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Daguerreotypes

Why collect someone else's family photographs? 
I get asked that question all the time!  We are rapidly approaching the 165th anniversary of photography.  Photos freeze moments in time.  They allow you the ability to 'look back' into the past and see things as they really were.  I collect for multiple reasons.  The history behind each photographic process, the beauty and presentation of each photo, and the true-life story that may be attached to it.  They are little 'works of art'.    

 

1860s Child.JPG (91577 bytes)Here is an 1860s daguerreotype photograph of a little girl, probably taken during the Civil War. The size of this photograph is 3-3/4" x 4-3/4".  The image is on a silver-plated sheet of copper, surrounded by a gold colored (brass and copper alloy) mat, and covered with a piece of protective glass and placed in a case (see example below).  Daguerreotypes were invented in 1839, by a Frenchman named Louis Daguerre.  Each daguerreotype is one-of-a-kind, there are no negatives.  Before this time, pictures were captured by artists using oils or other media.

 

Mother of Pearl Photo Case.JPG (27519 bytes)Most all early photographs from 1839 to the mid 1860s were placed in special cases to protect the photograph.  The least expensive cases were made of wood and paper, with patterns pressed onto the surface.  The top-of-the-line cases were made of a substance called "thermoplastic", and came in elaborate designs.  Some people collect just the empty cases!  There are over 1000 unique designs.

 Sometimes these photographic cases were covered in Mother-of-Pearl, such as this example.

 

 

1840s Fireman.JPG (58092 bytes)The second daguerreotype example is from an earlier time period.  We can tell by the shape and texture of the mat that this was taken in the 1840s, just a few years after the invention of photography.  It shows a fireman in full uniform, wearing white gloves, a neat looking cap, displaying a spanner wrench in his belt.  The image has been hand tinted in red and blue, with additional dabs of gold on the hat brim.  The size is 3-1/4" x 3-3/4". 

 

 

1840s Man w-blue tie.JPG (58677 bytes)This photo to the right is of a late 1840s to early 1850s man in need of a haircut, dressed with a fancy vest and a blue tinted cravat.  Daguerreotypes have amazing detail, and almost appear 3-D when held in your hands.  Flat-bed scanner images cannot capture the true essence of the visual element that strongly attracts collectors to these objects.  You have to experience an exquisite example in person.  This photo measures 3-1/4" x 3-3/4".

 

 

1948 Mich License Plate.JPG (35631 bytes)There are only a few dozen people on earth today that have learned and mastered the 19th century craft of making daguerreotypes.  The process uses poisonous mercury vapors in the development cycle, and it is extremely difficult to obtain consistent quality results, as so much is dependent on timing, humidity, temperature, length of exposure and many other variables.  The example to the left was taken and developed by Charlie Schreiner, of Saugatuck Michigan, in October of 1995.  Michigan is my home state.  Size: 2" x3".

 

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Thanks for looking!
Please write if you have any questions.  I love early photography as much as early television history.   :-)


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