View of the Moon, by Whipple, 26 February 1852

Unique, unduplicatable, laterally reversed monochrome picture on a metal plate. Silver coated copper plate sensitized in iodine vapor and developed with mercury vapor.

A reverse wet collodion process using a thin metal plate that has been previously coated with silver, invented by Louis Jacques Daguerre in 1837.

Result of years of experimentation when Niepcé produced an image on a treated metal plate.

Expeditions to the Yucatan peninsula in 1839 and 1841 were based on use of a camera lucida and daguerreotypes.

Camera provided more accurate translation from drawing to mechanically reproduced print for engravers/lithographers.

Captured public favor before the Civil War and played a major role in Cultural Development (USA).

It demonstrated the transition from Agrarian to Technological Society, and American Nationalism became impulse.

“Made in America.” Refinement became universally known as “the American process.”

Project to identify the first “Miss America” by photographic competition. John Adams Whipple photographed the moon and sent it to London on a silver plate.

Important to scientists and intellectuals. Scientific understanding of material reality was key to economic and social progress.

Landscape photography evolved as a commercial enterprise with capture of well-known natural formations for travelers.

Photo Studio

An early daguerreotype studio, as depicted in a woodcut by George Cruikshank in 1842

A daguerreotype studio was often situated at the very top of a building, which had a glass roof to let in as much light as possible.

The subject sat on a posing chair placed on a raised platform, which could be rotated to face the light. The sitter's head is held still by a clamp.

The Process

  1. Polishing and Buffing the Photographic Plate
    • Plate of silver-coated copper is cleaned and highly polished with a soft cloth, using pumice powder and oil.
    • The plate is continually polished and buffed until the silvered surface has a mirror-like brilliance.
  2. Sensitizing the Photographic Plate
    • Made light sensitive by exposing plates to iodine and bromine fumes.
  3. Loading the Camera
    • The sensitized plate is inserted into a light-proof holder with a protective slide and placed inside the camera.
  4. Capturing the Image
    • The subject is placed in front of the camera. If necessary, the pose is held with the assistance of adjustable head rests, clamps and posing stands.
  5. daguerreotype-exposure-process-vaporised-mercuryDeveloping the Latent Image
    • The image is "brought out" by suspending the photographic plate over a dish of mercury inside a fuming box. The mercury is heated by a spirit lamp and the fumes from the mercury combine with the silver salts to produce a clear image on the plate.
  6. Fixing the Image
    • The photographic image is made permanent by bathing the photographic plate in hyposulphate of soda (or sodium thiosulphite).


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