First photo of Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls - one of the most photographed scenic sights in the world. But do you know who was the first person to do so?

Well,the honour bestows on a Newcastle industrialist by the name of Hugh Lee Pattinson in April 1840. At that time he was just getting to grips the early form of photography introduced by Daguerre. On a business trip, Pattinson stopped by at the Falls to perfect his new found hobby. It took him more than twenty minutes to fix the scene on the silver-coated copper plate inside his camera. He would then wrap the plate in warm mercury fumes, slowly drawing the image to the surface. History was made that day as it was the first photograph taken of the Falls ever!

Apparently, in the 1920's his descendants gave the Daguerreotypes to the University of Newcastle, where Pattinson was from. The University library kept them on a shelf in Special Collections but sometime after that, for whatever reason, they were thought to have been lost or destroyed. However in 1997 while looking through some store rooms in the library, the University came across an old dust covered carton marked “Daguerrotypes”, which lo and behold, contained the lost images!

The Niagara Parks Commission has reproduced and enlarged one of the170 year old pictures which it plans to prominently display near the entrance to the Maid Of The Mist boat tour as part of the Commission's 125th Anniversary celebration. It plans to display the rest of Pattinson's images on its web site. You can watch a video report here.

Photo: 1840 Daguerreotype of Niagara Falls (Robinson Library Special Collections, Newcastle University)

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