go to HOME


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

On this day (October 1) in the year 1856, the following review was written for the Cincinnati newspaper "Daily Despatch." The article was reprinted in a promotional booklet by Jeremiah Gurney, "Etchings on Photography" (New York: John P. Pratt, Printer, 1856) pp. 12-14. - - - - - - - - A VISIT TO GURNEY'S PALACE OF ART To the Editor of the Daily Despatch: We were rambling down Broadway of a sunny morning, some two weeks since (for we profess to have a great admiration for pedestrianism in the main street of our great metropolis--we love to look in at the show- windows and examine all the wondrous curiosities of trade and commerce.) We have many weak points, reader, and our principal one is a loving of prying into everything. We love to examine rich laces, beautiful flowers, fine things, in general, but pictures, statuary and such things, have a peculiar charm for us. We had just been in Williams' & Stevens' (a fine loitering place that,) examining some of their oil paintings; there were some of Herring's, Hart's, Cropsey's, Huntingdon's pictures there, and it was indeed a feast of reason and a delight to the eye. We, however, remembered our promise to little Kitty, that we should bring home father's picture, and therefore we paused to consider what establishment we should patronize. So many conflicting advertisements of so many different establishments had met our eye in reading the newspapers, that we were unable to determine which one to enter; so we sauntered down the street; but hardly had we advanced a hundred steps when we were attracted by some excellent colored Photographs hanging in the vestibule of a building. Looking, however, at the sign, we observed it was the establishment of J. Gurney. Now were remembered this gentleman of many years since, when he took Daguerreotypes a great many blocks down town. They didn't take such pictures then as they do now. In ascending the stairs we perceived that the walls and stairs had all been newly decorated. We were shown into the reception room, or, as we should call it, picture gallery, for never have we seen one which was more entitled to the name: for here were portraits from the simple Daguerreotype to the full length picture. The reception room is luxuriously furnished, and besides the regular adornments, there is a fine piano which the visitor can use while waiting for a sitting. One of the finest oil paintings we have ever seen, is that of Miss Bridges; it covers the whole of the space above the mantel-piece. The sumptuous dress, the delicious and flesh-like coloring, combined with the perfect likeness, would certainly warrant us in stating it to be the finest portrait in the country. This is a Photograph taken on canvass, and afterwards colored by one of Mr. Gurney's Paris artists. There are no less than sixty elegant oil painted Photographs adorning this reception room, besides others in pastel, water and plain photographs, which are miracles for accuracy. We have no hesitation in asserting, that there never has been anything like them in this country. The clearness, boldness and life-like appearance which they present, surpass all previous photographic attempts. There is also in this and the adjoining rooms Daguerreotypes of the most eminent men and women in the various professions. Here may be seen the majestic head of Webster, the logical face of Calhoun, beside that of beautiful women. No stranger who desires to enjoy the various attractions which New York affords should fail, whether they desire a picture or not, to visit this gallery, which is free to the public. On the centre-table we were shown a large shade, under which were placed the various prizes Mr. Gurney had obtained from different institutions. Here was saw the magnificent silver pitcher awarded to him by the committee appointed to present the Anthony prize for the best daguerreotype. There were also various gold and silver medals awarded by the Crystal Palace judges, the American Institute, the massive Napoleon medal, which he obtained at the Paris Exhibition, and which was the only one awarded. On the same floor we were shown the ladies' boudoir, and elegantly furnished room for ladies. Beyond this is one of the artist's rooms. He was engaged in finishing a remarkably accurate portrait of the proprietor. Mr. Gurney's son was kind enough to take us through the various operating rooms, and we must confess our surprise at their number and accommodation, the numerous artists employed, and also the regularity in which everything seemed to be carried out. Many of his artists have been celebrated in Europe, and remain with him under heavy salaries. It would seem incredulous the amount expended in the support of this establishment. There are oil painters, pastelle painters, water colorers, photographists, daguerreotypists, sitters, chemical plate preparers, buffers, plate cleaners, &c., forming a complete corps, and working in harmony together. We sat for our picture, and an impression was taken almost instantaneously, to our satisfaction and that of our friends. From all we have seen elsewhere, and from an examination of the establishment, we have no hesitation in pronouncing it superior to any in this country. The conveniences are greater; there is also the ability, combined with years of experience, that cannot be purchased. Mr. J. Gurney informed us that he had not removed any branch of his establishment to any part of the city, nor had he any intention of so doing. J. T. VAN BUREN. Cincinnati, Oct. 1, 1856. -------------------------------------------------------------- 10-01-99

Return to: DagNews