First View of the Valley (Getty Museum)
Carleton E. Watkins
American, Yosemite, California, about 1866
Albumen silver print
At twenty, Carleton Watkins headed out to California to make his fortune. After working as a daguerreotype operator in San Jose, he established his own practice and soon made his first visit to the Yosemite Valley. There he made thirty mammoth plate and one hundred stereograph views that were among the first photographs of Yosemite seen in the East. Partly on the strength of Watkins’s photographs, President Abraham Lincoln signed the 1864 bill that declared the valley inviolable, thus paving the way for the National Parks system.