Minneapolis, MN

On this day in history: Photographer Nearly Killed by Falling Icicle at Minnehaha Falls, 1869


On November 26, 1869, photographer Charles Zimmerman of St. Paul, Minnesota nearly met his demise while attempting to photograph the frozen Minnehaha Falls near Minneapolis.

According to the Minneapolis Daily Tribune dated November 28, 1869,As Zimmerman positioned himself underneath the towering, icy facade of the falls to capture a unique interior perspective, disaster struck.

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An enormous icicle estimated to weigh several hundred pounds suddenly cracked free from its frozen perch and came crashing down directly onto the hapless photographer.

Zimmerman was smashed to the ground by the force of the blow, rendered completely unconscious.

Fortunately, Chicago artist Mr. Haines happened to be passing by on his own outing to photograph the picturesque, frozen waterfall.

Haines spotted Zimmerman's motionless body pinned underneath the massive chunk of ice and quickly rushed to his aid.

With great effort, Haines managed to roll the icy projectile off of Zimmerman. After frantically calling for assistance, Haines brought the unconscious photographer to a nearby public house where they revived him.

Examination revealed that Zimmerman had sustained severe bruising to his head, neck and shoulders.

One of his limbs was also badly injured, though miraculously, no bones had been broken. Still in shock and barely able to walk, Zimmerman returned to St. Paul by train that very evening.

All told, it was an extraordinarily close brush with death. Had Zimmerman been knocked into the frigid waters below, he almost surely would have drowned.

Though no doubt battered and shaken by his close call, Zimmerman lived to photograph another day. As for the falls, they resumed their icy indifference, still standing frozen in time over the inhospitable rocks below.

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