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Earliest known aerial photograph is of Boston

posted by Aaron Cohen   Apr 04, 2013

oldest surviving aerial photograph

While French balloonist Gaspard-Félix Tournachon first photographed Paris by air in 1858, those photos were lost, and this photograph of Boston from 1860 by James Wallace Black is the earliest known aerial photo. The title is ‘Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It.’ If I had to guess where in Boston this is, I’d say somewhere along Atlantic Ave.

Update: Several people have identified the steepled building at center left as the Old South Meeting House, which Wikipedia confirms: “Depicts area resembling Old South Meeting House; Milk Street; India Wharf, Central Wharf; and vicinity.” Looks a bit different these days.

But more importantly, a photo of Providence, RI taken by Black in August of 1860 predates his Boston photograph by two months. The print, which is part of the MoMA’s collection, is badly damaged but it looks like some detail would be discernable in person.

oldest surviving aerial photo

So for some sufficiently flexible definition of “surviving”, Black’s photo of Providence is the oldest surviving aerial photo. (thx, david)

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