A photo genuinely shows the world’s first camera.
For years, claims have spread on social media platforms that a photo genuinely showed the world’s first camera.
The photo itself was real, but did not show the world’s first camera.
When we searched “Chicago and Alton railroad camera,” we found the photo was real. It was included in a pamphlet made around 1900, according to the Indiana Historical Society’s website.
An August 1901 article from The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported:
The biggest camera in the world has recently been constructed to the order of the Chicago and Alton Railroad specially to photograph what the officials consider to be the largest and finest train in existence. This camera, which was built exclusively for the purpose for which it was used, weighs over 1,400 pounds — the camera itself weighing 900 pounds and the plate holder weighing 500 pounds. The bellows part of the camera is capable of holding six men inside it with comfort. Fifteen men are required to operate this monster, which holds a plate three times larger than the largest plate ever before exposed and which uses lenses larger and more expensive than any heretofore made.
However, while the camera from the photograph was reported to be the biggest in the world at the time it was made, we didn’t find any reputable sources that claimed it was the world’s first camera.
According to USA Today, the first camera was invented in 1816 by French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. While researching this fact check, we did not find a photograph that definitively showed his camera.
As we found the camera shown in the image was not the world’s first camera, as presented in the social media posts, we rate this claim "Miscaptioned."
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Livesay, Jacob. “When Was the Camera Invented? Here’s Who Created the First Camera in 1816.” USA TODAY, https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2022/06/14/when-was-camera-invented-history/7615372001/. Accessed 8 Nov. 2023.
“The Brooklyn Daily Eagle 04 Aug 1901, Page Page 22.” Newspapers.Com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/50355975/. Accessed 8 Nov. 2023.
The Largest Photograph in the World of the Handsomest Train in the World. https://images.indianahistory.org/digital/collection/dc013/id/1177. Accessed 8 Nov. 2023.
TinEye Reverse Image Search. https://tineye.com/search/91c84bae2391bf87a308a96acc6cee60460fb3ed?sort=crawl_date&order=asc&page=1. Accessed 8 Nov. 2023.