Vintage Technology: Before Google Street View
I can’t look at the quasi-360 degree scope and everyday details of this image and not think about Google Street View, which keeps coming across my radar in the form of amazing projects—but more on that later. For now let’s look at this incredible daguerreotype from 1848 that shows a panoramic view of Cincinnati’s riverfront and has been named the first photograph of urban America.
When the folks over at the George Eastman House put these plates under a microscope, they discovered information in the photograph that had never been seen before. Conservators saw the shadow of a person through an open window, laundry drying on the line, signs, and people relaxing by the water. It was even possible to pinpoint the exact day and time the photo was taken: Sunday, September 24, 1848, 1:55 pm. They did this by looking at the leaves on the trees, water levels, the names of the steamboats, and the clock tower a mile and a half in the distance.
Conservators saw the shadow of a person through an open window, laundry drying on the line, signs, and people relaxing by the water.
The panorama’s interactive website is nothing short of magical—you can zoom in and out for hours. I die for such peeks into other times and places and so it goes without saying that I have to stop myself from wishing in vain for the existence of more more more of these images from all over the world. I guess that that is Google’s project now and we’ll just have to let it marinate for another 164 years.
+ Official Website
+ Interview with the librarian involved in the photograph’s restoration on the Story.
+ Wired Magazine also has an interactive feature about the panorama as well as information about daguerreotypes.
Photos courtesy of the Public Library of Cinninnati
Hand lettering by Rebecca