On a hike or a day trip around Upstate New York, it’s not unusual to snap a few photos. Grab your phone, aim, shoot, memory. But for William England, a British photography pioneer, his pictures of Kaaterskill Falls took considerably more effort. England traveled to the United States from Britain in 1859 for his work with the with the London Stereoscopic Company.

The stereoscope is essentially the great-grandfather to the ViewMaster toy – it uses two images of the same scene but with one picture placed slightly further back. This tricks your depth perception into creating one “stereo window” that looks three-dimensional.

The New York Public Library Digital Collection
The New York Public Library Digital Collection

It was fairly common to shoot stereoscopes of more famous natural areas, like Niagara Falls. The demand for those stereoscopes was high, and while Mr. England visited there and Sleepy Hollow, he also took time to explore the Catskills on his trip. His photos explore the area around Kaaterskill Falls, including Kauterskill River, Fawn’s Leap waterfall, and the forest itself.

In the 1850s, photography was still a very new science. Equipment was heavy, delicate, and took a lot of patience to use. England’s dedication to capture Upstate New York nature became the basis for his later work in Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. His Alpine photography was regarded as some of the best of its era, and is still highly sought after by collectors today.

While there is an ambrotype photo of the town of Catskill that could date anywhere from 1855-1860, England’s high-quality photos perfectly showcase the beauty and serenity of Kaaterskill Falls and the surrounding area that people still travel to see (and photograph) today.

Are These 1859 Photos The First Taken Of The Catskills?

These photographs by William England for the London Stereoscopic Company could be the first to feature Upstate New York's natural beauty.

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