Happy 133rd Anniversary to tornado photography - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Happy 133rd Anniversary to tornado photography

First Tornado Photo First Tornado Photo
Second Tornado photograph Second Tornado photograph
Modern Tornado Photo Modern Tornado Photo
Weather Map Annotated by Steve Horstmeyer Weather Map Annotated by Steve Horstmeyer
Day After the First Tornado Day After the First Tornado
(FOX19) -

Happy 133rd Anniversary to Tornado Photography

One hundred and thirty-three years ago today, April 26, 1884, fruit grower/photographer A. A. Adams stood near the United Presbyterian Church in Garnett, Kansas and made history. Approximately 14 miles to the west a rope tornado was moving slowly to the northeast. It moved so slowly that Adams had time to assemble his bulky camera system and capture the first photographic image of a tornado which was visible to eyewitnesses for 30 minutes.

A farmer from Virginia, Adams moved to Lawrence, KS in 1857 and opened a photography studio. He sold the studio in 1867 and moved to Anderson County, Kansas to be a fruit grower.  Ironically he was able to snap his famous tornado photograph long after his career as a photographer had ended.  

The  Anderson County Republican reported on the twister and they found only one injury along the 9-mile path.  A lumber wagon was tossed by the storm and the driver received minor injuries.

Adams tried to cash in on the photograph by selling stereo cards of the tornado but just a few months later, on August 28, 1884, a tornado photograph by F. N. Robinson had a much greater wow-factor. The large tornado with to smaller funnels near Howard, Dakota Territory ( now South Dakota) was thought for years to be the first tornado photograph. The popularity of Adams' photograph was eclipsed by the Dakota tornado.  

The photograph by Adams has been verified based on weather maps of the time, a newspaper article describing the incident and a wider view than the cropped stereo card showing the Presbyterian Church in Garnett.  The Dakota Territory tornado photograph is widely believed to have been altered, which is obvious from inspecting it.

A. A. Adams photographs courtesy of Library & Archives collection at the Kansas Historical Society.

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