Saving Yosemite

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Yosemite Valley, 1865-1866, by Carleton Watkins
Photo by Carleton Watkins, courtesy of Stanford University

Long before Teddy Roosevelt and Ansel Adams swooned at the beauty of the place, ex-49er and early photographer Carleton Watkins (1829-1916) captured monumental Yosemite Valley for the public's eyes. His stunning 1860s wet-plate negative photos — on view at Stanford's Cantor Arts Gallery April 23-Aug. 17 (328 Lomita Way, Stanford, museum.stanford.edu) — convinced Abraham Lincoln to support the Yosemite Valley Grant Act, the land-preservation precedent for the National Park System. Watkins set up a shop on Montgomery Street in San Francisco, but it and most of his work were destroyed in the Great Quake of 1906.

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