April 30, 2003
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.-The Organization of American Historians has given the Ray Allen Billington Prize to Martha A. Sandweiss, professor of American studies and history at Amherst College for Print the Legend: Photography and the American West, a cultural history of photography in the American West during the 19th century that tracks how the new medium of photography created and shaped popular understanding of the region.
The prize committee noted, "Sandweiss's book is obviously of immense importance to historians of the American frontier. But it is no less valuable for a much wider circle of historians, who will learn much from Sandweiss's rewarding excavation of technological frontiers and from her instructions in how photographs were read and how we might read them."
Resurrecting scores of little-known images of the 19th-century American West, Print the Legend offers tales of ambitious photographic adventurers, missing photographs and misinterpreted images. Sandweiss shows how Americans first came to understand western photographs and, consequently, to envision their nation.
A member of the Amherst College faculty since 1989, Sandweiss was also the director of the Mead Art Museum from 1989 until 1997, and formerly the curator of photographs at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Tex. She received her Ph.D., M.Phil. and M.A. degrees in history from Yale University, and a B.A. from Radcliffe College. She is the author of Laura Gilpin: An Enduring Grace (1986), co-author of Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848 (1989), editor of Photography in Nineteenth-Century America (1991), co-editor of The Oxford History of the American West (1994) and a contributor to numerous volumes on the art and photography of the American West.
The Billington Prize is given biennially to the best book in American frontier history, defined broadly so as to include the pioneer periods of all geographical areas and comparisons between American frontiers and others.