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

On this day (January 24) in the year 1852, the following short story appeared in the "Daily Republican" (Springfield, Mass; Vol. 9, No. 21.): ------------------------------------------------------------ "WHERE WERE YOU LAST NIGHT AT TWELVE." A JUDICIAL SKETCH. The was a judicial functionary residing in Boston some years since, whose legal acumen and profundity only equalled his general character otherwise, and who was a man "not to be sneezed at"--at least when he was seated upon the bench of the Police Court, where he presided two or three days in each week. When seen in the act of delivering an opinion, the learned judge was "a picture to behold," and when he finally got it off, his was an opinion as was an opinion, and nothing else. But the judge was very like other people in one respect--he would eat! And as he wended his way slowly across Tremont Row, to dinner, one day, his attention was arrested by the display of sundry 'heads of people' in Southworth's daguerreotype show case. The idea suddenly struck him that his own countenance wasn't a bad 'un for a picture--so he found his way up stairs, at once, into the reception room. 'What's the price of that size?' he asked of the polite attendant. 'Five dollars, sir.' 'And this?' 'Three dollars.' 'Couldn't you put me on that for three?' pointing to the largest plate. 'We have but the regular prices, sir.' 'Yes, I know. But you see I'm one of the judges at the court--p'lece court--and these dog'ratype places are getting to be so very numerous in this community.' 'Yes, sir but a good picture'-- 'Ah, I und'stand. But you can take a copy, put in the case below--and every body knows the judges of the p'lece court.' 'Well, sir, as you're a public man, I shall take your picture.' 'Thank'ee--thank'ee said his honor. When shall I come in? 'To-morrow, at eleven, if you please, sir,' replied the attendant, civilly--and the judge departed. Next day, at half past ten o'clock, a hand cart man arrived before the door. He looked up, satisfied himself that all was right, and then shouldering a portion of his load, quickly found his way into the reception room of the artist, where he dumped his goods upon the floor without ceremony, and turned to bring up the balance. 'Hollo, friend,' said the attendant, 'what's all this about?' 'This is Soth'orth's ain't it?' 'Southworth's--Yes.' 'It's all right then. Boss'll be here in a few minits. He's a comin' to have his pictur taken.' 'O, the judge? asked the attendant. 'Yes,' replied the carman, and five minutes afterwards the latter decamped, leaving sundry papers, books, inkstands, etc., etc., which he had brought up agreeably to order. At eleven o'clock, according to appointment, the learned functionary made his appearance, with the luxury of a clean dickey on, and looking as wise as an owl. 'All ready? inquired his honor, good naturedly. 'Yes, sir; be seated,' said the operator, who now made his appearance. 'One moment, Mr. Dogratype,' remarked the judge, and an expression altogether indescribable, (with pen and ink) pervaded the learned gentleman's phiz. 'One moment, sir, if you please. There is much in the character of a pictur; and much depends on what persition the setter takes, in dog'ratypes as well as any other portrait.' The artist was convinced instanter; and if he had entertained the slightest doubt before, all anxiety vanished at once, as the learned judge concluded his sentence. But he was not ready yet. 'Therefore,' continued his honor, it would'nt do to take me in the ordinary way. Persition, Mr. Artist, persition is everything in these matters.' 'You are right, sir.' 'To be sure I am; and I want to be taken, you see, with my law books and things here, in my official persition.' 'Exactly,' said the enthusiastic artist, entering into the spirit of the thing. 'Yes, there--that's it,' continued his honor, raising himself up, and assuming a show of ferocity. 'Now, do you see. I'll fix myself; and when I say 'take me,' it'll be the time. You must imagine a witness standing there, and me addressing him, Mr. Artist. Mind now; and when I put the question to him, look out for the expression. Eh?' 'I understand, sir.' The Judge put on an unearthly scowl; his broad, bald forehead was filled with a dozen wrinkles; his round face was gathered up from its extremities, until it resembled a huge well baked apple; and then it was that the fearful interrogatory burst from his lips, 'Where were you last night at 12?' "Take me now! take me now! shrieked the judge, as the perspiration rolled down the sides of his face; and Southworth did his best. The cap was placed upon the cylinder, and the deed was accomplished. The judge had been taken in his 'official position.' A few minutes after, the operator produced his work. Such a twisted, contorted, bald pated, inexpressible countenance had never been conceived before, in all time! 'What's this, Mister/' exclaimed the judge confounded. 'It's your picture, sir.' 'Completed!' 'Complete, sir,' 'I know it sir, and beg your pardon; but it is a most striking likeness of your official position!' added the artist quietly. 'It looks like the ghost of a dead nigger,' continued his honor, half facetiously and half in chagrin. 'How much is it/' 'Three dollars, sir.,' 'How much to rub it out?' 'Two dollars.' 'Rub it out, sir--rub it out!' exclaimed his honor, indignantly; 'here's the money.' The judge paid the V., the picture was destroyed, one to be taken in the natural way; and ever after that daguerreotype was finished, his countenance wore a pleasant expression, even when he was most deeply engaged in the perplexing duties of his "official position." (Transcriber's note: I have transcribed the original text "as-is" including the racial slur. My intent is certainly not to offend. My thanks to Mr. Chris Steele of the Massachusetts Historical Society for providing a copy of the original text. This text was also reprinted in the 1995 Daguerreian Annual.) ----------------------------------------------------------------- 01-24-96

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