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IL, CA, OH, TX, FL, NY, United States
DoneFri, May 27, 2016 6:00 PM GMT

19th Century Daguerreotypes

Daguerreotype photography spread rapidly across the United States but not in the United Kingdom, where Louis Daguerre controlled the practice with a patent. Richard Beard, who bought the British patent from Miles Berry in 1841, closely controlled his investment, selling licenses throughout the country and prosecuting infringers.

In the early 1840s the invention was introduced in a period of months to practitioners in the United States by Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph code. A flourishing market in portraiture sprang up, predominantly the work of itinerant practitioners who travelled from town to town. For the first time in history people could obtain an exact likeness of themselves or their loved ones for a modest cost, making portrait photographs extremely popular with those of modest means. The vast bulk of 19th century portrait photography affected by itinerant practitioners was of inferior artistic quality, yet the work of many portrait painters was of equally dubious artistic merit, and although photographic images were monochrome, they offered a technical likeness of the sitter no portrait painter could achieve.

The daguerreotype was a positive-only process allowing no reproduction of the picture.

The Daguerreian era spanned only twenty-one years 1839 ? 1859, the Ambrotype even less, 1854 ? 1865. In the early days of photography, when portrait painters were suddenly no longer in demand, we see the hand of the artist who switched to the new medium. The real artist understood lighting, how to pose his subjects and get the best possible image. Of course, not all were artists, just men of vision and artistic abilities.

In this section you will see those talented and often unidentified men and women, who were able to conjure up the very best from their materials and subjects.

Back in those early days, everything was learnt on the job. This was the new medium. Who would have guessed that they would become so highly pr