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SharePrint Media File

Type: Video

Series Title West Virginia: A Film History

Filmmaker Mark Samels

Company West Virginia Humanities Council

Format DVD


Narrator: On the morning of June 1, 1858, fifty prominent American artists boarded a train at Camden Street depot in Baltimore. They were guests of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, the proud owner of what few had thought possible: a rail line over the Allegheny Mountains.

Historian John Hankey: The B&O was in many regards a high stakes gamble. I would equate it to deciding in the late 1950’s to go to the moon.

Narrator: Now the B&O wanted to call attention to its achievement by sending artists on an excursion. One car had been converted into a darkroom. Easels and writing tables filled two cars. The dining car was outfitted with a piano, sofas and cases of champagne. Officials encouraged the artists to stop the train any time so they could paint or photograph whatever impressed them.

John Hankey: This was a safari to them. They were bringing back images and impressions of a land that was only vaguely known to the ninety percent of the population that lived within twenty miles of the east coast. What they came back with were a series of photographs, sketches, paintings and drawings that showed the wilderness being opened by the railroad. We were making this place useful to human beings and these artists recognized that, that’s how they represented this that the railroad was good or at least the railroad was neutral and it was allowing people to go west in a way that they hadn’t been able to before.

Narrator: Three hundred eighty miles from Baltimore the train pulled to a stop at Wheeling, where the artists were greeted with cannon fire and taken on a tour of the town.

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