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First known photograph of Crater Lake by Peter Britt, 1874



Photo removed at the request of the Southern Oregon Historical Society



First known photograph of Crater Lake by Peter Britt, 1874

  • Black and white glass plate

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Although M.W. Gorman states that the Sutton party took a camera with them on their 1869 visit and "were the first to secure pictures of the Lake and of the most picturesque pieces of scenery on the way," credit for this particular deed has generally been accorded to Peter Britt, a Swiss-born emigrant who became southern Oregon's most distinguished pioneer artist and photographer. Arriving in the United States in his mid-twenties, Britt studied the new art of daguerreotype photography for five years under the renowned frontier photographer J.H. Fitzgibbon. From him Britt bought his first camera, a small wooden daguerreotype box, which he transported carefully to Oregon in 1852 along with several hundred pounds of equipment, including a Voigtlander lens No. 2115 and a stock of glass plates and chemicals.

Britt bought the large wet plate camera that, in 1874, went with him and a small party of friends to Crater Lake, still an unknown sight to most people. In addition he packed in his wagon a stereoscope camera and two large boxes, weighing more than 100 pounds each, containing glass plates, plate holders, chemicals, trays, and other related equipment necessary for coating the plates on the spot and then immediately developing them after exposure. Despite overcast skies and intermittent rainfall, Britt was able to take several pictures of the lake and vicinity. Although this historic event did not receive much attention at the time, it was these black-and-white photographs that would eventually help convince scientists and a budding conservation movement that steps should be taken to record and preserve the lake's significant features.

excerpted from: Crater Lake National Park Historic Resource Study, Chapter 6. Steps leading toward establishment of Crater Lake National Park, B. Crater Lake Meets the Camera.

The original photograph is held by the Southern Oregon Historical Society.



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