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

On this day (February 14) in the year 1852, the following item appeared in the "Boston Daily Evening Transcript: - - - - - - - - - - - - - - A daguerreotypist in Charleston Mr Carvalho, has discovered a mode of covering the daguerreotypes with a transparent enamel surface, whereby he dispenses with the glass cover to protect the picture. Rubbing the plate, instead of injuring, improves the picture. Such pictures may be sent any distance without injury. (More about Carvalho's "enameled" daguerreotypes can be found in the DagNews archive on the Society's web site in the file: http://www.daguerre.org/resource/dagnews/04-02-95.php ) * * * * * * * and in the February 1906 issue of "Photo-Era" (Vol 16): STRAY LEAVES FROM THE DIARY OF THE OLDEST PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER IN THE WORLD Four years ago, on Aug. 7, 1902, there died at Crawford, N.H., whither he had gone for rest, Josiah Johnson Hawes of Boston, the oldest living professional photographer in the world. He was ninety- four years old, and did his own posing, developing, and printing until the last. He had been associated with the process of Daguerre from the time of its introduction into America in 1840. He built the first photographic studio with a skylight ever erected in this country. He sat at the cradle of photography and helped to rock it into life. He saw photography developed from modest beginnings into a popular science, then into a world-embracing industry, and finally its recognition as a fine art. He was part of this wonderful growth and development for sixty years -- an experience that seldom falls to the lot of man. We have recently been favored with some Mss. copy from an autobiography which we reproduce here through the courtesy of Dr. E. S. Hawes of the Brooklyn, N. Y., Polytechnic School. "I was born February twentieth, 1808, in the town of East Sudbury, Mass. (now called Wayland). Seventeen years of my early life were spent on a farm. I was then apprenticed to a carpenter, and learned the carpenter's business, until I was twenty-one, and spent two years as a journeyman carpenter. "Happening one day to come across an ordinary oil painting which I was admiring, a friend of mine asked me to close one eye and look at the picture through my hand with the other eye. The surprising change which took place, from its being an ordinary flat canvas to a realistic copy of nature with all its aerial perspective and beauty, so affected me, that from that time I was ambitious to become an artist. I purchased books, colors, and brushes, and commenced the study of art. "I practiced miniature painting on ivory, likewise portraits in oil, landscapes, etc., with no teacher but my books. "About this time -- 1840 -- the excitement of the discovery of the daguerreotype took place; and some specimens of it which I saw in Boston changed my course entirely. I gave up painting and commenced daguerreotyping in 1841. "My partner, the late Mr. Albert S. Southworth, and myself built a studio and carried on the business in Boston for the next twenty years. We had the reputation of making as fine daguerreotypes as were made by anybody. Some of them were very large ones -- 20 x 24 -- probably the largest ever made on silver plates. "From 1841 to 1854 we made daguerreotypes only. After that the daguerreotype was given up for the photograph. "As I was one of the first in the business, I had the whole field before me. In the early period of the art, all daguerreotypes of buildings taken from the ground were smaller at the top than at the bottom, the lines sloping inwards. In order to corrh anything, if not so good a likeness. The Artist was reluctant to comply, but he bethought himself of some old specimens in his plate-box, that might answer for a likeness and he requested the young man to be seated, in front of the camera, when he drew the focus and required him to remain still until he returned which would be at least five or ten minutes. He repaired to his plate box, and found a picture that bore the only resemblance to the young man, in the fact that it was taken for another young man in the city of New York. The likeness was sealed up and put into a case-- and then carefully laid in the Camera-box--when five minutes had expired the artist, withdrew the picture from the box, and immediately opened it to the astonished gaze of the sitter. There were several of the artists friends and acquaintances in the room during the occurrrence, all anxiously watching the scene, and of course highly amused at the wonder expressed by the subject of the levity. He was quite surprised to learn that he made so good a likeness, and still more so that the artist had given him such a fine suit of clothes; remarking that the coat had more buttons than his, and in fact was a very much better picture than he thought he would make. The artist very complacently informed him that he knew it would please him the more to show his likeness in an improved dress and he accordingly added a few more buttons, and withal put on an entire new suite throughout as he sadly needed one. The youth was much obliged to him, he took the picture and paid his dollar and left for the west. It may be questioned here whether the conduct of the Artist, on this occasion was strictly correct. But many pictures are delivered daily that do not bear so strong a likeness to the one intended, as this one in question, being executed by those who have no skill or knowledge of any of the rules of Art. An instance of forgetfulness was mentioned as occurring many years ago, when it required five or ten minutes sitting. A sitter was requested to await the return of the artist who thoughtlessly went to his dinner, and actually forgot that he had a sitter in his chair. When at least half an hour had expired the sitter's patience became exhausted, he left the seat, and sought in vain, for the Artist and it was several minutes before he returned when he humbly demanded pardon, for his forgetfulness, and proceeded to take another, which he presented him gratis; for his long forbearance and forgiving disposition. -------------------------------------------------------------- 06-27-98

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