The Daguerreian Society


In my studies of the literature of the daguerreotype, my interest has 
been piqued as to when and where the first mention of the daguerreotype 
appeared in an American newspaper.  Today's post is, according to my 
current research, the earliest, and appears re-printed here (to my 
knowledge) for the first time.
* * * * * *

On this day (February 23) in the year 1839, the following item appeared 
on the front page of the "Boston Daily Advertiser):
------------------------------------------------------------

  Remarkable Invention.--In the Journal des Debats we find the 
following:
  At a session of the Academy of Sciences, held the 8th of January, M. 
Arago gave an account of a curious invention lately made by M. Daguerre; 
for making drawings.
  The manner in which the camera obscura produces images of objects, by 
means of a lens, is well known.  The new invention is a method of fixing 
the image permanently on the paper, or making a permanent drawing, by 
the agency of the light alone; ten or fifteen minutes being amply 
sufficient for taking any view, though the time varies with the 
intensity of the light.  By this machine M. Daguerre has made accurate 
drawings of the gallery of the Louvre and of Notre Dame; any object 
indeed, or any natural appearance may be copied by it--it reproduces the 
freshness of morning--the brilliancy of noon--the dim twilight and the 
dullness of a rainy day.  The colours are marked by a gradation of 
shades similar to aqualuita.
  M. Arago did not give all the details of the invention, but the 
general principle of it is thus described:  One of the substances, 
discovered by modern chemistry, which changes its color on exposure to 
the light, is chloride of silver, and it is evident, therefore; that if 
one part of a sheet of paper, prepared with this substance, is exposed 
to the light, while the remainder is in the shade, a design will be 
produced, corresponding to the different intensities of the shades.  To 
carry out this idea, M. Daguerre has labored many years, and has finally 
attained a result so simple, that any one could imitate it, and a 
patent, therefore, would be no protection to him.  On this account he 
keeps his discovery secret.
  M. Arago announced his intention of applying to the ministry to 
purchase M. Daguerre's secret, and the demand will probably be 
acquiesced in, if the details of the invention prove as satisfactory as 
stated.
  M. Biot expressed his admiration of the invention, which he could only 
justly praise by comparing it to a kind of physical retina as sensible 
as the retina of the eye.

-----------------------------------------------------------------
Posted for your enjoyment.      Gary W. Ewer       
-----------------------------------------------------------------
02-23-96


Return to: DagNews 1996

homepage society info search
resources galleries


Copyright 1996, The Daguerreian Society - http://www.daguerre.org