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

I'll be away tomorrow and therefore sending this a day early. . .the description of the cold and ice seems appropriate for those of us in the Northern regions. On this day (January 31) in the year 1854 an attempt to make daguerreotypes was unsuccessful. The circumstances are described in Elisha Kent Kane, "Arctic explorations: The Second Grinnell Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin, 1853, '54, '55." (Two volumes) (Philadelphia: Childs & Peterson, 1857) - - - - - - - - Volume 1 CHAPTER 14 MAGNETIC OBSERVATORY--TEMPERATURES--RETURNING LIGHT--DARKNESS AND THE DOGS--HYDROPHOBIA--ICE-CHANGES--THE ICE-FOOT--THE ICE-BELT--THE SUNLIGHT--MARCH page 155: The first traces of returning light were observed at noon on the 21st of January, when the southern horizon had for a short time a distinct orange tint. Thought the sun had perhaps given us a band of illumination before, it was not distinguishable from the cold light of the planets. We had been nearing the sunshine for thirty-two days, and had just reached that degree of mitigated darkness which made the extreme midnight of Sir Edward Parry in latitude 74 [degrees] 47[minutes]. Even as late as the 31st, two very sensitive daguerreotype plates treated with iodine and bromine, failed to indicate any solar influence when exposed to the southern horizon at noon; the camera being used in-doors, to escape the effects of cold. Kane mentions the daguerreotype three times in the second volume: CHAPTER 3 THE FIRE-CLOTHED BAG--THE WRAITH--COOKERY--A RESPITE--THE COMING DAWN-- THE TRUST--PROSPECTS--ARGUMENTS--COLORED SKIES--STOVE FITTING page 46: "2. The coming of the sun will open appliances of moral help to the sick, and give energy to the hygienic resorts which I am arranging at this moment. Our miserable little kennel, where eighteen are crowded into the space of ten, is thoroughly begrimed with lampblack from the inevitable smoke of our fuel. The weather has prevented our drying and airing the sleeping-gear. The floor is damp from the conducted warmth of the sea-water under us, melting the ice that has condensed everywhere below. sunshine and dry weather will cure all this. I have window-sash ready to fix over the roof and southern side of the galley- house; and our useless daguerreotype plates, tacked over wooden screens, make admirable mirrors to transfer the sun-rays into the cabin. I have manufactured a full-draught pipe for our smoky stove. Chloride of sodium must do the rest. CHAPTER 18 THE SICK HUT--TO FIRST RAVINE--MOVING THE SICK--THE HEALTH-STATION-- CONVALESENCE. pages 184-185: I had made up my mind from an early period that, in the event of our attempting to escape upon the ice, the "wind-loved spot," as the Exquimaux poetically name it, would be well adapted to the purposes of an entrepot, and had endeavored within the last few weeks to fit it up also as a resting-place for our sick during the turmoil of removing from the brig. I had its broken outlet closed by a practicable door, and the roof perforated to receive a stove-pipe. Still more recently the stone platform or dais had been thoroughly cleansed, and covered with shavings which Ohlsen had saved while working at his boats. Over these again were laid my best cushions; and two blankets, all that we could spare, were employed to tapestry the walls. A small pane of glass, formerly the facing of a daguerreotype, inserted in the door, and a stove, made by combining the copper dog-vane of the galley with some dazzling tin pipes, completed the furniture. It was a gloomy hospital after all for the poor fellows, who, more than sharing all the anxiety of their comrades, could have no relief in the excitement of active toil. CHAPTER 19 TO THE BRIG AGAIN--WELCOME AT THE HUT--LOG OF THE SLEDGES--EDUCATED FAITH--GOOD-BYE TO THE BRIG--METEK'S PRAYER. PAGES 196-197: But the things was not be thought of. I gave a last look at the desolate galley-stove, the representative of our long winter's fireside, at the still bright coppers now full of frozen water, the theodolite, the chart-box, and poor Wilson's guitar,--one more at the remnant of the old moss walls, the useless daguerreotypes, and the skeletons of dog and deer and bear and musk-ox,--stoppered in the rigging;--and, that done, whipped up my dogs so much after the manner of a sentimentalizing Christian, that our pagan Metek raised a prayer in their behalf. * * * * * In another title, Kane also mentions the daguerreotype. This is from Elisha Kent Kane, "The United States Grinnell expedition in search of Sir John Franklin. A personal narrative" (Philadelphia: Childs & Peterson, 1856) page 64: The fog left us about mid-day, and the atmosphere was so clear in the afternoon, that the land, although thirty miles off, was seen distinctly. The water and the sky, in somewhat anomalous contrast with this extremely pellucid state of air, had a pearly or ash-colored tinting, and the floe ice, of which large quantities were around us, varied like the shadows of a daguerreotype. -------------------------------------------------------------- 01-31-99

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