Friday Eye Candy: The World's Oldest Aerial Photo

Ever wonder what downtown Boston looked like on the eve of the Civil War? This photograph taken from a hot air balloon by James Wallace Black is thought to be the oldest aerial photo still in existence. Google Earth eat your heart out.

If you're looking for a dose of humor this week, look back at our collection of April Fool's Day stories. For something a bit more, ahem, sophisticated, we bring you the progenitor of the Google Earth and Bing Bird's Eye views of the world.

"The first flight of an untethered hot air balloon—humanity’s first really successful attempt at flight—took place in 1783 when “Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandes” flew over Paris. The first real photograph was taken in 1826 when Joseph Nicéphore Niépce took a picture out of his window," explains Colin Schultz.

"It took more than 30 years for someone to put these two inventions together to bring us the world’s first photo from the air. That photo, an 1858 aerial image of Paris, France, captured by Gaspard-Félix Tournachon is no longer with us. But the next best thing, says PetaPixel, is in the caring hands of the New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art: an 1860 photograph of Boston captured from 2,000 feet."

Photo: James Wallace Black / The Met

Full Story: This Picture of Boston, Circa 1860, Is the World’s Oldest Surviving Aerial Photo


Brand new! Urban Grid City Collection

Each city has its own unique story. Commemorate where you came from or where you want to go.
Grids and Guide Red book cover

Grids & Guides

A notebook for visual thinkers. Available in red and black.

Essential Readings in Urban Planning

Planning on taking the AICP* Exam? Register for Planetizen's AICP * Exam Preparation Course to save $25.
City Plate table setting

New Arrival! City Plates

City downtown cores printed on gorgeous decorative collectible porcelain plates.