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  The research archive of Gary W. Ewer regarding the history of the daguerreotype

On this day (January 11) a young girl addressed the following letter to her grandmother...in a fictional tale targeted at a juvenile audience. Her grandmother replies February 3, and you'll have to wait until then to hear the reply. (And yes, the year of this letter is also quite fictional!) - - - - - - - - - - From "Grandmother Lee's Portfolio." (no author stated) Illustrated by Hammatt Billings (Boston: Whittemore, Niles, and Hall. 1857) PP. 63-66: CHAPTER XXXIII. AMY. LONGMEADOW, January 11, 1837, DEAR GRANDMOTHER: I'm only going to write you a short letter today, just to put in a package that mamma is to send you by express. But I must tell you a little about it, for probably you will see what are the contents of the box before you read my letter. Last Friday, mamma dressed Mabel and myself with particular care, putting on our best frocks, merely saying papa would take us all into the city. On our way, she told me that your birthday came next week, and she wished to send you a present, and that she could think of nothing that would be more acceptable than pictures of your granddaughters. She said she should have Frank's taken also, the very next time he came home. We went to Mr. Shine, who takes the best daguerreotypes; but I certainly thought we should never reach his rooms: we had to go up stairs after stairs, till mamma almost fainted, she was so tired. When we reached what would be called the attic, but which was beautifully finished off with several large, airy rooms, we were warm enough. Papa said the light was better about taking pictures to be so high up, where you could have a clear sweep of the sky, than to be lower down, and have only what light could come in through small side windows. You'd have laughed to see how we became cool; on one side of the room, there was something that looked like a large windmill, and it was twirled round and round, swift as breeze; and all we had to do was just to take some chairs and sit in them before it, and we were fanned down at a rapid rate, I can tell you. Mamma was afraid Mabel might get weary or sleepy; so she had her sit for her picture first. A man was so kind as to play on the piano, that the music might please her; and papa went off and stood on one side, where he would not be in the way, but in such a position that Mabel could look at him and smile. They had to try three times before mamma was satisfied; and then we all thought the likeness was perfect, and that Mabel looked as cunning and pretty as possible; so mamma had the man take two or three copies, that we might have one at home for us, after sending one to you. Then came my turn; and after a great deal of arranging, the very first attempt proved an excellent one. If you should only think so too, grandmother, we shall be delighted. Papa has put Mabel's and mine into oval velvet cases; and mamma and he hope you will accept them, with their best love. Your birthday; dear grandmother! The whole world ought to greet you, you are such a treasure. May you be free from every ache and pain, and may our heavenly Father, whom you love so dearly, bless you with all his blessings. Dear, dear grandmother, with a heart running over with love, I am your affectionate AMY. (I'm of the opinion that the daguerreotype gallery described in Amy's letter is in actuality a description of the Boston "steam daguerreotype" gallery of John Whipple. --G.E.) -------------------------------------------------------------- 01-11-98

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