Pike’s Peak or Bust!


W.M. Cary. “Bust!” From The Aldine. An American Journal. New York, February 1873. 9 x 13. Wood engraving.  Very good condition.

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The Aldine. An American Art Journal (1868-79), was started as a house organ for a New York firm of printers, but became a general magazine devoted to art and typography under the editorship of R.H. Stoddard (1871-75).  It was filled with wood engravings based on art by some of the best American artists of the day, including most famously Thomas Moran, after whose work thirty-nine prints were made.  Many of these, and images by other artists, featured American western landscape, increasing the awareness among the public of the beauty of this region.

This is one of the most famous images from the magazine, William Cary’s classic image.  William Cary was one of the other renowned artists who provided images of the West for The Aldine.  Cary spent a lot of time traveling in the west and his images are some of the most dramatic and authentic of the nineteenth century.  This is a classic example of his work, based on a poem by Richard Henry Stoddard.  Jim Smith, on his way to Pike’s Peak, is shown lying dead by his wagon after an Indian attack.  One of his oxen is also dead, while the other—still alive despite the arrows in his back—eyes a curious buffalo.  While not every gold rush emigrant met such a gruesome fate, this image symbolizes the “bust” part of the famous slogan painted on the side of the wagon, “Pikes Peak or Bust.”