Daguerreian Society

The following article appeared in the August 1855 issue of "The 
Photographic and Fine Art Journal" (Vol. VIII, No. 7) pp. 252-3:
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  Dear Editor:--As you expressed a desire that I should give you an 
account of my experience during the past twelve months, I now retire a 
few minutes from business for that purpose.
  In the first place, I must inform you that my business now, is wholly 
conducted on the River.  I have run two floating galleries down, and am 
now fitting out another, and expect to start down in a few weeks.
  This kind of Gallery, I suppose, is rather new to most of your 
eastern operators: however, it is becoming quite popular in the west.
  Last year I fitted one up at this city, which I took down as far as 
Bayou Goula, on the sugar coast, one hundred miles above New Orleans.  
We have out boats fitted out with every convenience for taking 
likenesses.  In front of all, is the reception room.  In our sitting 
room we have a large side and sky light that enables us to operate in 
from five to ten seconds in fair weather.  The dampness does not affect 
our operation half so much as a person would imagine that it would on 
the river.  Notwithstanding, we have to guard against it continually.
  There is something about a Flat-Boat Gallery that savors very much of 
the romantic; however, it is not half so romantic as convenient.  I am 
almost induced to think that there cannot be a more convenient plan 
devised for travelling operators than a Floating Gallery.  As soon as 
the boat is landed we are ready for operations, without all that extra 
trouble that travelling artists usually experience in unpacking and 
setting up ready for operating.  And there is no lack of conveyance; as 
soon as we are ready to leave, we untie our lines, spring upon deck, 
catch hold of our oars, and are off for another "port."  Besides, we 
are entirely independent.  If business is good, we can remain, if dull 
we can leave; we are not tied to one particular place.  When we are not 
employed, we can fish or hunt, as best suits our fancy, as the rivers 
are thronged with ducks and wild geese.
  While we are floating along, we are not unfrequently amused by the 
inhabitants along the shore.  Their houses, customs, &c., in many 
places are very peculiar.  And, then, there is that universal annoyance 
that every boatman must endure, of answering the foolish questions that 
are asked on shore, mostly by the "colored population," such as, 
"What's yer loadin?"  "What ye got to sell?"  or "Where ye gwine to lay 
to-night; got any whiskey?"  and so many other such foolish questions, 
that you may imagine that persons with an artistic craft like our Magic 
No. 3, would not at all times feel disposed to return them correct, or 
even satisfactory answers.  In this respect, we amused ourselves in 
proportion to the annoyance.
  However, it is not to be wondered at, that they should take us to be 
traders, there being such a large number of that class of boats on the 
river.  Indeed, there is no kind of business that does not find its way 
on the river.  There are merchants, grocers, carpenters, cabinet-
makers, blacksmiths, tinners, coopers, painters, shoe-makers, wagon-
makers, plough-makers, (and I should have said likeness makers), 
saddlers, jewellers, potters, glass-blowers, doctors, dentists, 
showmen, ventriloquists, machinists, jugglers, Barnums, black-legs, 
gamblers, thieves, humbugs, museums, concerts, circuses, menageries, 
Tom Thumbs and baby shows, "till you can't rest."  Indeed you could not 
name any business from the quack doctor to the Bar tender, that is not 
represented on the western rivers.  And the bosom of the "Mighty Father 
of Waters" may truly be compared to the streets of a great city, where 
motley crowds from every nation are flocking to find sale for their 
merchandise, produce and manufactures.  A full description of this 
river, with its trades and traffics, would be very interesting to those 
unacquainted with it.  Those who have never navigated this river can 
have no conception of its vastness, nor of the amount of trade that is 
carried on along its shores, and on its surface.  In a good stage of 
water, I suppose, that in regard to depth, velocity, and amount of 
water that flows down this stream, it is not surpassed in the world.
  Last year I left New Albany, on the first of March; stopped at about 
fifty landings, took something near one thousand likenesses, travelled 
(by water,) near fourteen hundred miles, arriving, as before stated, 
upon the sugar coast, where the French language is universally spoken.  
Here the weather became rather too warm for my northern blood, at a 
season of the year, (June) bordering so close upon that of the yellow 
fever, and I did not find it practicable to remain longer; so I boxed 
up, sold the Boat, (or rather gave it away,) and boarded the fine 
steamer Belle Sheridan, for home, where I arrived in something less 
than six days.
  Thus ends last year's experience.  As I am on the eve of making a 
similar "Trip," if you desire that I should give you an account of all 
that is interesting, you will please let it be known.  In the mean time 
if there are any points that I have not touched upon, connected with my 
business,--manner of traveling, &c., that you would like to be 
enlightened upon, please let me know, and I will give you all the 
information I can.  For the present, I remain yours, &c.,
   New Albany, July 18th 1855              SAM. F. SIMPSON.
    A little more of the "lay of the land, and the looks of the 
people," as daguerreotyped from day to day, would interest.--Ed.

[Transcriber's note:  I made two corrections to what I considered
original typographical errors. In the fourth paragraph, I changed the
original "Bayon" to "Bayou." In the fifth paragraph, I added the word
"not" in order to make sense of the statement: "If business is good,
we can remain, if dull we can leave; we are **not** tied to one
particular place." -Gary W. Ewer, 8-11-97]
Posted for your enjoyment.     Gary W. Ewer     

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