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

I, as well as Nick and Marilyn Graver (who sent me a reminder last year,) would like to wish all daguerreian friends a "Happy Day" on the anniversary of the disclosure of the process that occurred on this day, August 19, 1839, in Paris. In honor of the day, I will post a short chapter from a book, the chapter being dated for August of 1857. - - - - - - - - - - - From Mary J. Windle, "Life in Washington, and Life Here and There." (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1859) pp. 184-188. XLVIII. GUESTS' DAGUERREOTYPE--FANCY BALL. GREENBRIER, AUGUST, 1857. TWELVE hundred persons are now said to be on the ground and around the "White Sulphur," waiting for admission. Among these may be found gentlemen distinguished by titles so innumerable that to determine their, identity were as difficult as to resolve which is the true Farina and eau-thentic at Cologne. We have men who are enjoying a respite from law, legalists fresh from the perusal of jagged and business-like documents--men whose lives are passed in relieving those who are entangled in meshes of red tape, the most fatal net perhaps that can entangle poor human nature. We have some few editors, who have flung their over-worked pens into the fire, and for a week or two are their own masters, eating their rolls and sipping their Bohea without dyspeptic haste. We have Coelebs in search of well-jointured widows; and clergy-men looking as if they had not a thought beyond the souls intrusted to their care--men with all the graces of Christianity. We have wild, picturesque-looking men--followers of the sea, in the shape of handsome young navy officers, who coolly recount adventures as supernatural as those of Gulliver, speaking like young Nelsons of the savage countries they have visited. We have male flirts--brilliant, but heartless--men who seem to possess no heart of their own, and fancy that the feelings of others, like their own, are merely assumed for show. We have some few parents who live in a ferment of finesse for their children's matrimonial advancement, passing their days in devising schemes of hymenial speculation. We have beautiful children--mamma's darlings--Cupids, minus the wings--whose carol is now audible from our gallery without; little sun-burnt faces, looking like ripe hazel-nuts in a tawny husk--dear, darling little urchins, who lack only tambourines and triangles to resemble the ragged Savoyards of the Washington streets that are occasionally relieved with sixpences. This indiscreet allusion may produce a hurricane of maternal indignation, but were we to recount the personal feats of these little wanderers, the credulous age we live in would laugh us to scorn. We have heiresses--(a word in your ear, dear reader; the writer is, we think, the only portionless lady on the grounds)--with slate quarries, and the mountains where all the famous mutton comes from, for their dowry. We have very wealthy families, moving through life on easy chairs with golden castors--fortunate individuals who have only to open their mouth to yawn, and it is filled with manna and quails! We have others with large fortunes--not fortunes lazily transmitted from sire to son, by hands too inert to do more than clench their hereditary havings--but fortunes worked for with the hands, and worked for with the head. We have brides and grooms, in whose countenances as much conjugal happiness is concentrated as ever brightened the looks of man, from the days when Adam was content to pick posies and to listen to nightingales in company with Eve; and a few "parvenus," profiting by the universal mélée of watering-place life, to steal edgewise into society. And we have here a disciple of Daguerre; indeed, we have just been enduring, what all will admit is a trial of human patience, undergoing the martyrdom of full dress at three o'clock, on a thrilling day, to give a sitting for a friend. Imagine us, dear readers, actually seated in a "daguerreotype gallery," at the White Sulphur; our shoulders enveloped in a white web whose consistency might serve, on an exigency, for a table-cloth, but which calls itself "Chantilly lace;" in our hand a volume of one of Dickens's touching novels; by our side a bouquet of very drooping wood- flowers, and behind our hapless head an invisible iron band. Thus we sit to be examined by the curious eye of art, with the full glare of a beaming sun in our face, and our merciless friend fidgeting up and down, tormenting the artist with advice and ourself with comments, which we dare not derange our features by answering with proper spirit. Thus primly adjusted, they declare we look the very picture of voluptuous indolence. Alas! the ease of our position is wholly extrinsic! Our head appears encircled by one of the compressive engines of the Inquisitions and, had we swallowed a saucer of pickles, our feelings could not have been more acidulated against all mankind. We hope we shall be sympathized with as the case deserves. To add to our troubles, a "fancy ball" is anticipated, and we have been forced to listen to an eager duscussion on the comparative merits of a Vandyke costume--a Rembrantized pelisse--and ærial vesture of clouds--a Medora, a Peri, a Zingari--an Albanian peasant, and a Polish princess, which left us doubly perplexed by the multifarious suggestions of each. (With thanks to Howard R. McManus for making me aware of this text.) -------------------------------------------------------------- 08-19-98

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