American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Reason

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Capturing Niagara Falls

Ambrotype of Niagara Falls, 1854
Platt Babbitt (d. 1879)
Niagara Falls, ca. 1854
Whole-plate ambrotype
Prints & Photographs Division (124A.2)
[ Digital ID# cph 3g04611 ]

The awe-inspiring scenery of Niagara Falls has attracted tourists since the early 1800s. Platt Babbitt established the first photographic studio at the falls in 1853 and gained exclusive rights to operate at would later be called "Prospect Point." Babbitt's images were taken exclusively from a fixed vantage point with the only variables being the atmospheric conditions and the various visitors who wandered in front of the camera. By the end of the nineteenth century, Niagara Falls had become the most photographed site in the nation. By the mid-1850s, the daguerreotype had largely been replaced by the ambrotype, which photographers like Babbitt found to be a faster and less expensive process.


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