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March 26, 2013

“I Was There” – Incredible Vintage Photographs Captured Tourists on the Overhanging Rock in the Early 20 Century

Overhanging Rock was a popular location in the early years at Yosemite. Perched 3200 feet over the valley floor, it has been a focal point of trips to Glacier Point ever since the first trails were built to Glacier Point in 1857. The nearby cliff was the site of the original Fire Fall started by James McCauley, who in 1871 had Four Mile Trail built from McCauley’s home in the Valley to Glacier Point, where he built the Glacier Point Mountain House in 1872. He started the tradition of pushing coals over the cliff to a ledge far below, which lasted until 1897 when the Washburn Brothers bought him out. They did not continue the tradition.

When David Curry established Camp Curry in 1899, he heard about the Fire Fall and beginning in 1900 he re-established the tradition. The Fire Fall was a major nightly attraction in the summer months until 1968, when the National Park Service ended it.

Overhanging Rock itself was used as a site for photographs of the “I was there” variety from the early days. The first automobile to enter Yosemite Valley was a 1900 Locomobile steam car driven by Oliver Lippincott. It was driven up the steep, winding road to Glacier Point, and the next morning it was hauled out onto Overhanging Rock by ropes for a famous photograph. This photograph was duplicated by many people after that, and many early automobile manufacturers had advertising photos done there with their cars. Some of the earliest images were done by Yosemite’s first resident photographer, George Fiske, in the 1880s and 1890s. After Fiske died in 1918, the young Ansel Adams made prints from his negatives. During the early years (and later), many people used Overhanging Rock as a location for group shots (sometimes with horses or cars), but there were also many people who performed numerous antics on the rock, perched 3200 feet over the valley. High kicks and handstands were made into early postcards, and there is even one with a worried-looking riderless horse peeking over the edge.

Below are some incredible vintage photographs from the early days.

Man and woman standing on rock extending from top of cliff; woman is raising her right leg as though to step off.

A 1916 Publicity shot of a Studebaker Roadster.

Locomobile steam car on Overhanging Rock in 1900. This was the first automobile to enter Yosemite Valley. Oliver Lippincott drove up the steep, winding road to Glacier Point. The next morning it was hauled onto Overhanging Rock by ropes for this famous photograph.

Kitty Tatch and Katherine Hazelston were waitresses in Yosemite’s Sentinel Hotel in the 1890s. They danced atop Overhanging Rock at Glacier Point for George Fiske’s famous photograph.

A man poses atop Overhanging Rock at Yosemite National Park’s Glacier Point, circa 1920s.

Tourists with an American flag at Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, 1890’s.

Galen Clark, first guardian of Yosemite Park, standing on Overhanging Rock, Glacier Point.

Man standing on Glacier Point, facing Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, California, ca. 1901.

A female tourist stands on the edge of Overhanging rock, nearly a mile straight down and only a step–from Glacier Point (N.W.) across valley to Yosemite Falls, Yosemite, Cal., circa 1902.

Unidentified photographer, Overhanging Rock, Yosemite Valley.

Man sitting on Glacier Point, January 2, 1909.



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