Fort D.A. Russell (now F. E. Warren Air Force Base), Wyoming: 1897. Unbound. 14 card-mounted albumen photographs of life at Fort Russell in Wyoming during the 1890s. The photographs measure 4.5” x 3.75”; the cards approximately 6.5” x 5.5”. Several of the cards are captioned on the reverse. All are in nice shape. The photographs show officers quarters at the fort including Langdon’s quarters during a visit by Professor James O. Churchilll, supply wagons and wagon trains, a tent camp, and life in a bivouac. One especially intriguing photograph is of a soldier standing next to a bicycle with an attached canvas bag labeled “U. S. Mail.”. Very good. Item #009297
In 1897, the army experimented to determine if it was feasible for infantry units to incorporate bicycle transport. A twenty-man platoon from the 15th Infantry Regiment at Fort Missoula, Montana, peddled all the way to St. Louis, Missouri along the right-of-way of the Burlington Northern Railroad. Their five-week trip was arduous, but it showed that a well-conditioned bicycle unit could travel long-distances twice as fast as foot soldiers or cavalrymen. In the end, the army decided not to equip any units with bicycles. This photograph shows that at the same time, bicycles were being tested at Fort Missoula, at least one and possibly more were in use by other western infantry regiments. As this image appears to have been taken during the 8th Infantry bivouac, it may be that the rider was tasked with making round-trips to Fort Russell to pick up soldiers’ mail. Fort Russell continues in operation today, however its name was changed to Fort Warren in honor of Wyoming’s first governor and later one of its senators for 37 years. In 1947, it became an Air Force missile base. Russell Langdon was awarded a Silver Star for Gallantry in 1898 during the Spanish-American War and later served as a regimental commander in World War One when he was awarded both the Distinguished Service Medal for especially meritorious service and the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism. He retired as a Brigadier General. This is a terrific visual record of army life on the western that presents a start point for further research into the army’s use of bicycles at the end of the 19th Century. As of 2019, no similar collections documenting life at Fort Russell are for sale in the trade, and no records showing any have been sold at auction. OCLC shows one collection of five Fort Russel photographs is held at an institution.