Cover image for Photo odyssey : Solomon Carvalho's remarkable Western adventure, 1853-54
Photo odyssey : Solomon Carvalho's remarkable Western adventure, 1853-54
Hirschfelder, Arlene B.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Clarion Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
ix, 118 pages : illustrations, maps ; 27 cm
Describes the life of Carvalho, a Jewish photographer who accompanied John Charles Fremont on his last expedition to the West.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 7.9 4.0 47244.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F593.C283 H57 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In 1853 explorer Colonel John Charles Frémont invited photographer and fine artist Solomon Nunes Carvalho to accompany his fifth, and final, western expedition. As the official photographer, Carvalho documented the trip from the Mississippi River to Utah with daguerreotypes--a unique and often unwieldy form of photography that produces images on large silver plates. Carvalho was a skilled photographer, but he was a novice on the trail and he battled with the hardships of the journey. He not only was challenged by the physical strain but, as an observant Jew, struggled to maintain his commitment to Judaism, even when observing strict dietary laws meant that he did not eat. Carvalho's own words, from the journal he kept and from letters he wrote home to his wife, provide a vivid firsthand view of his remarkable adventure. With many apt excerpts from his descriptions, author Arlene Hirschfelder has written a detailed account of the life of this little-known, yet widely accomplished, man. EXPEDITION ROSTER, MAP, INDEX.

Author Notes

Arlene Hirschfelder has written several award-winning books, primarily about American Indians. She lives in Teaneck, NJ.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6^-10. This straightforward retelling of the dramatic journey of the photographer who accompanied John Charles Fremont on his last expedition across America will especially appeal to fans of true-life survival adventures. Unable to earn a living as an artist, Carvalho began working with daguerreotype. His skill impressed Fremont, who invited Carvalho to keep a visual account of his journey. Their adventure included many dimensions: the excitement of traveling west, the drama of battling merciless weather and near-starvation, and historic interactions with the Cheyenne and Brigham Young. Like the multifaceted journey itself, Hirschfelder's book informs on many levels. It clearly explains daguerreotype and quotes liberally and effectively from Carvalho's journal, the only narrative of that final trek. The book includes many photos, but only one is a reproduction of Carvalho's work; readers learn that the rest have been either lost or destroyed. A potentially disturbing chapter about slaughtering buffalo may upset animal-rights advocates, but this is, nonetheless, a great place to find primary-source material. --Roger Leslie

Publisher's Weekly Review

Hirschfelder (Native Americans) focuses this uneven biography on Solomon Carvalho (1815-1897), a daguerreotype photographer recruited by Colonel John Charles Fr?mont to document a railroad survey expedition. Hirschfelder starts out strong with a preface abundant with engrossing details of Carvalho's life as an observant Jew, implying a unique set of challenges for his experiences on the road; yet she drops this point almost immediately. She then conveys a microcosm of the westward expansion movement, offering concrete examples of the circumstances posed by life and travel in the great outdoors. For instance, a humorous account of the competition for the Fr?mont expedition between Carvalho and another photographer contrasts the unwieldy daguerreotype processAwhich created a "mirrorlike image" by exposing a silver plate "to iodine vapors in a wooden camera until the silver surface turned a bright golden yellow then [was] treated to mercury fumes heated by flame"Awith the more modern but lengthier process of producing negatives. However, while Hirschfelder's preface paves the way for a more intimate biography, and the narrative is punctuated by a wealth of excerpts from Carvalho's diary and letters, later chapters often assume a detached tone, which lessens the impact of her subject's connection to people and events. Black-and-white images and maps accompany the text, but readers may well question the absence of the subject's daguerreotypes (readers don't learn until the last chapter that most were lost). While this volume offers an informative snapshot of the West and the accomplishments of a little-known craftsman, it unfortunately may not hold readers' attention. Ages 10-14. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-9-A vivid look at John C. Frmont's last westward adventure, as seen through the eyes of the painter/photographer who accompanied him. Carvalho joined the 1853 expedition that aimed to find the best route for the proposed transcontinental railroad. The treacherous journey involved prairie fires, stolen horses, severe hunger and cold, and the death of a good friend. Less experienced than his well-traveled companions, Carvalho had to lug boxes full of heavy equipment across rivers and over mountain passes, often falling behind the main party by many miles. Hirschfelder quotes frequently from Carvalho's own account of the journey. He clearly admired the leadership qualities of Frmont, and respected the courage and skills of his companions, many of whom were Delaware guides and hunters. Lighthearted anecdotes balance the drama, as when the artist delighted his companions by preparing an "incomparable blanc mange" with ingredients he secretly saved for the right occasion. Carvalho's own religious practices prevented him from partaking of some of the scarce food the group was forced to eat. He did eat horse meat for survival's sake on occasion, in accordance with the Jewish belief that preserving life can take precedence over most Talmudic laws. Black-and-white photographs and reproductions accompany the text, but unfortunately Carvalho's own work from the expedition has disappeared. The action-packed narrative is enough to fascinate readers, though, offering a lively and immediate look at heroic figures like Frmont and more ordinary adventurers like the engaging photographer from Baltimore.-Steven Engelfried, Deschutes County Library, Bend, OR (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vi
Members of Fremont's Fifth Expeditionp. vii
Mapp. viii
Solomon Nunes Carvalhop. 1
1 A National Maniap. 7
2 Getting Readyp. 12
3 A Camera, a Contest, and Camp Lifep. 20
4 Buffalo Huntingp. 28
5 Prairie Fires and a Cheyenne Villagep. 37
6 Supplies for the Journeyp. 47
7 Rocky Mountain Summitsp. 54
8 Horses and a Surprise Save the Dayp. 58
9 To Eat or Not to Eatp. 67
10 Stubborn as a Mulep. 73
11 Frozen Feet and Dead Animalsp. 76
12 Death of a Friendp. 85
13 Mormons to the Rescuep. 90
14 Carvalho's Life After the Adventurep. 100
Notesp. 107
Bibliographyp. 111
Indexp. 115