All photos: Carleton E. Watkins/public domain
John Muir, the celebrated 19th century naturalist, is often credited with spearheading the movement to establish Yosemite Valley as a national park in 1890. While this is true, it's important to recognize another environmental visionary who was paving this path decades before Muir: Carleton Watkins.
As one of America's earliest landscape photographers, Watkins (right) was one of the first people to document the natural glory of Yosemite Valley.
Using his massive large-format camera that produced 18x22 inch glass-plate negatives, the sheer detail and staggering scope of his documentation is something that had never been viewed widely by society before.
Watkins' photographs were so stunning that they even inspired President Abraham Lincoln to sign the Yosemite Grant of 1864, a bill that shielded the valley from commercial development and exploitation.
While this grant didn't explicitly name Yosemite as a national park, it did set a precedent that later paved the way for the designation of Yellowstone as the country's first-ever national park.
Want to learn more about Watkins and the mission to save Yosemite? Check out this recent video put together by photo editors and historians at Getty Images Archive:
Much of Watkins' works were sadly lost forever after his photography studio was destroyed in the San Francisco's devastating 1906 earthquake, but luckily for us, his Yosemite images continue to live on. Continue below for a selection of these important historical works:
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Related on MNN:
- Photographer traces Ansel Adams' footsteps in breathtaking new book
- 7 early feats in the history of photography
- Immerse yourself in Yosemite National Park with this meditative photo book
- Want to see more great photos? Check out MNN's photo blog