In taking the first images of Minnehaha Falls, Alexander Hesler and Joel E. Whitney made 25 or 30 daguerrotypes in a single session on August 15, 1852. It was an unusual beginning to the photographic record. Mostly, professional photographers took one-off tourist pictures or scenic shots of the Falls. And some of these were, in fact, reprinted endlessly. But it actually was quite rare, in those early years, for a photographer to go down to Minnehaha and take several pictures in a sequence.
Before the Park Board owned Minnehaha Falls, it was in private hands. Here, an un-recorded photographer took this family’s portrait on some sort of built platform structure on the south side of the Minnehaha gorge.
Mollie Carbutt is, again, quite prettily posed against the butternut tree, while the Wilsons gaze across the gorge. Edward L. Wilson was a prominent publisher of the “Philadelphia Photographer” magazine, which seems to have had some national acclaim. And John Carbutt was among the most inventive and studious of early photographers. This image was printed as a photograph and pasted into the “Philadelphia Photographer.”
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.
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.