go to HOME


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

On this day (August 25) in the year 1855, the following article appeared in "Ballou's Pictorial & Drawing Room Companion" (Vol. IX, No. 8; page 125): - - - - - - - - - - - DAGUERREOTYPES, ETC. We will not venture to say how many daguerreotypists there are in Boston, for we are not in the vein of hunting up statistics, but they are certainly numerous. You can hardly walk two blocks, in the busy part of the city, without coming on a showcase, with its assortment of specimens of heads of the people. If you have seen one of these cases, you have seen all. There is the militia officer, in full regimentals, not colored, but with a little powdered lake on the sash and a little powdered gold on the epaulettes, to make him look the grander. There is the family group, frozen into wax statuary attitudes, and looking very solemn, as if they were assembled for a funeral. There is the fast young man, taken with his hat on and a cigar in his mouth; the belle of the locality, with a vast quantity of plaited hair and plated jewelry, looking supremely killing; and there is the pet baby, a podgy creature, with a hydrocephalic head and dropsical body, and swollen legs incarcerated in barred stockings. There is the intellectual man of the locality, with a tall forehead and piercing eye; and the young poet, a pretty looking fellow, but infinitely conceited. But why enumerate? Each show-case is a little microcosm. It reflects a little world. There is something interesting in the very worst of these daguerreotypes, because there must be something of nature in all of them. Nor are these images the investments of Vanity Fair. It is a vulgar mistake to suppose that every sitter is influenced by personal vanity, and a desire to transmit his features to posterity. In nine cases out of ten, sitters are reluctant, and if the truth were told, a large majority of them sit to gratify the importunity of friends, and obey the call of affection rather than of vanity. These duplicates in the show case are so many love-tokens, all except the fast young man, and who knows but that he was solicited by some ardent admirer, humble follower, or fond ladye-love? Because you and I don't fancy smooth raven-lock dripping with unguents, a beaver worn over one eye, and an immortalized cigar, it does not follow that such may not be the ideal of some dear friend of Caesar's, male or female. It was the remark of a "celebrated Roman consul," that there was no disputing about tastes, and no man is without friends. The footpad that Don Juan shot in the environs of London sent his ensanguined cravat to "Sal." This young gentleman in the daguerreotype case has his Dulcinea--ay, and there is a touch of romance and poetry gilding his life. He thinks of her he loves when he "runs with the machine," or stakes his last dollar on the prowess of the "game chicken," or the Lancashire slasher. The utmost that can be said is that his notions of glory differ from ours. But the crowd is collecting round the show-case, and we give place to other admirers of the fine arts. -------------------------------------------------------------- 08-25-97

Return to: DagNews