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)