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Drowned Lands of the Lower Raquette, Adirondacks, 1888, albumen print (Seneca Ray Stoddard via Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress)

In the mid-1800s, the United States was transforming from a rural, agrarian culture mostly clustered on the East Coast to an industrialized one. Along with this, Americans increasingly looked west to their future, traversing the Appalachia into the Midwest and beyond, dramatically altering the landscape in their wake. With them came the new medium of photography, not just to record these changes but also to preserve images of the natural beauty that was being plundered.

View at West Point, 1868, albumen print (George Kendall Warren via National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Jean and Clinton Wright)

Steamer Princess, 1858-59, salted paper print (Jay Dearborn Edwards via The Historic New Orleans Collection)

Canal From Green’s Bridge, Lehigh Valley Rail Road, 1895, albumen print (William H. Rau Morris via National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund)

Brodhead’s Creek, Delaware Water Gap, 1863, albumen print (John Moran via National Gallery of Art, Washington)

An exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, showcases these images beginning shortly after news of the Frenchman Jacques-Louis-Mandé Daguerre’s invention reached cities in the East in late 1839. Continuing into history, the exhibition features photographs and paintings from the late 1850s and early 1860s. The exhibition is on display in the West Building until July 16.

American Falls, 1840, daguerreotype (Hugh Lee Pattinson via Robinson Library, Newcastle University, England)

View in New Hampshire, 1840–41. Daguerreotype (Samuel Bemis via MoMA, NY, Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005)

Inclined Plane G, c. 1863-1865 albumen print (Thomas H. Johnson/ Collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg)

Wisconsin Dells, 1885 albumen print (Henry Hamilton Bennett via Collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg)

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