Early Drawing of Yosemite Falls

The High Falls
Thomas Almond Ayres (1816-1858)
Charcoal, white chalk and pencil on paper
June 1855
H 49.8, W 34.7 CM
YOSE 2098
Yosemite National Park
Photo Credit: Michael Dixon, Yosemite National Park

This drawing by Thomas Ayres provided the American public with its first glimpse of Yosemite Falls in 1855, and helped to create the interest in Yosemite Valley that led to its protection. In June 1855, James Mason Hutchings organized a group to visit Yosemite Valley. For this journey Hutchings hired the artist Thomas Ayres to draw the sights of the Valley in the hope that "this wonderful valley will attract the lovers of the beautiful from all parts of the world; and be as famed as Niagara, for its wild sublimity, and magnificent scenery." This particular drawing, The High Falls , was the fifth drawing Ayres made of the Valley, but it was the first to be published. Hutchings had a lithograph made from this drawing in October of 1855. The High Falls and other Ayres drawings were also used in the first issue of Hutchings' California Magazine in July 1856. Nine years later, in 1864, the Federal Government granted Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to the State of California as an inalienable public trust. It was established as a national park in 1890 and the State returned the lands to the Federal Government in 1906.


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