First Photo of a Tornado

I'm SUPER phoning it in today because I just got back to the University after Christmas and my inbox has exploded and GAAAAAH.

So please enjoy this photo, which I first saw tweeted by @rshepherd1964 on August 28, 2013 here.

This is (allegedly) the first known photograph taken of a tornado. It was taken on August 28, 1884 by F.N. Robinson in Howard, South Dakota (then just part of the Dakota Territory). This was one of four extremely strong tornadoes in the area on that day. Modern estimates would place it at about an F4 on the Fujita scale.


After a bit of research, there is some debate over what is actually the "first" tornado photo. This one below is from four months before, on April 26, 1884, in Anderson County, Kansas, taken by A.A. Adams:

The problem is that this photo was taken from further away, and of a lesser storm. So when the South Dakota tornado (which had already garnered more fame because it was deadlier) was photographed a few months later (at a closer distance and with a more dramatic image), it instantly overshadowed this one and was erroneously considered to be "the first tornado photograph". Even National Geographic got it wrong.

I hate to think about how dangerous this was back then. Try getting the tornado to stand still long enough for the old photographic-plate camera to capture it.

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