Lower Yosemite Falls

ca. 1861

So spectacular are the landscapes of California’s Yosemite Valley that in 1861 San Francisco photographer Carleton Watkins invented in 1861 a larger format to capture its vistas. During his first photographic expedition into the valley, he carried his custom-built, extra-large camera, “mammoth” glass-plate negatives, as they were called, and a portable darkroom. Watkins’s images of Yosemite had a great impact on the movement to protect the area from commercial development. In 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed the “Yosemite Bill” to preserve the area, an important precedent in the eventual establishment of a National Park System.

National Archives, Records of the National Park Service


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