Platt Babbitt Daguerreotype of Niagara Falls

This whole-plate hand-colored daguerreotype by Platt D. Babbitt shows tourists at Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls, New York, circa 1854-1870. Babbitt established himself as a professional photographer on the American side of Niagara Falls in 1853. He built a pavilion for his camera to take photographs of visiting groups, without the tourists' knowing. Babbitt finished his daguerreotypes, unique positive photographs made on silver-coated copper plates, and offered them for sale before groups left. He ran this lucrative business for almost two decades.
Currently not on view
Date made
ca 1850
Babbitt, Platt D.
Place Made
United States: New York, Niagara Falls
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
copper (overall material)
overall: 23 cm x 18 cm x 2 cm; 9 1/16 in x 7 1/16 in x 13/16 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Albert Boni
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


The assertion that this image was taken "without the tourists' knowing " is highly unlikely.The long exposures needed at that time ca.1854 argues that they were carefully posed. A daguerreotype is a one-of-a-kind image and it's unlikely Babbitt would waste materials on a prospective sale.The story that they were "candids " was probably told to John Werge by Babbitt. Likely it was a conceit of Babbitt's to burnish his image or to have some sport with Werge.

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