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Cased 1/9-Plate Daguerreotype of Unidentified Gentleman. Early 1850s.

In Photographs > Daguerreotypes > Show & Tell and Cameras > Wood Cameras > Show & Tell.
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    Posted 1 year ago

    rniederman
    (297 items)

    There are many posts here on CW showing small daguerreotype images, so I thought to share some information about them.

    Daguerreotypes are the earliest practical form of photography that produced permanent images. The process was popular from its 1839 announcement to the early 1850s. Each mirror-like image is unique (no negatives to make reprints) and created on a layer of silver coated on a polished copper plate. Technically excellent daguerreotypes have a delicacy and tonal range unmatched by later photographic processes.

    Daguerreotypes are easily distinguished from other forms of pictures because the images look like they appear on a silvery mirror. Later forms of pictures such as ambrotypes (images on glass plates) and tintypes (images on japanned metal) do not have the mirror-like look of daguerreotypes.

    This 1/9-plate (2 x 2½ inches) image is a very common portrait style and format often found in simple folding cases meant to be carried as mementos. These portraits were often unsophisticated and straightforward; however, this example shows a decent level of technical execution. Horizontal stripes seen on the plate are scratches more than likely caused from buffing when the plate was being prepared.

    A quarter-plate (3¼ x 4¼ inch) or ½-plate (4¼ x 5½ inch) camera more than likely made the picture; they were the most popular size American formats of the time. Reducing masks inserted into plate holders held the smaller, inexpensive plates.

    Photographers had to practically be chemists to make daguerreotypes. Louis Jacques Daguerre’s original 1839 five-step process using toxic chemistry was complicated and can be summarized as follows:

    1. Polish and immaculately clean a silver-plated copper plate.
    2. Sensitize (fume) the plate with iodine vapor.
    3. Place sensitized plate in camera and expose.
    4. ‘Develop’ the exposed plate by placing over hot mercury vapor until an image appears.
    5. Desensitize the iodine to ‘fix’ the image and wash.

    Because the jewel-like images are extremely fragile, Daguerre recommended the plates be framed and protected under glass.

    The c.1853-54 ¼-plate Palmer & Longking daguerreotype camera with petzval portrait lens, in my collection and posted here on CW, shows the type of camera that could have made the portrait.

    Comments

    1. PostCardCollector PostCardCollector, 1 year ago
      That is a good looking man, and a great looking camera!! Thanks for sharing your expert knowledge.Lois
    2. fortapache fortapache, 1 year ago
      Thank you. That is excellent information.
    3. ho2cultcha ho2cultcha, 1 year ago
      stunning guy!
    4. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 1 year ago
      Thanks for explaining something I wanted to know more about & too lazy to research. "Hot mercury vapor""! Did photographers have health problems because of that ?
    5. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
      Thanks!
      fortapache
      TassieDevil
    6. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
      Thanks!
      Michael
      bijoucaillouvintage
    7. nutsabotas6 nutsabotas6, 1 year ago
      Very interesting. Thanks for sharing, your knowledge. :)
    8. Signaholic Signaholic, 1 year ago
      Thanks for that description, Rob! Never quite knew exactly what all the details were.
    9. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
      Thanks!
      Manikin
      PCC
      Mrstyndall
      shughs
    10. mcheconi mcheconi, 1 year ago
      Hello guys, I found this website today and wanted to share with you photography lovers. It has thousands of early pictures in high resolution. No advertising intended, just found it very useful for research. http://www.shorpy.com/
    11. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
      Thanks!
      Caperkid
      aura
      ho2cultcha
    12. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
      Thanks!
      vetraio50
      Designer
      mtg75
    13. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
      Thanks!
      sugargirl
      Longings
      BB2
    14. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
      Thanks!
      Perry
      trgrubaugh
      SpiritBear
      nutsabotas6
      Scott
      lee120275
    15. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
      Thanks!
      racer4four
      sanhardin
      Chevelleman69
      vintagelamp
      pw-collector
      Hunter
      kyratango
    16. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
      Thanks!
      leighannrn
      farmlady
      mcheconi
      TheGateKeeper
      Sean
    17. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
      Thanks!
      ttomtucker
      Thomas
      chrissylovescats
    18. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
      Hi mcheconi ... I missed replying to your comment about the Shorpy website ... it is a wonderful resource and glad you commented about it.

      Hi BB2 ... you asked a good question about the possibility of mercury poisoning from the dag process. I don't have an answer but assume a number of photographers were sickened by mercury. FWIW, numerous photographic processes often used highly toxic chemistry. For example, when using selenium to tone B&W prints, I always wore surgical gloves to prevent skin contact.
    19. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 1 year ago
      A much safer way: Get somebody else to do it. Maybe that troublesome wife or kid that got into drugs & now stealing from you. This could have been the alternative answer to "drive-bys" before cars. LOL ! What would you guys do without my liberal ideas ?
    20. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
      Thanks!
      crswerner
      vintagegirl66
      PoliticalPinbacks
    21. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
      Thanks, rockbat!
    22. ho2cultcha ho2cultcha, 1 year ago
      the original dashing gentleman!
    23. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
      Thanks!
      TheGateKeeper
      rustyboltz
      MacDaddyRico
      Beachbum58
    24. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
      Thanks!
      vintagelamp
      ho2cultcha
      kyratango
      AntigueToys
    25. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
      Thanks, Sean!
    26. rniederman rniederman, 9 months ago
      Thanks, betweenthelens!

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