go to HOME


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

On this day (February 27) in the year 1840, the following notice appeared in "The Evening Star" (New York) Vol. 7, No. 131 (27 February 1840) not paginated, but the notice appears on the second page: - - - - - - - To the Editor of the Evening Star: When I wrote you my little note of last Friday, my dear sir, nothing was further from my intentions than an attack upon the feelings of Professor Morse, or the excitement of his displeasure. I thought only of asserting a fact which had been denied with a composure somewhat remarkable, and which seemed to be regarded as of very high importance- -a fact, moreover, within the positive knowledge of very many persons in this city. But I have surely been dreaming--yes, it must have been only in a dream, a long, long dream, that I saw Professor Morse continually beside me, ever since my arrival in this city, practising under my instructions the process of the Daguerreotype, with my own apparatus, my prepared plates, and all my materials. It must have been in a dream that I stood with him for hours together at my window in Chambers street, taking views of the City Hall, before the eyes of many visitors to my exhibition, whose shadows were flitting around us like the ghosts in the Elysium of Homer. It must have been in a dream that I fancied myself, not long ago, at the residence of Professor Morse, giving him, in the presence and company of Dr Chilton, a series of private and practical instructions, the result of which struck my dreaming fancy as tolerably successful. And finally, I must have been dreaming so late as the day before yesterday, when it appeared to me that 40 or 50 individuals came to offer me their written attestation, if I wished it, that they had very often seen Professor Morse practising with the Daguerreotype at my rooms, and under my direction. Yes, I have been dreaming all these things, and I am nothing but a dreamer. But why should so much ill-temper be exhibited against one guilty only of a dream? When Professor Morse alleges that he has not derived from me "a single hint in any part of the process," the assertion may be allowed to pass; but it is not handsome of him to affirm that all the specimens in my collection were made by "several amateurs of Paris," after my repeated assurances to him, and to my other friends, that excepting three or four by M. Colignon, the son-in- law of M. Daguerre, and the two by the great master himself, all the pieces in my collection were the fruits of my own efforts. Yet I will not say that Professor Morse was dreaming when he paid this compliment of gratitude.--When he says, however, that among his instructors was "primarily" Mr. Daguerre's honest account of his own process," etc. etc.; this must appear to many rather dream-like. But to return to the formal denial of Professor Morse--that he has not derived from me "a single hint in any part of the process." Now, if I were disposed to enter upon a discussion of this point with the respectable professor, I might say to him "Give to the public the means of comparing what you had effected before my arrival--what you yourself called 'mere dreams of the Daguerreotype'--and what you are capable of producing now;" and on this comparison let judgment be pronounced; but as my time is so valuable, I rather keep silent. "I have studied and practised much by myself," says Professor Morse. Undoubtedly, this is true: but still it ran in my dream that the study and practice were under my direction. This makes all the difference; and they who take an interest in the question, if there are any such, will believe either the professor or myself; that is all. But I leave New York this evening, and for this reason I shall say no more about it. As for the services rendered me by Professor Morse as the friend of M. Daguerre, my friends and myself know in what light to regard those services; and the first line of electric telegraph established between New York and Paris shall convey the benefit to them to Messrs. Giroux & Co, the partners of M. Daguerre, of whom I shall not the less continue to be the public and accredited agent for all that concerns the Daguerreotype, on this side of the Atlantic, whatever may be insinuated touching the matter by Professor Morse. In the meantime, I beg leave to offer this public acknowledgement of thanks to him, for his inestimable and most friendly services. A few words more. When Professor Morse affirms that in two months of instruction he has not received from me a single hint of the process, I do not say that his assertion is not true; and if he had more carefully read my little note of congratulation, the result of a dream so unpardonable, he would have perceived that I only claimed the merit of having for two months endeavored to give him all the knowledge in my power--not that I had been successful. But after all, why make such a parade about procuring, unassisted, a good drawing with the Daguerreotype? Is it because we may soon expect to see children producing them at the corners of the streets; and that without two months or four months of preparatory labor? Such a result may well be hoped for, at least; and that it is possible is proved by the fact which I am going to relate. During my last lecture, I invited any person present to stand beside me, and go through the whole process under my direction, in order to show more emphatically its reality as well as its extreme simplicity. Mr. L------, a respectable gentleman of this city, (34 Duane street,) was kind enough to step forward, amid the applauses of the audience, to assist me in this novel method of giving an experimental lesson. He had never even seen a Daguerreotype apparatus before; and yet he produced, from my directions, alone, before the whole assembly, a beautiful view of the City Hall, to the surprise and delight of every one who saw it. But Mr. L------ is doubtless an awkward workman, wheras Professor Morse has been able, by his own skill, to overcome a host of difficulties, &c. But as I leave New York this evening, permit me, Mr. Editor, to give you, with the assurance of my high respect, that of never again troubling you with any communication of this nature. It may be that the same kind of recompense will be awarded me by others for efforts I have made to please. Again, I may receive the lion's kick in my absence, or perhaps after my return--but, henceforth my resolution is taken; as a Christian I shall meet ingratitude only with regret for my inability to render greater service--and the injurious things that may be said or written of me, only with silence. I have the honor to be, &c., lt* FRANCOIS GOURAUD, pupil of Daguerre. -------------------------------------------------------------- 02-27-00

Return to: DagNews