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

On this day (June 17) the following items appeared in their respective publications: - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ...in the 1848 "Daily Republican" (Springfield, Mass., Vol. 5, No. 143): An Irish laborer, named Cowley, drank a swallow from a pitcher containing a solution of chloride of silver and cyanide of potassium, in a Daguerreotype room at Lowell, on Wednesday night' supposing it to be water. The poison threw him into convulsions, and threatened almost instant death; he was barely living at last accounts. * * * * * * * * * * * * * ...in the 1851 "Daily Evening Transcript" (Boston, Mass.): THE HILLOTYPE. "We have been favored," says the National Intelligencer, "with the following extract of a letter from Professor Morse to a friend in this city. It cannot fail to interest our readers. The improvement by Baird, exhibited at the World's Fair, is spoken of as a great advance upon the silvered plate, as it cannot but be. It is making a surface of porcelain susceptible to the sun's rays. And now, in the very depth of our forests, has a discovery been perfected which leaves nothing to be desired by Daguerreotypists. France, England, and America have thus each contributed to the perfection of the Photogenic Art:" "You perhaps have seen it announced that a Mr Hill of this state, (New York) formerly a Baptist clergyman, was under the necessity, from ill health, of abandoning the ministry, and for a support practiced the Daguerreotype art, and has made the discovery of photographic in colors, or Chromotography. The result is named (not by him) the Hillotype. The magnificence of this discovery is as remarkable as the original discovery of photography by Daguerre. Many affect to doubt the fact of this discovery by Mr Hill, but I have very reason to believe it strictly true. A week or two since I received a most interesting letter from him, in consequence of his learning that I had expressed a hope that he would not think of attempting to secure his property in his discovery by a patent. I determined to visit him and save him, if possible, from the evils I had experienced. So last week I went up to Kingston, and, hiring a gig, I set forth in a northwesterly direction in search of Westkill, in Greene county, some thirty-six miles to the interior, and after seven hours' drive through a wild region of the Western Catskill Mountains, passing into the very outskirts of civilization, through a deep gorge of mountain precipices that rose on each side of the road more than a thousand feet at an angle of forty-five degrees, I at length found the little village of some three hundred inhabitants of which I was in search, embosomed in the deep valley of the Westkill creek. I had no difficulty in finding Mr Hill. He is unquestionably a man of genius, intelligence, and piety, retiring and sensitive; and his simple description of the effect upon him when the result of his discovery stood revealed before him, was true to nature, and among other things, demonstrated to me that his discovery was a fact. I have not time to give you the details of the conversation; but I succeeded in dissuading him from thinking of a patent as a security, and in this I am rejoiced. He shall not be plagued with law suits, have his life shortened and made miserable, and his just right in the property of his discovery snatched from him, if I can prevent it. His discovery, fortunately for him, is one that can be kept secret, and his case furnishes a capital example of the reality and nature of property in invention or discovery. It can be seen at a glance in this stage of the matter that Mr Hill has that property now absolutely in his own possession, and no one has a right to demand it of him, nor to request it without paying him such a price as he may affix to his property. I have a plan which pleased him, and which, I think, will secure the object aimed at, to wit, ample remuneration to him, and in such a shape as to leave him the use of his powers the remainder of his life (unlike my own case) for further research and scientific pursuits, without fear of fraud, of attacks on his character, and endless litigation. More of this another time. I must now stop, simply remarking on the strangeness of the circumstances of this discovery: the latter surrounded by every facility for experiment in the metropolis of refinement and science, the former surrounded by no facilities whatever for experiment, excepting such as were transported by him at great trouble and comparative expense, with limited pecuniary means, into the primeval forest, with scarcely an individual to consult with except his wife, and literally surrounded with wild beasts--the deer, the bears, the wolves, the wild- cats, and the panthers, too, still inhabiting the wild mountain forests that enclose the village. But four weeks ago (April 18) Mr Hill, while walking in his room at one o'clock in the morning, during a severe fit of coughing, upon casting his eye out of the window, saw trotting down the road before his house what he at first supposed to be a black cow, but which proved to be an enormous bear." ----------------------------------------------------------------- 06-17-96

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