I ran across this photo while I was perusing the photos at the Library of Congress and I was totally blown away. Clinton Johnson took this photo, captioned “North Dakota Cyclone,” in an unknown North Dakota town in 1895, just six years after North Dakota statehood. It appears to depict a menacing tornado bearing down on a North Dakota town. If you look closely, you can see some people standing around, watching, proving that even in the 1800s, people were gawkers. Farmer A.A. Adams took the first ever photo of a tornado in Kansas in 1884, a feat which was overshadowed by another tornado photograph taken a few months later in South Dakota.
I believe this is the first photograph ever taken of a tornado in North Dakota. You can read about the 1957 Fargo F5 tornado in Fargo Moorhead Lost and Found.
We’re posting this photo here because a) it’s super cool, and b) there is a (very) slim chance that we might be able to identify this location. Mr. Johnson also appears to have also been one of the photographers who covered the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906.
Do you know anymore about photographer Clinton Johnson or the location of this photograph? Please leave a comment.
Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy