing Joseph Stimson’s Views of the Cody Road to Yellowstone National Park, 1903 and 2008”; and “Wyoming Revisited: Rephotographing the Scenes of Joseph E. Stimson.” He also is the co-editor of “Atomic Culture: How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”
Amundson earned two degrees from UW: a B.S. in history and journalism in 1988 and an M.A. in American studies in 1990. He earned his Ph.D. in history, with a focus on the American West, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1996. During his undergraduate years, he played on the Cowboys basketball team that made it to the 1986 NIT championship and the Sweet 16 of the 1987 NCAA Tournament.
About the University of Wyoming Press
UWyoP, an imprint of the University Press of Colorado consortium, publishes manuscripts from a wide range of disciplines and interdisciplines in environmental humanities and public humanities, as well as democracy and the United States. UWyoP focuses on works that include Wyoming or the Mountain West region. This includes works that study ongoing structures of settler colonialism, racial formation and struggles for Indigenous sovereignty in the region.
UWyoP welcomes proposals for monographs, edited collections and scholarly series, which authors can submit at https://upcolorado.com/publish-with-us/submissions