Today in 1884, A.A. Adams took what’s believed to be the first ever photos of a tornado.

The photo depicts a tornado that hit Anderson County, Kansas.

Adams was 14 miles away from the storm when he got his camera out.

A few months later, F.N. Robinson snapped several photos of a massive twister that hit South Dakota.

Both photos are pretty remarkable for a number of reasons.

This is back in the time of big boxy cameras.

You didn’t push a button and snap a photo quickly, because exposure then could take several minutes.

Some tornadoes could have just moved too fast for cameras of that era to capture.

What’s also remarkable is that both Adams and Robinson were able to sell prints of their tornado photos.

Tornadoes were kind of mythical for a lot of people in the 1880s.

In fact, the year before these photos, officials with the U.S. Army Signal Corps had banned meteorologists from including the word tornado in their forecasts because they thought people would panic.

Unless you lived in a tornado-prone area, the closest you might come to a tornado would be a description in a newspaper, or maybe a sketch.

But here was a chance to see what tornadoes actually looked like, and at least some part of the public was into it.

As cameras became more portable and easier to use, more people took photos of tornadoes.

That actually helped meteorologists better understand how tornadoes developed and what caused them.

And as meteorologists better understood when and where we might see tornadoes, the people with cameras started following those increasingly accurate warnings, so they could go out in the middle of bad weather and go take dramatic photos and videos of tornadoes.

A pretty useful partnership!

This weekend, the incomparable cellist Yo-Yo Ma is playing a one of a kind concert.

He’s performing with the Louisville Symphony Orchestra in Mammoth Cave.

Talk about an underground show!


World’s Earliest Tornado Photos (

19th-Century Storm Chasers Took the First Tornado Photographs (Hyperallergic)

Yo-Yo Ma to play inside Mammoth Cave with Louisville Orchestra (WLKY)

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Photo by A.A. Adams via Kansas Tourism/Flickr/Creative Commons