The Daguerreian Society

Two items today. . .

On this day (May 24) in the year 1844, the following item appeared in 
the "Springfield Daily Republican" (Vol. 1, No. 45):

  As to daguerreotypes, "a woman's heart is the only true plate for a 
man's likeness.  An instant gives the impression, and, an age of sorrow 
and change effaces it not."

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In the May 1904 issue of "The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine" 
(Vol. 68, No 1) the following article appeared: (This article preceded 
the often-referenced article by Abraham Bogardus "The Lost Art of the 
Daguerreotype.) As of today, this article and its illustration is also 
available in HTML format on The Daguerreian Society's webpage:

by Pauline King

   Short of an artist's fine handiwork, there has never been any means 
of reproducing the human face which has had the charm of the 
daguerreotype. The term "photographic," which is commonly used to 
designate the limitations of a too hard manner of drawing or painting, 
cannot be applied to it; for the soft, luminous shadows, the melting 
flesh-tones, the reality of life, are such that they may well excite the 
admiration and envy of skilful portrait-painters. This has been fully 
realized by connoisseurs, who have included large collections of 
daguerreotypes among their object d'art, and the appreciation has 
extended until now there is a general searching for good examples of the 
  The collector concerns himself first of all with artistic qualities. 
He soon finds that there are not so many available portraits of 
celebrities as would be supposed, and often as specimens of work these 
are poor, and valuable only for the likeness. Though it might be thought 
that a number of pictures of quite unknown persons would be dull and 
monotonous, yet this is not at all the effect that a collection makes, 
even upon the minds of those who are unbiased by a special enthusiasm. 
For not only has the daguerreotype in itself elements that are 
sufficiently strong to make it entirely desirable for its own sake, but 
there is also an astonishing variety in the subject: there is no 
sameness of physiognomies, such as is inevitable with retouched plate; 
and the individual charm or character of the sitter is presented in so 
unspoiled and unmodified a manner that one seems to be looking at 
reflections made permanent on tiny looking-glasses.
   The practice was in its greatest popularity in the middle of the last 
century. This was the period of the crinoline and the poke-bonnet, of 
the picturesque high stock and quaint long coat. Though the fashion of 
clothes was then strangely ugly, yet this very oddity has an interest 
for us now. The worst modes of a tasteless era cannot disguise the 
strong, manly faces that appear above the awkward, ill-fitting garments. 
And how often, when a well-worn case is opened, it discloses a vision of 
sweet femininity, her parted hair smoothly arranged and drawn down over 
her ears, and in her soft, dove-like eyes a modest, demure expression 
which adds the last charm to her distinguished beauty! What a subtle 
fragrance of delicate sentiment lingers about her! It seems scarcely 
possible, so natural does she appear in all the grace of her youth, 
thrilling with hope and life, that the sitter may have been dead for 
half a century, or, if still living, is now a wrinkled dame, grandmother 
or great-aunt, as her fate has held.
   Although the presentations of these fair and charming women are 
naturally the most pleasing of the daguerreotype, yet the fidelity of 
reproduction seems equally fortunate and admirable when the rounded 
contours of early life have changed to the sterner outlines of middle 
years and the wrinkles of age. The characteristic faces of men in their 
prime, stout elderly matrons, and old gentlemen and gentlewomen who 
reflect the tastes of a still earlier date, sustain the interest of a 
   They did their work well, those modest portraitists who lived when 
New York was so small a place that it was not found to be inconvenient 
to patronize Gurney, whose gallery was on Broadway facing John street, 
Lawrence, who was on the same street below Fulton, and the still 
surviving veteran Abraham Bogardus, on the corner of Greenwich and 
Barclay streets. Southworth & Hawes were then most prominent in Boston, 
and Van Name[Loan -Ed.] & Richards in Philadelphia.
   Any one who possesses a daguerreotype with one of these names stamped 
upon the case may assure himself that he has an interesting specimen of 
this bygone art; and as the profession had a numerous following, until 
almost every city and town boasted its gallery, there are many other 
daguerreotypists whose fame is equally honorable.
   Who shall rediscover for us this lost and charming art?

Posted for your enjoyment.      Gary W. Ewer       

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