Multiple images

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.

Here’s an exception to that.

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Joel Whitney and the First Bridge

Throughout the 19th century, and largely different from today, people approached the Falls from the south side.  Upstream on the road–now Minnehaha Avenue–there was indeed a bridge over the creek, but the roadhouses and hotels and such were south of the creek, and the railroad depot (when the railroads came in) was put where the people were, on the south side.  It was closer to the Fort, after all, and the Fort was the only legal settlement in the earliest years.  Minnehaha Falls were within the military reservation at the beginning of European settlement in Minnesota.

Someone, some time in those early years, built a bridge to allow people to cross the creek below the Falls.

An early pic of Minnehaha, showing the first bridge
Early spring, the snow is melting, the creek is thawed and the falls are falling. An undated picture by Joel E. Whitney, possibly from the 1850s. From the archive.

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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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