First Photo

"Sublimely grand specticle"


Great Falls of the Missouri River, M.T. [Montana Territory]
Photographed by F. Jay Haynes, Summer, 1880
Haynes Foundation Collection
Montana Historical Society H-326

This is one of the earliest existing photographs of the Great Falls, taken from the point at the edge of the high prairie where Lewis may have made his difficult descent for his closeup study of the scene.

F. Jay Haynes (1853-1921) was an important early photographer of Western scenes and people. He shot this photo just a few months before a pioneer settler and entrepreneur named Paris Gibson rode his horse from Fort Benton, forty miles downriver, to see the sight he had read of in a reprint of Nicholas Biddle's edition (1814) of the Journals of Lewis and Clark. He was inspired by the potential for industrial development of the falls, and envisioned a day when "water power could be shipped across the land by means of electricity." Two years later Gibson founded the city of Great Falls, Montana, a few miles upstream, near Black Eagle Falls, the last of the five cataracts Lewis discovered. Within a decade Great Falls gained the nickname "The Electric City."