Seneca Ray Stoddard and the Adirondacks: Changing perceptions of wilderness

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication and Rhetorical Studies


David Tatham


photography, New York, Seneca Ray Stoddard, Fine Arts, American studies, Art History

Subject Categories

Other Arts and Humanities


The life and career of Seneca Ray Stoddard (1843-1917) span the early development of the photographic medium. His work also parallels the "discovery" and exploitation of the Adirondack region of New York State as an area of great scenic beauty. It attracted artists, tourists, and summer residents. Perceptions of its wilderness changed during Stoddard's lifetime from negative to generally positive. Many factors influenced this change, including the written word and photographic images. Stoddard involved himself in this change not only as a photographer, but also as a writer, publisher, and entrepreneur.

This study explores Stoddard's work, literary and photographic, and discusses how it influenced and was influenced by the changing attitudes towards wilderness in the last half of the nineteenth century in the Adirondacks. It reviews Stoddard's texts, photographs, and publishing ventures, and examines changes in perceptions of the region. Stoddard moved from recording the wilderness landscape to defending it from destruction by lumbering interests and others. He followed the changing concepts of wilderness and by his words, images, and deeds helped to create the modern perceptions of the "forever wild" landscape of the Adirondacks.


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