go to HOME


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

Today's post is somewhat long, but this account--in the form of a poem- -provides a glimpse into the ordeal of daguerreotyping a large group. With thanks to Mr. Chris Steele of Boston, for locating these two related texts. * * * * * * * On this day (October 28) in the year 1846, the following notice appeared in the "Daily Evening Transcript" (Boston; p. 2): A Daguerreotype, which we consider the most perfect we have ever seen, was shown to us yes- terday. It is the family of the Honorable William Jackson of Newton--father, mother, and four- teen children--done by John A. Whipple of the late firm of Litch & Whipple, 113 Washington street. [Atlas. * * * * * * * This text appears along with an illustration of the subject daguerreotype in "The Daguerreian Annual 1994," pp. 58-60. Poem by Mrs. Marian Jackson in Gilbert Cornelia Jackson, coll., "Poems of the Jackson Homestead" (Boston: W. M. Jackson, 1903), pp. 38-3. The Daguerreotype Now, answering to our parent's call, We muster in the artist's hall. O what a set of laughing faces! What an array of shining graces! See, Whipple hastes with anxious care, All things in order to prepare, That Sol may all our faces fix Just as we look in forty-six; But consternation and surprise And doubt are painted in his eyes! The parents, with their progeny, He has prepared himself to see; But thought the children young, and small And hoped his lens would take them all; But while he hastened to prepare, And placed his frame with jealous care For fourteen romping boys and girls, Alackaday, his reason whirls, To see all ages, small and great, From nine years old to thirty-eight! To group so many side by side On the same plate, he never tried. With glowing cheek, and modest air, He bids the patriarchal pair Be seated by each other's side, Behind the centre table wide; Then, clustering round on either hand, Gather the mirthful, happy band; Arranged with skill, the artist's taste Each in his proper seat has placed. Tim and Louise at chess are playing; Hannah is near, the game surveying, While Mary, Frank, and brother Ed Are standing back of mother's head; Cornelia next--the pet--you see, Then Caroline, and sister Kee; On a small stool, at father's feet, Our Stephen has his quiet seat. Willie! where shall we look for him? Ah! on the sofa, next to Tim. Sarah on father's left, and near Is Marian--now all are here; But say, can Sol his task complete? Widespread the fame of such a feat. Can sixteen, all so full of wit, Keep silence, and not move a bit? 'Twas never yet; but we will see If, for a moment, it could be. Hush! All be quiet now; and will Each thought to silence--check each nervous thrill, And say, to every feeling, now,--be still! 'Tis over!--what relief! Now, breathe,--give vent To all that for a moment has been pent. But hush! for see, the patient artist comes Pointing his finger at two guilty ones! Yes, two have moved; Stephen and Mary there Stand like a blot upon the picture fair. It will not do; so now the artist fain Would have us straightaway fix ourselves again; But while we sober down, that we may be Most justly handed to posterity, Wit, merriment, and smiles, but ill suppressed, Break from the less sedate, infecting all the rest. In vain our sire proclaims his will, Urging fresh efforts to be still, For in his eye and forehead wide Mirthfulness seeks in vain to hide; And from his own sage lips bursts forth E're and anon fresh food for mirth. At last unmoving are we all And silence reigns throughout the hall. Oh what a lengthened, tedious minute! How many thoughts were pent up in it! But now, 'tis past; we wait in fear Till Mr. Whipple's step we hear; Each one, half springing from his seat, Asks if the picture is complete. Not yet--not yet! ah, once more try, I'll tell you where to fix your eye. Full on that hat must Ellen look, And Stephen on the open book; The rest at spots upon the wall, Or where the eye may easy fall. He might have said, no matter where, But shun each other's eyes with care! For I am sure, mirth ill suppressed Filled me, in common with the rest. But once more now our breath we hold 'Till sixty seconds could be told: Once more we brace ourselves, and try Firmly to keep the watery eye; Resolved, this time at least, we will, If it is possible, be still. 'Tis done! and to our glad surprise, The artist now, with glowing eyes, Holds up to our delighted view The pictured group; so strictly true! Each one upon the plate is there Sketched with the most discerning care. There sits our sire; upon his brow The frosts of years are gath'ring now, While lines of deep and anxious care Have made themselves a dwelling there! Oh, while I gaze upon that face, How sadly now does memory trace Upon my thoughts the bygone days, When thoughtless of his love and care, I've helped to put those furrows there! Close on his right hand sits our mother; In all the world there is no other Who willingly would sit and share The tolls and cares that cluster there! E'en as she sits, she seems to say, "Oh! must we mark the Christian way; Must all these children, by our hand, Be guided to that better land?" "Yes, wife, and we will try our best; God and our faith will do the rest!" Ah! he has blessed! go look around; Can such a circle e're be found Where happiness and health abound? True, there is one, upon whose head Her heavenly Father's hand is laid; Who now with deep affliction pressed Returns in the vain search for rest, As when, in childhood's griefs, she hied To her beloved father's side. Mysterious are the doings of His will, But to our murmuring hearts we say, "Be still!" The rest few trials have yet known; Few thorns are on their pathway strewn; Louise and Tim in quiet play. Are passing a spare hour away, While Frank behind them seemed to say, "I wish that I might learn to play." But just one glance at Mary's face And clearly there reproof she'll trace; Her downcast eyes and solemn air Most plainly say, "Beware! beware! Your precious hours are chased away And thoughtless feet led far astray!" Not so severe is Hannah's eye, Who stands so calm and pensive by; Her face would say, "Well, I don't see In playing chess, what harm can be. You need not be so melancholy; I think you overnice, Miss Molly!" Lucretia, Caroline, and Pell, Ed, and Corneille, look very well; Stephen, good boy, with downcast eye Sits reading there so quietly; While "last, not least," is Willie--placed On the same seat by mother graced. But, stop a minute, and look here, I want to whisper in your ear; Look sharp at Willie's foot and see That shoe, ragged as it can be, To show to his posterity! Well, I suppose that they'll conclude, With fourteen children--such a brood-- They could not surely always choose But take their turns with ragged shoes. Here, then, we are, and here we must remain. Fashions will go their rounds, and come again; Changes will fall on everything beside, But we, and we alone, unchanged abide! And now one word to all our future store Of children's children, doubtless many a score; Look gently on, if nature has denied The faults of figure and of face to hide; We do not share the sin--the mind and heart to free from errors--this must be our part. -------------------------------------------------------------- 10-28-97

Return to: DagNews