Ithaca, N.Y. — Three years after the daguerreotype was first introduced in 1839, the photography business arrived in Ithaca.

“Through the 1840s and 1850s daguerreotype galleries such as Hillick’s ‘Natural Miniature Gallery’ on State Street became increasingly popular with Ithaca residents,” writes Craig S. Williams, former director of the since-renamed DeWitt Historical Society.

“With the introduction of collodion or ‘wet plate’ technology in the middle 1850s, photographs were brought within the financial grasp of nearly everyone.”

Ithacans, naturally, made good use of the technology, and left us with quite a legacy.

So, with the social media phenomenon #ThrowbackThursday in mind, The Voice is taking a look at some of the fascinating early photographs of Ithaca … starting with 9 taken from the region’s iconic gorges in the 19th Century (and found with the help of the good folks at the History Center in Tompkins County):


1 — At Enfield Falls. Taken in 1853:

2 — Also of Enfield Falls, June 1895:

3 — A book sits at the history center from 1866 titled, “Scenery of Ithaca.” It says, “Rome boasted of her seven hills, from whose throne of beauty she ruled world. Ithaca makes her boast of seven streams, concerning which she challenges the world.”

This image is from Enfield Falls, July 31 1897:

4— The book goes on, “Those who visit Ithaca, see in and around it everything to constitute a great summer resort.”

From “Forest Home Falls,” in 1890:

5 — “Fall Creek is distinguished by its broad and unfailing stream, which at all seasons goes sounding through its almost impassible gorge…”

Taken April 8, 1894:

6 — Visitors, the book goes on, “say that Ithaca possesses more scenery, wild and beautiful, and well worth seeing, than any other place in the state.”

Triphammer Falls on February 18, 1888:

7 — This one is annotated, “Probably waterfall below Beebe Lake in the old days”:

8 — “Cascadilla, as its beautiful name imports, is remarkable for its numerous smaller though not less picturesque cascades”

From Cascadilla Creek, date unknown but sandwiched between two 1880s photos in the records:

9 — And, lastly, one marked from 1884:


Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.