Earliest known photo of Chimney Rock, 1866

Two views of Chimney Rock from same angle, 1866 and 1966

Finding a long-lost artifact on eBay was still a novelty in 2009. The story made headlines when historian John Carter discovered the oldest known photo of Chimney Rock (shown at left) on the internet auction site.

Carter had known that the 1866 Charles Savage photo had once existed, but for many years it was considered lost.

Chimney Rock was the most written-about landmark along the Oregon, Mormon, and California trails, but cameras were bulky, expensive, and fragile during the overland trails era. Savage’s photo was made near the end of that era, three years before the completion of the transcontinental railroad began to siphon off traffic bound for Utah or the West Coast.

The photo also shows how Chimney Rock has changed over time. The photo at right was taken from a similar location 100 years later, in 1966.


(photos: History Nebraska RG3319-1-45, RG3319-1-33)

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History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
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