go to HOME


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

On this day (March 3) in the year 1840, the following notice appeared in "The Evening Star" (New York) Vol. 7, No. 135 (3 March 1840) not paginated, but the notice appears on the second page: - - - - - - - For the Evening Star: THE DAGUERREOTYPE. Mr. Editor,--If the exposure, which, in self-defence, Mr. Francois Gouraud compels me to make by his gratuitous and unprovoked attack upon me in your journal, should result in unpleasant consequences to him, he can only lay the blame upon his own rashness and folly. I take no delight in being the instrument of his exposure. It seems that the offence given to Mr. Gouraud is the praise spontaneously bestowed by several editors of our public journals upon a Daguerreotype view of the City Hall, made by me. This view, shown to them without any knowledge, and for objects wholly unconnected with any interest of mine, pecuniary, or otherwise, was the result of a process differing in some points from that published by M. Daguerre, the fruits of several weeks of experiments previous to Mr. Gouraud's arrival in this country. The apparatus, also, constructed for the most part after the designs of M. Daguerre, I had varied in several particulars. By the process and apparatus in question, I had taken several views in the month of October last and the first weeks in November. Mr. Gouraud arrived in this country in the British Queen, the 23d of November. With these facts before them, the public can judge how much instruction I could have received from Mr. Gouraud three weeks before his arrival! Mr. Gouraud brought with him a splendid collection of Daguerreotype pictures. They, of course, attracted my attention. Mr. Gouraud, moreover, professed to be the intimate friend of M. Daguerre, with whom he said he was in correspondence. As M. Daguerre had rendered me personal kindness when in Paris, showing me his own collection of the results of his then unpublished discovery, I unsuspectingly took Mr. Gouraud at his simple word, and determined to further his plans all in my power. These he stated to be to exhibit his collection, for two or three weeks at farthest, to give a public practical explanation of the process, and then to depart by the 1st of January for Havana. I procured him fine rooms for his exhibition rent free, during his stay, and when the locality of the rooms were made an objection to his accepting them, I spent most of my time in otherwise assisting him. Mr. G. was full of professions of gratitude and of promises, that the many secrets in his possession, for which he had paid large sums, should be fully imparted to me. I was not deceived by these promises into a belief that M. Daguerre had kept from the public any matter of great importance; but supposed there still might be some modifications in the manipulation which would facilitate the process. After two months' waiting the fulfilment of Mr. G.'s promises, constantly procrastinated for various frivolous reasons, he at length performed the process in my presence at three different times, each time with a result inferior to those previously obtained by myself without his aid, and altogether occupying a space of time of about four hours. This is the amount of his alleged two months instruction. I have it from the best authority that he boasts (since I have found it necessary to cease all intercourse with him,) that he was prudent in not having revealed to me the most important secrets in his possession, and yet he asserts in his note that "he endeavored to give me all the instruction in his power." I ceased intercourse with him for various reasons. I had had evidence which satisfied me, that his pretence to be the possession of any secrets in the process was intended only to mislead and bewilder for reasons best known to himself. I was the unwilling witness of little deceptions practised upon others in my presence, which, at length, led me to distrust every thing he had told me. I have charged him with intention to mislead me. I produce one instance to support this charge. A few days after his arrival I called on him, with another gentleman. He was examining a box containing his chemical compounds, much broken. With great apparent liberality he professed to impart to us what he called a secret concerning the iodine used in the Daguerreotype process. Holding up a bottle of iodine, he told us that this iodine was prepared in Paris only, specially for the Daguerreotype; that it was, as we saw, of a golden color; that this was the true color of the pure iodine; that it was called the iode d'oree' and that no good proofs in the Daguerreotype could be taken without it. When told that the pure iodine was of a steel color, he replied, "No: it was lately discovered in Paris that the purest was of a golden yellow." Upon consulting soon after a distinguished chemist on this point, he informed me that it could not be true; that if iodine was of a golden color, it was adulterated probably with sulphur, or iron, or both. As this was an essential point in the Daguerreotype process, I noted it in my tablets. Some weeks after, I watched M. Gouraud's first attempt to iodize a plate, and when he took out the iodine cup to adjust it, I observed that he iodine was of the usual steel color, precisely like that I had been using before his arrival. I reminded him of his remarks concerning the iode d'orre: he had forgotten them, but coolly remarked that "it was of no consequence--the steel-colored iodine would do." A few weeks ago he sent this identical bottle of gold colored iodine to the same chemist to be analyzed as he wished to know what impurities it contained: it was unfit for the process. These facts rest not on my assertion alone, and the public may judge from them what sort of enlightenment they are likely to receive from M. Gouraud. Long before M. Gouraud's arrival M. Daguerre's brilliant discovery had been spread in all its details through this whole land. It was hailed with admiration by all. Scientific men have every where repeated the process, and many with complete success; and the consequence has been a meed of admiration for M. Daguerre that seldom falls to the lot of a living discoverer. Now is it probable that M. Daguerre could have sent over a friend of his, a pupil, to give an air of charlatanry to his discovery; to change this flow of admiration for his generosity, and that of his country, for their splendid gift to the world, into disgust, by seeing him entering into partnership with such an agent of his apparatus? Has M. Daguerre pretended to give a discovery to the world, and bound himself to reveal it, in all its minutest particulars, and then kept back secrets to be hawked about this country for a dollar per head? There needs no answer to these questions. When we have the evidence that Mr. Daguerre has authorized his name to be thus used in connection with that of Francois Gouraud, then may these reflections be made. In the meantime let not the names of Daguerre, or of France, be sullied by associating them with such unworthy arts. I remain, gentlemen, Your ob't serv't, SAM'L. F. B. MORSE. New York, Feb. 28th, 1840. -------------------------------------------------------------- 03-03-00

Return to: DagNews