Overall Rating
Spur Award Winner Badge

Solomon D. Butcher, Photographer of Nebraska’s Pioneer Days

Once President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act of 1862, which granted 160 acres of free land to anyone with the grit to farm it for five years, the rush to the Great Plains was on. Solomon D. Butcher was there to document it, amassing more than three thousand photographs and compiling the most complete record of the sod house era ever made. Butcher (1856–1927) staked his claim on the plains in 1880. He didn’t like farming, but he found another way to thrive. He had learned the art of photography as a teenager, and he began taking pictures of his friends and neighbors. Butcher noticed how fast the vast land was “settling up,” so he formed the plan that would become his life’s work—to record the frontier days in words and images. Alongside sixty-two of Butcher’s iconic photographs, Light on the Prairie conveys the irrepressible spirit of a man whose passion would give us a firsthand look at the men and women who settled the Great Plains. Like his subjects, Butcher was a pioneer, even though he held a camera more often than a plow.

Awards for Light on the Prairie

* Spur Award for Best Western Juvenile Nonfiction
* Nebraska Book Award for Youth Nonfiction
* Will Rogers Medallion Award for Juvenile Nonfiction
* Award of Merit, American Association for State and Local History

Professional and Peer Reviews

Reader Reviews

Based on 16 Reviews
January 25, 2013

great photos

i always wanted a book by Butcher.. I love American history and this book teaches with wonderful pictures..thank you very much

February 3, 2013

Light on the Prairie

This book had lots of good photos. My husband said he learned a lot about the photographer. He always enjoys photos of the past.

Steven Law
August 26, 2013

Winner of the Will Rogers Medallion Award

One thing we hear a lot is "What was the West really like?" Between the heroic version served up by TV and the movies, the revisionist versions currently popular among certain academics and the wishful projections on Cowboys and Indians from our youth, we lose sight of the fact the West was settled by men and women who were pretty much like most of us. Well, they had a little more adventuresome spirit than most of us, but by and large, they at least looked normal. That is the inescapable conclusion one must draw from Nancy Plain's wonderful reprisal of Solomon D. Butcher's photographs of pioneer Nebraska. Perhaps most of us do not have (or probably never had) a cow grazing on our roof, as the cover photo does, but Butcher captured life on the sod house frontier as no one else did. A transplant from Illinois, Butcher much preferred the life of an intenerate photographer, glass plates and all, to farming. He took over 3000 photographs, and Nancy Plain has winnowed that amazing total down to just 62 which capture a fleeting era of Western History - History as it really was. He took pictures of families, cowboys, cattle, sheep, Indians--and houses made of sod (up to two stories!) on a treeless prairie. To add to the priceless collection of images, Nancy Plain has added text that is every bit as outstanding as the pictures. It is expository without being condescending. It is fresh and interesting for younger readers, be they six, sixteen, or sixty. This is truly a book that needs to on every serious Western writer's desk as well as in the classroom and school library.--Review by Charles Williams

Julia Chegwidden
March 9, 2014

I wanted to see more of Mr. Butcher's pictures.

I was very happy with the speed in which this book arrived. It will have a permanent place in my library.

timothy cornell
June 23, 2015

Very interesting book. Just what I was looking for ...

Very interesting book. Just what I was looking for. Arrived quickly

cynthia r betzold
July 25, 2015

Five Stars

Very interesting!

August 3, 2015

A must have book (merely reading it is insufficient) for ...

A must have book (merely reading it is insufficient) for anybody with a real interest in the history of the plains states.

Anne Brazil
April 10, 2016

Four Stars

useful historical data.

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