Philadelphia is Home to the Oldest Photo Still in Existence

Taken by Joseph Saxton, this is the oldest surviving photo in Philadelphia.
Image via the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
This is a daguerreotype taken by Joseph Saxton, of Philadelphia Central High School, which is thought to be the oldest surviving photo taken in the United States.

Philadelphia is notable for being a city of firsts, but one “first” distinction it has that may not be known by many is being the first city where someone took a photo, writes Avi Wolfman-Arent for Billy Penn at WHYY.

The photo was taken in 1839 by Joseph Saxton, an engineer and watchmaker with an inventing process with ties to Philadelphia.

Among his inventions include a device for measuring ship velocity, another for measuring water in a steam boiler, a prototype for the foundation pen, and a tide gauge believed to be the first device to register an earthquake.

While working for the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, Saxton took a cigar box and glass lens in his office and created an early version of a camera.

He used the aforementioned camera to produce an image kown as a daguerreotype.

That image is widely considered the oldest surviving photo in the United States.

Saxton later inspired his associate, Robert Cornelius, who would become the first American to take a picture of a human and also opened some of the earliest photo studios in the U.S.

Learn more about the oldest surviving photo taken in Philadelphia in Billy Penn at WHYY.


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