A Visual Exploration of Chattanooga History

Photos, maps, and other unique resources of information about our city's past.


Our High Resolution Past

When scanned with today's digital technology, you may be amazed to see just how much detail was captured in photos over 100 years ago.

Commercial photographers first visited Chattanooga in late 1863, along with the Union Army during the US Civil War. From that point forward many views in and around the city were captured on glass plate negatives, and later film.

By the late 1800's photography was a hobby embraced by many - and was affordable to the middle class - whose parlors in 1900 typically included stacks of photos.

Resources on this site are used to research mysteries of the past such as 'underground Chattanooga'. Note changes in land and the river as the city grew. Chattanooga history is ready to be uncovered.

Chattanooga history

The Time Machine in your Grandparent's Closet

history closet

Hidden History is Forgotten History

The treasures of a great grandfather’s photo hobby are easily overlooked in a closet, or tossed out during a move. Every photo on this site exists because it was kept and shared. The future of undiscovered historical photos rests on individual awareness and actions.

If you have unique photos that include Chattanooga scenes, please share them by donating or digitally donating (I scan, then return).

NOTE: Only true photo prints (non-digitally printed), film and glass plate negatives are suitable for scanning in high resolution.

Special Collections

Perry Mayo Collection

History Shared: Perry Mayo generously donated a box of medium format black & white negatives. The photos were likely taken from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s. They capture some of the most active periods of infrastructure change in Chattanooga's history since the Civil War.

Stokes Photos

In 1922, his obituary described him as ‘one of the most prominent photographers of the city.’

Remarkably, a significant set of his photo collection has survived three generations. Stokes uniquely featured landmarks, buildings, and historic vistas.

Glass Plate Negatives

Glass plate negatives captured over 100 years ago represent daily life, homes, friends, and landmarks that are difficult to place in our current landscapes.

Here we see young men and women with gleams in their eyes - great grandmothers and great grandfathers in their prime around 1900. Older people seen here likely experienced the Civil War and slavery. Their hardened faces tell a story of less prosperous and difficult days. While all of their lives have come and gone, we get a remarkable glimpse into their world.

The Civil War in Chattanooga
Scanned by the Library of Congress
Civil War in Chattanooga

30,000+ pages of Chattanooga newspapers are now searchable online

We were tired hearing 'no' and frustrated with waiting for a formal organization to digitize Chattanooga historic newspapers, so we did it ourselves. It's only a fraction of the available microfilm, but it's a start.

Thanks to David Moon and 29 people who donated to fund this initial effort, The Tennessee State Library and Archives, Jeffrey Kiley at Advantage Preservation, and Tom Tryniski of Fulton County (NY) History.


Other links that include Chattanooga area digitized newspapers:

Search over 40,743,000 historical newspaper pages from the USA & Canada at: Fulton History
READ the FAQ(really) to fully understand how to use this powerful search engine!

The Georgia Historic Newspapers Archive is a project of the Digital Library of Georgia, including the Walker County Messenger