The Daguerreian Society

In the year 1854, on this day (April 1) the following appeared in
"Gleason's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion":
(edited for posting)
We present...a picture of Ball's great Daguerreian Gallery of the West.
This establishment is located in Cincinnati, on Fourth Street, between
Main and Walnut, in Weed's large building.  It occupies four rooms and
one ante-chamber, on the third, fourth and fifth stories.  Two of these
are operating rooms each twenty-five by thirty, and fitted up in the
best manner.  One of these was prepared expressly for children and
babies.  This is quite an accommodation for those parents who wish to
have the sweet faces of their little ones preserved, not only as
mementos of the past, but also to compare with the sterner features
which ripened age shall give them.  And then when it is snatched away
from us, what father, what mother, does not wish to preserve the images
of their little cherubs? The third room is the workshop where the plates
are prepared and likenesses perfected.  Possessed of the best materials
and the finest instruments, Mr. Ball takes them with an accuracy and a
softness of expression unsurpassed by any establishment in the Union.
The fourth room is the great gallery; it is twenty feet wide by forty
long.  The walls are tastefully enameled by flesh-colored paper,
bordered with gold leaf and flowers.  The panels on the south side and
west end are ornamented with ideal figures.

The north wall is ornamented with one hundred eighty-seven of Mr. Ball's
finest pictures.  Babies and children, young men and maidens, mothers
and sires look you in the face.  Jenny Lind, with other distinguished
personages, and five or six splendid views of Niagara Falls are among the
collection.  There are also six of Duncanson's finest landscapes hanging
upon these walls as ornaments.

Every piece of furniture in this gallery is a master-piece of mechanical
and artistic skill.  The very seat on which you sit and the carpet on
which you tread seem to be a gem culled from the fragrant lap of Flora;
all of these, reflected by two bright mirrors in the east end, present
you a scene replete with elegance and beauty--to cap the climax, there
is a noble piano by whose sweet notes you are regaled, while the skillful
operator is painting your face with sunbeams on the sensitive yet
tenacious mirror.

As for the enterprising proprietor, he is the very essence of politeness
--nor are his brothers less tinctured with this sweet spirit of human
excellence and a disposition to please every one who patronizes them.
No wonder then that there is daily such a rush for this gallery!  No
wonder that its throng of fashion and beauty is so dense!

Mr. Ball commenced his career as a daguerreotypist in the year 1845.  At
that time the art was in a very low state indeed in Cincinnati.  There
were but few engaged in the profession, without means, enterprise or
instruments, and customers were "like angels' visits, few and far
between."  The obscurity in which this divine art lingered gradually
cleared away as talent and go-ahead-ativeness shone forth in the
profession; and to Mr. Ball we are indebted for placing in its present
proud position in Cincinnati.  His early struggles were many and great--
but his love for art and firmness of character overcame every obstacle
to his advancement.

Competition it is said is "the life of trade," and as Mr. Ball, with all
his early disadvantages, struggled on and succeeded, it aroused a spirit
in the community, and has brought within so short a time the Daguerrean
art to so much perfection.  We said Mr. Ball's prosperity was a type of
that of Cincinnati.  Who can remember the single room of the artist in
1845, and glance at his magnificent suite now, but sees as it were a
picture of the gradual advancement of Cincinnati from creaking shingles
to Dayton stone-built fronts.

Mr. Ball's Daguerrian Gallery is situated in the very heart of the city.
where the busy din of commerce and the rolling of carriages are heard
from morning till night; and the streams of visitors that are
continually pouring into his spacious saloons, show how wide spread is
his reputation, and how successfully he has worked himself into popular

Mr. Ball employs nine men in superintending and executing the work of
the establishment. Each man has his own separate department, and each is
perfect in his peculiar branch.  We are so well aware of the indomitable
industry displayed by the proprietor, that it is no conjecture of ours
but our fixed opinion, that it will not be very long before Mr. Ball
will be obliged, from the great increase of his business, to have rooms
twice as large as he now occupies.  His fame has spread, not only over
his own but through nearly every State of the Union; and there is
scarcely a distinguished stranger that comes to Cincinnati but, if his
time permits, seeks the pleasure of Mr. Ball's artistic acquaintance.

Posted for your enjoyment.      Gary W. Ewer       

Return to: DagNews 1995

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