27 – The World’s First Wildlife Photographers Augusta Wallihan’s .40 Caliber Hepburn Rifle

By Museum of Northwest Colorado

Augusta and A.G. Wallihan arrived in Northwest Colorado in the mid-1880s and planted roots near the settlement of Lay between Craig and Maybell. They married in 1885 (she was 22 years his senior).
Augusta was a strong woman who embraced the frontier life. A.G. described her as having no fear of “God, man or the devil”. She was also an expert marksman who even put on a shooting exhibition at Madison Square Garden!
In 1889 Augusta suggested that A.G. should try to photograph the abundant wildlife in the area. Surprisingly, wildlife photography had never been seriously attempted due to the precarious size of cameras and the complicated developing processes of the day. The Wallihans were soon able to trade some travelers for a camera and A.G. began learning how to shoot and produce photographs in the middle of nowhere.
A.G. and Augusta were soon capturing stunning images of wild animals- the first of their kind. They even caught the attention of an occasional hunter to the area: Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt wrote the introduction the Wallihan’s first photo book in 1894 as well as for their follow-up book in 1901. Not long after Roosevelt’s presidential inauguration in 1904, the Wallihans even visited the White House as his personal guests.
Wallihan’s photography books were a hit. Anything pertaining to the West was in big demand and these were the first photographs to extensively capture the West’s wildlife in their natural environment. Their photographs quickly grew in popularity until they were invited to showcase their work at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris. They were again invited to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis where their photos earned them the bronze medal.
Augusta died in 1922 at the age of 86. A.G. died in 1935 at the age of 76 while still serving as Lay’s postmaster since the 1880s. He is one of the longest serving postmasters in US history. They are both buried on a hill above Lay overlooking the country they loved — from both sides of the lens.