Boston August 25, 2017
Here Are The Oldest Photos Ever Taken In Boston And They’re Incredible
As we walk through the streets of Boston, we know we’re traveling along roads and by buildings that existed long before we did; however, viewing historic photos of the city helps the scope of that history to really sink in. All of these photos are well over a century old and provide fascinating glimpses into what life was like in 19th century Boston.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. This photo, taken in 1869, shows members of the First National Photographic Convention posing in the Public Garden.
2. A horse and carriage outside the stores on Washington Street, in 1860.
3. This is what Tremont Street looked like in 1869!
4. Court Street in 1870.
Before Government Center was built, the street was much longer.
5. The Pemberton School for the Deaf in 1871. Alexander Graham Bell can be seen sitting on the top step!
6. The Great Boston fire of 1872 led to the death of 14 people and demolished hundreds of buildings downtown. This image, taken just after the fire, hints at the level of destruction the city suffered.
7. Although you can still see butter sculptures today, this sculpting medium was pretty popular in the 19th century.
It cost 25 cents to view Caroline S. Brooks’ work, shown here with the artist, when it was displayed in Boston’s Amory Hall in 1877.
8. Charles Sumner served as a U.S. Senator for Massachusetts and was a fervent Abolitionist. This photo was taken of the Shaw Honor Guard surrounding the casket at his funeral in 1874.
9. A parade through Quincy Market in 1876.
10. The Union Club, which still stands on Park Street, in 1875.
Founded in 1863, this social club was intended for those who supported the Union during the Civil War.
11. Scollay Square in 1877, before it was torn down to make way for Government Center.
12. Following the death of President Garfield, Boston Theatre was draped in his honor.
This photograph was taken on September 20, 1881. This is the second Boston Theatre (the first one was torn down in 1852) and it was able to seat 3,000 people!
13. Irish clam diggers posing on a Boston wharf in 1882.
14. The Bijou Theatre stood on Washington Street from 1882 until 1943, when its failure to meet fire regulations forced it to close. This is what the interior looked like in 1885.
The Bijou was notable because it was the first theatre in the country to be totally lit by electricity; Thomas Edison personally installed the electrical system here.
15. A glance back through time to Pemberton Square in the year 1885. This is what it looked like before it was absorbed by Government Center.
16. Temple Street in Beacon Hill back in 1886.
17. Trinity Church rises in the background of this shot, which depicts dignitaries standing on Boylston and Dartmouth Streets to watch a cornerstone be set in place – presumably for Boston Public Library.
18. This actually looks pretty familiar! Beacon Street hasn't changed all that much since 1870.
19. Here is a different perspective of Beacon Street a decade later, in 1880.
20. Apparently, Boston has always been a city that attracted cyclists. Here, the French inventor Pierre Lallemant, perches on a penny-farthing in Boston in 1886.
21. Although the Boston Gas Company Buildings are clearly the focus of this 1888 photograph, the boats behind it have captured my attention.
Did the subjects of any of these shots surprise you?
Despite Boston’s rich past, it’s always been a forward-thinking place. You may be interested in our past article: “
Some People Don’t Know That Boston Was The First To Do These 13 Things.”