Oddities, Part 1

Some pictures of Minnehaha Falls and the area around it add more mystery than they solve.

This picture shows the 1880s fence on the north side of the falls. It shows that the ground was trampled bare on the south side, which was a problem the Park Board worked to solve as soon as they took ownership.

There are nearly no other pictures of Minnehaha taken from this spot. This is a unique image.

Two young women had their picture taken with their horse and buggy at Minnehaha Falls. Samuel P. Cox had the photography concession at the Falls before during and after the change of ownership in 1889. He was there from at least 1887 to 1891.
Two young women had their picture taken with their horse and buggy at Minnehaha Falls. Samuel P. Cox had the photography concession at the Falls before, during, and after the change of ownership in 1889. He was there from at least 1887 to 1891. From the urban creek.com archives.

And it is indeed Minnehaha: the waterfall can be glimpsed between the horse’s tail and the lap robe thrown over carriage front.  But what to make of the constructed edge just between the buggy and the Falls?  Straight edges almost always mean something architectural.

It's very likely that this picture predates the Park Board's ownership of the Falls. What previous owner might have built this edge, and why?
It’s very likely that this picture shows early work in the Park Board’s ownership of the Falls. Because what previous owner would have built this edge, and why?

Quite possibly that straight stone edge is seen from the other side in this post. Possibly the Park Board stabilized the edge, then grew grass and put up railings, wire fences, the bridge above the Falls, and all those other improvements, all in the space of a few years.

Unfortunately, by the turn of the last century, the job of professional photographer left Minnehaha Falls, and with it the vast piles of 19th century souvenir shots that constitute the photographic record. In the 20th century the photographic record is much harder to find and much harder to study.   That’s why this photograph is unique.


Is there some sort of structure here, in the lower right corner of the picture?
Is there some sort of structure here, in the lower right corner of the picture?

3 thoughts on “Oddities, Part 1”

  1. Like the picture, but I find myself wondering about the dark blotches at the bottom right that start right under the wheels of the carriage. The first four look they might be smeared writing, but the two at the extreme corner (and especially the one furthest right) almost suggest some foreground structure there just protruding into the frame of the picture.

    1. I had been thinking those are leaves, blurry because they are in the extreme foreground. There’s definitely a board in that corner of the picture. I’ll add a little blow-up to the post. There’s also some sort of short square post just behind the buggy. No idea what that is.

  2. I’m not sure that the first four are leaves, since the details of the ground are visible through them, which shouldn’t be the case if they’re blurred foreground leaves. Maybe something was on the negative itself that stopped it from developing properly (leaving the negative less dense in those spots, so that more light went through to the paper and darkened it). But it’s definitely something on either the negative or the print, since those marks stop sharply at the edge of the picture.

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