Arizona January 23, 2017
This Is What Visiting The Grand Canyon Looked Like 100 Years Ago
I’ve always had an affinity for old photos. There’s something about seeing history lived in the moment decades ago, complete with period clothing, actions that may seem too formal for today’s standards, and even a few moments that have you wondering what they were thinking. Here’s a look at some photos from the Grand Canyon’s expansive photo collection, which you can also
view online. Enjoy!
Let's start with some of the earlier photos taken near Marble Canyon. This photo shows John Wesley Powell's second expedition. That's his armchair in the boat (ca. 1872).
I guess they had different expectations of comfort in those days.
Another expedition shows the crew eating Christmas dinner at Lee's Ferry (ca. 1889).
Here's what Havasu Falls looked like in 1899, back when it was known as Bridal Veil Falls.
There wasn't a date attached to this photo but it was taken on a glass plate negative by Henry G. Peabody, whose other Grand Canyon photos date to the turn of the century.
Here's a Havasupai woman posing with a woven basket (ca. 1902).
It's interesting to see how accommodations and expectations for how to spend time in nature have changed over the decades. These men were camped by the Hermit Trailhead, which (I believe) is not a current campsite (1913).
Here are some folks cooking over a campfire near the present-day Phantom Ranch (ca. 1907). Seems pretty normal for a camping trip!
This couple is seated for dinner with a waiter ready to bring their meals (ca. 1907).
Meanwhile, these guys look like they just caught their next meal, also near present-day Phantom Ranch (ca. 1911).
Not everyone did camping when visiting the Grand Canyon. These folks just arrived at the El Tovar Hotel in a horse drawn carriage (ca. 1905). Fancy!
And here's another party enjoying a lazy afternoon on the porch with the canyon's rim just within view (ca. 1906).
One of the things I love most about looking at decades old photos is how the style of dress has changed. Even when out exploring, some people dressed much more formally than we would imagine to do so today (ca. 1910).
Take this party for instance. Riding mules down Bright Angel Trail in massive hats, corsets, high collars, and fine fabrics doesn't exactly sound like a fun way to spend an afternoon (1909).
And this is what an excursion along the river would have looked like 110 years ago. The men rolled up their pant legs and the women probably loosened a button or two (1906).
This photo on Bright Angel Trail is just hilarious (ca. 1910).
Can you imagine trying to push your mule in traction-less shoes?
If you look closely, there's one woman sitting on those rocks in her big hat (ca. 1903).
This group of well-dressed women stand at Hermit's Rest (ca. 1918).
This seems like more appropriate attire for traversing the Grand Canyon (ca. 1911).
Here's what the view from Lookout Studio would have looked like in 1915.
Traveling to and from the canyon had only two options for a long time: ride a horse/mule or walk. These guys look like they drew the short end of the stick as they carry belongings down the canyon (ca. 1902).
Here's a water wagon for the USGS survey team (ca. 1902).
This was a pretty common way to travel, via a horse-drawn wagon (ca. 1910).
This photo shows the very first automobile to enter the canyon's borders (1902).
Here's a description from the album's notes:
The first automobile party arrives at Grandview, on the South Rim of Grand Canyon in a ten horse-power steam powered vehicle. Oliver Lippincott is the driver (they called it “steerer”) with Thomas Chapman sitting in the front seat beside the Lippincott...They anticipated a one day journey from Flagstaff, but it took several days because of break-downs and mishaps. The return trip of 67 miles was made in 7 hours.
As the years went by, traveling by the automobile became much more common. Here's a line of visitors sitting in Fred Harvey touring cars near El Tovar Hotel (ca. 1921).
For years, traveling across the Colorado River meant taking a ferry, just like this covered wagon (ca. 1900).
And here's another way to ferry across the river (ca. 1908).
This just looks frightening. (ca. 1909)
This photo goes to show that people have always sought to get the most impressive portrait in dangerous places (ca. 1920).
Finally, here's a photo of one crazy man riding the river rapids near Marble Canyon in 1909.
Wow, that was pretty amazing, especially when you consider how much has changed in the last century. But what’s equally incredible is how much has stayed the same! Here’s hoping our grandchildren and great-grandchildren get to experience the same canyon a century from now.
If you want to take a look at more photos of Arizona’s past, you might want to check out our recent article on Arizona’s mining history. Read more in
These 18 Rare Photos Show Arizona’s Mining History Like Never Before.