2020: The Bicentennial Year
On July 13, 1820, Edwin James and two other men gained the summit of Pikes Peak. As an ancestor of Edwin, I have initiated a three-year photography/multi-media project in recognition of his successful climb that will culminate in July 2020, almost exactly 200 years after Edwin set foot upon the summit of Pikes Peak. This project is expansive and intended to bring to light a potion of American history that has been lost over time. While it is too early announce dates, times, and places, this project will feature photography, extensive research, historical context, a companion book, illustrations, music, and a traveling expedition. Perhaps, even a permanent exhibit. The main purpose of this project is to acknowledge Edwin James’ contribution to history, exploration, and science, and to make the character of Edwin alive to a contemporary audience.
Photography: To be as authentic to the period, my choice of medium is the dry-plate collodion process. 1820 predated the invention of photography by almost twenty years when, in 1839, the daguerreotype became commercially available. The more significant thing in this project is to have a visual syntax that speaks of the era and imparts a sense of timelessness.
Illustrations: As part of the exhibit, there will be illustrations of some of the plant species discovered by Edwin James.
Music: I am including a musical soundscape that will evoke the wilderness, the challenges, and successes of the Long Expedition. Music adds another layer to the story.
The book: The proposed companion book to the exhibit will feature the photography, illustrations, and history of Pikes Peak and Edwin James.
Research: While there exists many books and documents concerning Edwin James, there is still extensive research to be done in an effort to find source material. Save for one obscure observation, little is known of the character of Edwin James:
“I knew Dr. Edwin James only by sight, and not by association or communication. He was a man of alert expression and manner, but dignified reserve. His speech was brief, grammatical, and concise in structure. I doubt if he ever gave his confidence to any man, even his passengers on the Underground Railroad, though they all doubtless believed in him. I knew by common report that he lived… four miles west of Burlington – that his wife lived there with him, and died there a short time before his own decease, and that he continued management of his ‘station’ until his death. I have heard that he died there practically alone.”
– – – Dr. Charlie A. White, State Geologist of Iowa, from 1866 – 1870. He was a boy in Burlington during the later years of Dr. James