History | September 2, 2017 5:00 am

Travel Back in Time with Some of the Oldest Photos of Cities Around the World

From Rome to Tokyo to Los Angeles, see how the world's metropolises have evolved.

Oldest photos of cities around the world
1877: Cityscape photo shows Los Angeles, California, with Southern Pacific Railroad facilities in the distance and many houses, yards, and empty streets in foreground. (Carleton E Watkins/LOC)

It’s hard to think back to a time when photography was rare, but it wasn’t really all that long ago. Photography was not commercially viable until Louis Daguerre developed the daguerreotype process in 1839. That process became widely used in the 1840s and 1850s, and gave us some of the earliest landscape photos of international cities.

The long exposure times associated with the process meant that a lot of early photographs were of empty landscapes, either urban or rural. Images with human subjects required them to pose for long periods of time.

Take a look back at how much our world has changed.

Oldest photos of cities around the world
1865 or 1866: Panorama of Edo (now Tokyo) showing daimyo residences, Japan. (Felice Beato)
Oldest photos of cities around the world
1877: Cityscape photo shows Los Angeles, California, with Southern Pacific Railroad facilities in the distance and many houses, yards, and empty streets in foreground. (Carleton E Watkins/LOC)
1842: Rome. Panoramo photo showing the Colosseum in the center.
Oldest photos of cities around the world
1855: Sydney. Sterograph of St. James Parsonage on Macquarie St. (Robert Hunt)
Macleay Museum
Oldest photos of cities around the world
1844: Singapore. Daguerreotype of Singapore Town. (Alphonse-Eugene-Jules Itier)
Oldest photos of cities around the world
1844: Jerusalem (Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey)
1839: View of Whitehall from Trafalgar Square , London.
Oldest photos of cities around the world
1838: View of a Paris street entitled “Boulevard du Temple, Paris, 8 in the morning”, a daguerreotype by Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre 1838. (Getty Images)
Getty Images
1850: Bombay, now Mumbai. Taken when India was still under the rule of the British East India Company. 1840: Berlin’s Leipziger Strasse 1845: Athens
Oldest photos of cities around the world
1846: Washington, DC. Old Patent Office. The building is now the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian Museum of American Art. (LOC)
1848: New York City. Farmhouse on a hill in Manhattan’s Upper West Side with a road that is now Broadway.
Oldest photos of cities around the world
1855: Chicago. Daguerreotype of the Cook County Court House and City Hall. It’s the oldest photo in Chicago History Museum’s collection and very possibly the oldest photo in the city’s history. (Chicago History Museum)
Oldest photos of cities around the world
1860: Boston. Aerial photograph taken from a hot air balloon (James Wallace Black)
Oldest photos of cities around the world
1850 or 1851: San Francisco harbor (LOC)
Library of Congress
1848: Edinburgh. Photograph of the former Assembly Hall and Talbooth Church on Castlehill.