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Monday 11 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Wild West

Frontierland: Early photos of major US cities

Some already hold the shape of the cities they would become – some are a little grittier.

TO COMMEMORATE THE founding of Philadelphia 331 years ago this week, historical writer Michael Beschloss shared one of the earliest photos of Philly with his Twitter followers.

The history of North America – at least that from the time of colonisation by Europeans and beyond – seems relatively new to us.

Yet the growth and expansion of major centres of population in the US happened quickly and some photographs of their earliest days show a stark difference to the cities we know today.

Here are some interesting early photos available of what are now major US cities:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A view of 8th and Market Streets downtown, courtesty of Free Library of Philadelphia:

imageNew York City, NY

This home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in a daguerreotype from 1848, from the AP archive. The image sold at a 2009 auction:

imageBoston, Massachusetts

William Blake photographed this aerial view of Boston from a hot air balloon in 1860, courtesy of the Boston Public Library. It was the first successful aerial photographic effort in the US, according to the Air and Space Museum.

imageWashington, DC

John Plumbe made a daguerreotype of the Capitol Building in 1846, according to the Library of Congress:

imageDetroit, Michigan

A view of Randolph Street in downtown Detroit from the 1890s, courtesy of the Walter P Reuther Library:

imageMiami, Florida

Gleason Waite Romer took this snapshot of Old Fort Dallas and the Seminole Club hotel in Miami in 1895. This photo comes from the State Archives of Florida:

imageNew Orleans, Louisiana

George F Mugnier photographed a cotton shipment at a New Orleans dock in the 1880s, courtesy of the State Library of Louisiana:

imageSan Antonio, Texas

The earliest known photograph of the Alamo Church and Plaza in San Antonio comes from 1858, according to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library:

imageDenver, Colorado

A view of downtown Blake Street in 1866 from the Denver Public Library:

imageLas Vegas, Nevada

This photograph of the First State Bank of Las Vegas, circa 1905, comes from the special collections at the library of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas:

imageLos Angeles, California

An early view of Spring Street in Los Angeles dating from 1870-1880, from the California Historical Society Collection at the University of Southern California:


The first picture of people – from 1838>
This is what was lost when Penn Station was demolished 50 years ago>

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