Daguerreian Society

During the month of June in the year 1929, the following article 
appeared in "The Mentor" (Springfield: Crowell Publishing Company) Vol. 
17, No. 5 (June 1929) pp. 36-37.
   The illustrated article is available on The Daguerreian Society web 
site at:

   Other daguerreotypes reproduced by Hollinger accompany another 
article, "Copying Methods" from "The Photo-Miniature" of August 1902 
and is also available on the site at:

   I will further mention that a daguerreotype made by Hollinger was 
included in the Jack Naylor collection--now in Yokohama, Japan.   The 
daguerreotype retains the original label by Hollinger which gave his 
address as "Hollinger & Co., 582 Fifth Ave., N.Y.City.")
- - - - - -

                    AN OLD ART REVIVED

By Working Over and Restoring Daguerreotypes Mr.  Hollinger, an Expert
     Photographer, Has Learned How to Revive the Art of Daguerre,
       and is Producing Fine Examples of that Delicate Old Art
                    Today in New York

                     By POPPY CANNON

TO MOST of us the daguerreotype seems as far removed from modern life 
as the wide silk stocks that Great-grandfather wore in those decorous 
days when he came a-courting of a Sunday evening.  Therefore it is 
something of a surprise to walk in upon a cozy Victorian studio and to 
find there in the fashionable upper reaches of Fifth Avenue a man who 
has today revived, and practices, the old art of making daguerreotypes.
   When in 1872 this man--William M.  Hollinger, now a celebrated 
American photographer--hired himself out as an apprentice in 
Millersburg, Ohio, he was taught how to make tintypes, ambrotypes and 
cabinet photographs, but nothing was said to him about daguerreotypes.  
These delicate, mirror-like photographs etched by sunlight upon "silver 
plates" were already out of date.
   After the two years of his apprenticeship were over he set out over 
the muddy dirt roads of Ohio and Indiana to seek his fortune.  But 
fortune steadily evaded him until one rainy midnight he found himself 
in the slushy main street of Goshen, Indiana, with a solitary copper 
penny--one of the old-fashioned variety about as big as a gingersnap--
sliding about in his pocket.  The very next day he got his first job 
and a salary of fifteen dollars a week, including board.  His first act 
as an established photographer was to wrap the large copper in tissue 
paper and send it to a girl back in Ohio.  They have been married now 
for more than fifty years, but Mrs.  Hollinger still has that lucky 
penny.  His official duties in Goshen were twofold: he taught his 
employer how to retouch portraits and incidentally how to drum up 
enough trade to pay his salary.  This he accomplished by inviting the 
general-store keeper to have his picture taken free of charge and then 
exhibiting the finished product in the showcase along with the darning 
cotton, chewing tobacco and mousetraps.
   A few months later he went into business for himself, and soon 
became interested in restoring and reproducing faded family portraits 
and photographs.  The Middle-Westerner was becoming quite as ancestor-
conscious as the New Englander or the aristocratic New Yorker.   His 
specialty proved to be a popular one, and almost from the start he 
received a press of orders and applications from students of 
photography who were eager to pay him well for teaching them secrets 
which he himself was learning even as he taught them.  When he had a 
difficult piece of work to do he went off by himself, experimented at 
length, and learned how to do it.  He taught himself first, then he 
taught others.
   A large number of the old portraits that he was called upon to clean 
and restore were time-darkened daguerreotypes.  The removal of silver 
tarnish may sound simple enough but it is not so easy as it sounds, for 
the daguerreotype was not printed from a glass plate or celluloid film 
like modern photographs, but was made directly upon a sheet of copper, 
plated with silver iodide or bromide and developed by exposure to a 
vapor of mercury.  The resultant picture is a chemical coating upon 
silver--an image as insubstantial as the bloom on a butterfly's wing.  
The slightest touch would have rubbed away the image as well as the 
tarnish and ruined the highly valued family heirlooms entrusted to his 
care.  Nevertheless Mr.  Hollinger succeeded in restoring what had been 
a mere blur of features surrounded by foggy blackness to their pristine 
brightness and distinctness.
   Then a customer demanded an exact copy of his mother's 
daguerreotype, not a photograph of it, but another daguerreotype just 
like the original.  In order to produce such a copy Mr.  Hollinger had 
of course to learn how to make daguerreotypes.  There was no one at 
hand to teach him, but from dusty manuals of photography he learned 
just what equipment was required.  Some of it he made himself, the rest 
he had made according to his own specifications.
   He has perfected his skill and his knowledge through long years of 
study and experimentation, so that now he can make daguerreotypes 
exactly like those that delighted our ancestors in the fifties.  He can 
even reproduce the intensity of the image, which varied according to 
the time of day it was taken.  In his own studio he makes a powdered 
coloring so fine-grained that it can scarcely be rubbed off.  With a 
brush no thicker than a sharp pencil point he dusts a speck of powder 
on the plate, breathes slightly upon it to remove any superfluous color 
and thus achieves a faint flush of carmine on a lady's cheek; he tints 
the pastel nosegay at her waist, adds a glint of gold to her bracelet 
and pricks the silver plate delicately with a pin point in order to 
simulate the brilliants in her hair and in her locket--just as the old-
time makers of daguerreotypes used to gain these ornamental effects.
   So it happens that, within less than a century, the art of Daguerre 
has flashed upon the world, prepared the way for the camera, the movies 
and the talkies, disappeared, and now has been resurrected on Fifth 
Avenue.  A delicate and lovely old photographic process has been 
successfully revived--with none of the trying inconvenience of the old-
time long exposure.  The new daguerreotypes are made with quick 
exposure--almost as quick as that of modern photography.

Posted for your enjoyment.     Gary W. Ewer     

Return to: DagNews 1999

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