Joel Whitney: 1850’s?

The Minnesota State Historical Society created a directory  of early Minnesota professional photographers.  It’s an indispensable tool for photo-historians and researchers.

This picture was taken by Joel E. Whitney.  He was notable for taking the very first picture of Minnehaha Falls while working with Alexander Hesler in 1852.   They took a few dozen daguerrotypes of the Falls on that day, and perhaps a few survive today.   This is not one of them.

An early picture of the Falls. There is no sign of development beyond the foot path.
An early picture of the Falls. There is no sign of development except the foot path.

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in the 1850s

Taken by Benjamin Franklin Upton, this image of the Falls was probably taken in the late 1850s.
Taken by Benjamin Franklin Upton, this image of the Falls was probably taken in the late 1850s.

It’s that fence that helps date this picture.  Most likely it was taken after the scandalous 1857 purchase of Fort Snelling by Franklin Steele and his shadowy partners from Back East.  That was the first time that Steele owned the Falls of Minnehaha.

Continue reading “in the 1850s”

one of the very first photos of Minnehaha Falls

Dating pictures of Minnehaha Falls is an imprecise art.  The images themselves, as well as the physical objects–the photographs–offer little clues.  Mostly, no one wrote the dates on these pictures, so assigning a date means putting together these little clues, and doing research, and then making best-guesses.

Taken no later than 1864, and my guess is that it was closer to 1860.
Taken no later than 1864, but mostly likely taken in the late 1850s.

It’s a fine view of the falls, but the waterfall is slightly hidden behind those tree branches.  And for every subsequent picture taken from this viewpoint, the branches have been cut away, as you can see.

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