Friday, February 25, 2011

Guess What I Found in my Grandma's Photos?

This is a daguerreotype that I found in my Grandma’s photos. I've seen examples of them in books, but never in real life. And now I own one!

Daguerreotypes (1839-1854) were the very first photographic images ever created! What makes a photograph valuable to me is the person in the photo, not the type of photo. In this case, I don't know who this young boy is. But when I do find out who he is, (because I will find out!) that fact will make this photo priceless to me.

I feel sure he was from the Anderson or the Lyons family, since this  photo was with all of the other items I "inherited" from my Grandma.

I looked for some type of identifying mark but did not find anything. According to Maureen A Taylor, in her book "Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs" (pg.33), some of these early photographers would "sign" their work by (1) scratching their name into the metal plate, or (2) putting their name on the brass plate or the velvet interior of the case. Since I don't have the other side of the case, I am unable to check for that identifying mark.

I believe this photo is in pretty good condition, to my untrained eyes. According to Mrs. Taylor, daguerreotypes are often confused with tintypes and ambrotypes. I looked up Chapter 3 in her book, while holding my breath, to be sure I had a true daguerreotype. These are the distinguishing factors that made me realize I really did have a true daguerreotype: (1) The appearance of a halo around the image, and (2) the photo must be held at an angle to be seen. Even as you scroll down this blog, you'll notice that the photo becomes too dark to be seen. Notice the hook on the side, that would have clasped the case shut. The other side, or what was the outside of the case, is just beautiful! To me, it looks like a Christian theme with a symbol of the cross in the center, but I'm not sure. The designs on the case changed quickly as the years went by, according to Mrs.Taylor. One thing I am sure of is that they don't make photos like this anymore! Now I just have to find out who this young man is!

*Note 1: These facts about daguerreotypes can be found in Maureen A. Taylor’s “FamilyTree” Book Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs, 2nd ed., Chapter3.

*Note 2: Even though it sounds like it, I am in no way affiliated with Maureen A. Taylor or her work. She is just living my dream-job! I am not receiving compensation or benefits from Maureen A. Taylor, Family Tree Books, or F+W Publications. I bought her book (as a birthday present to myself!) and have found it to be fascinating!

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