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

In the year 1854, on this day (April 1) the following appeared in "Gleason's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion": ******************************************** (edited for posting) We present...a picture of Ball's great Daguerreian Gallery of the West. This establishment is located in Cincinnati, on Fourth Street, between Main and Walnut, in Weed's large building. It occupies four rooms and one ante-chamber, on the third, fourth and fifth stories. Two of these are operating rooms each twenty-five by thirty, and fitted up in the best manner. One of these was prepared expressly for children and babies. This is quite an accommodation for those parents who wish to have the sweet faces of their little ones preserved, not only as mementos of the past, but also to compare with the sterner features which ripened age shall give them. And then when it is snatched away from us, what father, what mother, does not wish to preserve the images of their little cherubs? The third room is the workshop where the plates are prepared and likenesses perfected. Possessed of the best materials and the finest instruments, Mr. Ball takes them with an accuracy and a softness of expression unsurpassed by any establishment in the Union. The fourth room is the great gallery; it is twenty feet wide by forty long. The walls are tastefully enameled by flesh-colored paper, bordered with gold leaf and flowers. The panels on the south side and west end are ornamented with ideal figures. The north wall is ornamented with one hundred eighty-seven of Mr. Ball's finest pictures. Babies and children, young men and maidens, mothers and sires look you in the face. Jenny Lind, with other distinguished personages, and five or six splendid views of Niagara Falls are among the collection. There are also six of Duncanson's finest landscapes hanging upon these walls as ornaments. Every piece of furniture in this gallery is a master-piece of mechanical and artistic skill. The very seat on which you sit and the carpet on which you tread seem to be a gem culled from the fragrant lap of Flora; all of these, reflected by two bright mirrors in the east end, present you a scene replete with elegance and beauty--to cap the climax, there is a noble piano by whose sweet notes you are regaled, while the skillful operator is painting your face with sunbeams on the sensitive yet tenacious mirror. As for the enterprising proprietor, he is the very essence of politeness --nor are his brothers less tinctured with this sweet spirit of human excellence and a disposition to please every one who patronizes them. No wonder then that there is daily such a rush for this gallery! No wonder that its throng of fashion and beauty is so dense! Mr. Ball commenced his career as a daguerreotypist in the year 1845. At that time the art was in a very low state indeed in Cincinnati. There were but few engaged in the profession, without means, enterprise or instruments, and customers were "like angels' visits, few and far between." The obscurity in which this divine art lingered gradually cleared away as talent and go-ahead-ativeness shone forth in the profession; and to Mr. Ball we are indebted for placing in its present proud position in Cincinnati. His early struggles were many and great-- but his love for art and firmness of character overcame every obstacle to his advancement. Competition it is said is "the life of trade," and as Mr. Ball, with all his early disadvantages, struggled on and succeeded, it aroused a spirit in the community, and has brought within so short a time the Daguerrean art to so much perfection. We said Mr. Ball's prosperity was a type of that of Cincinnati. Who can remember the single room of the artist in 1845, and glance at his magnificent suite now, but sees as it were a picture of the gradual advancement of Cincinnati from creaking shingles to Dayton stone-built fronts. Mr. Ball's Daguerrian Gallery is situated in the very heart of the city. where the busy din of commerce and the rolling of carriages are heard from morning till night; and the streams of visitors that are continually pouring into his spacious saloons, show how wide spread is his reputation, and how successfully he has worked himself into popular favor. Mr. Ball employs nine men in superintending and executing the work of the establishment. Each man has his own separate department, and each is perfect in his peculiar branch. We are so well aware of the indomitable industry displayed by the proprietor, that it is no conjecture of ours but our fixed opinion, that it will not be very long before Mr. Ball will be obliged, from the great increase of his business, to have rooms twice as large as he now occupies. His fame has spread, not only over his own but through nearly every State of the Union; and there is scarcely a distinguished stranger that comes to Cincinnati but, if his time permits, seeks the pleasure of Mr. Ball's artistic acquaintance. ----------------------------------------------------------------- 04-01-95

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