Early Views of Washington
John Plumbe, Jr. (1809-1857)
[United States Capitol, Washington,
D.C., east front elevation]
Half-plate daguerreotypes, ca. 1846
Prints & Photographs Division
Several government buildings were among the first
edifices in the nation's capital to be recorded by the relatively
new medium of photography. John Plumbe, Jr., the first professional
photographer in Washington, D.C., operated a studio in the mid-1840s.
His daguerreotype of the south side of the White House was probably
taken in the winter of 1846 during President James K. Polk's administration.
Plumbe's image of the Capitol, with its former copper-sheathed
wooden dome, is the earliest surviving photograph of the building.
He also recorded the U.S. Patent Office, which now houses the
Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of