This image of Niagara Falls was discovered twelve years ago in a box at Newcastle University in England. The box, marked “Daguerrotypes,” had been languishing on a shelf in Special Collections since 1926, when it was given to the library by descendants of British industrialist Hugh Lee Pattinson. Then a student of the early form of photography just perfected by Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre, Pattinson was in Canada on a business trip when he stopped at the Falls to practice his technique. It took more than twenty minutes for the scene to affix on the silver-coated copper plate inside his camera; afterward, he would envelop the plate in warm mercury fumes, slowly drawing the image to the surface. It must have been thrilling, but no more so than when, a century and half later, historians learned what had been unearthed at Newcastle: the first photograph ever taken in Canada.
This appeared in the July/August 2009 issue.