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American Photography

Despite the existence of several excellent histories of photography and books on a wide range of photo-historical subjects from daguerreotypes to Polaroids, much of the history of photography continues to lie buried in the journals of the time—and not always in those journals where one would most expect to find it in. Witness the following piece about American daguerreotypy that appeared in Liverpool in 1856. It begins with a few facts we already know from other sources about the high quality of relatively cheap American daguerreotypes, but the writer goes on to tell us more about the traveling daguerreian saloons than can be found most anywhere else. It is particularly interesting to realize that "(the carriage alone), without any stock of plates, &c," could cost as much as $1000. But what is even more interesting and what gives a good insight into America's passion for the daguerreotype even late into the 1850s is the fact that, according to the writer, in two years the owner had paid for the saloon, paid his "assistants," paid for his own time, put "a considerable sum in the bank," then "sold it at a profit," and bought a floating or "swimming," as the author calls it, saloon for business on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

—John Wood, in The Daguerreian Annual 1993, page 158


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