On September 24, 1848, Charles Fontayne and William S. Porter set up their camera on a rooftop in Newport, Kentucky and panned across the Ohio River capturing on eight separate daguerreotype plates a panorama of the nation's sixth largest city, Cincinnati. The Daguerreotype View of Cincinnati, which came to be known as the Cincinnati Panorama of 1848, won top awards for its technique and artistry. At a time when most photographs were confined to portraits, this innovative work attracted worldwide attention and survives as the oldest comprehensive photograph of an American city.
Daguerreotypes, invented in 1839, were produced by the earliest practical method of photography, and are still recognized for their superior clarity. In 2006, while undergoing conservation work at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, state-of-the art microscopy equipment produced digital images from the 1848 Panorama. Combining the clarity of the original object with 21st century technology made it possible to enlarge the images and see details that Fontayne and Porter could not have seen from their camera location across the river in Kentucky.
Experience a 19th century American city through Charles Fontayne and William S. Porter's world famous panorama. This digital display combines the superior clarity of daguerreotypes, made from the first practical method of photography, with 21st century technology, making it possible to enlarge the Cincinnati Panorama of 1848 and see details that even the photographers could not have seen from their camera location across the Ohio River in Kentucky. Navigate and zoom in for a glimpse of life along the riverfront. Enter the Panorama through Points of Interest, vividly illustrated with portraits, newspapers, advertisements, early documents, and maps. To view the original masterpiece, visit the Joseph S. Stern, Jr. Cincinnati Room at the Main Library of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
Funding for this project was provided by:
- Institute of Museum and Library Services LSTA Grant awarded by the State Library of Ohio
- Annabelle Fey Trust Fund
- The Library Foundation
- Anne Drackett Thomas
- Friends of the Public Library
- J. Mack Gamble Fund, Sons & Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen
Conservation work and digital images were conducted in partnership with the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film. Learn more about the work to conserve this priceless artifact.
To purchase commemorative copies of the Panorama, visit the Friends' website.