Here is the Oldest Known Photograph of New York City, Circa 1839

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A daguerrotype of the Unitarian Church on the east side of Broadway across Waverly Place. Fall 1839 or winter 1840, by Samuel F.B. Morse and John William Draper

Our friends over at Untapped Cities recently did a bit of research into very old photographs of the City and have uncovered what the earliest known capture of our City.

Produced by inventor Samuel Morse and chemist John William Draper, the image is a Daguerreotype of the old Church of the Messiah on Waverly and Broadway.

Daguerreotype of Unitarian Congregational Church, New York City. On the Washington Square campus of the New York University, Samuel F.B. Morse and Dr. John W. Draper operated together one of the first American photographic studios for a short time, from 1839 to the early 1840s. Collaborating on this quarter-plate daguerreotype, the partners achieved a clear photograph of the Unitarian Congregational Church of the Messiah, on the east side of Broadway across Waverly Place, New York City, from their rooftop studio in the fall of 1839 or winter of 1840. Morse quickly refocused his professional career on the perfection of a working telegraph, while Dr. Draper continued to work in scientific photography with his sons for the remainder of his academic career at the University.

Here is a Google Streetview of what that angle looks like today. Check out the Smithsonian for more info on the Daguerreotype.

Matt Coneybeare

Matt Coneybeare

Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

Matt enjoys exploring the City's food scene with his Wife and the outdoors with their three dogs. He is an avid marathon runner, and spends most of his time working from a treadmill desk at home.

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