Here's one of the first photos of a tornado ever

This cabinet card shows one of the oldest photos ever captured of a tornado. The photo was taken on August 28, 1884, and depicts one of several strong tornados that formed in the Dakota Territory (now South Dakota) that day.

A black and white photo of a tornado with multiple vortices, one in the center, which reaches to the ground and a smaller one on either side which do not reach the ground.

A cabinet card of one of the earliest known photos of a tornado. It was taken 22 miles southwest of Howard, South Dakota on August 28, 1884 by photographer F.N. Robinson. (Image credit: South Dakota State Historical Society)

Though the Fujita scale didn’t exist yet, records and eyewitness accounts lead some to believe this tornado was estimated EF-4, with wind gusts between 166 and 200 miles per hour.  It had multiple vortices. These are the points shown in the photo descending from the body of the tornado.

A scan of the back of the August 28, 1884 tornado photo, reading, “The only cyclone ever photographed was taken by F.N. Robinson, Miner County, D.T. August 28, 1884. The storm passed 22 miles west of the city. It was first noticed at 4 o’clock p.m., moving in a southeasterly direction, remaining in sight for over two hours; killing several people and destroying all property in its course.”
The back of a cabinet card of one of the earliest known photos of a tornado. (Image credit: South Dakota State Historical Society)

The back of the cabinet card touts this as the “only cyclone ever photographed.” However, we now know that another photograph of a tornado, or cyclone, was taken a few months earlier in Kansas.

The original cabinet card image is located in the South Dakota state archives.