The Daguerreian Society

The following text is also available, with the original illustration--a 
wood-engraving portrait of Gurney--at the Daguerreian Society's website 

On this day (September 24) in the year 1859, the following article 
appeared in "Frank Leslies' Illustrated Newspaper" (New York; Vol. 
VIII., No. 199; September 24, 1859; p 266)
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The progress of sun painting, or the art of photography, is one of the 
marvels of this age.  Talbot and Daguerre made but a rudimentary 
discovery in comparison with the splendid productions of to-day.  In its 
present perfection, photography combines art, mechanism, beauty and 
utility.  We remember years since, the dim unsatisfactory pictures which 
even then challenged the admiration of the scientific student.  We 
remember the astonishment which in Europe and this country greeted the 
first announcement of Daguerre.  Nearly twenty years have elapsed since 
that time; careful study, unwearied labor and practical experimenting 
have brought this art to its now perfect state.  To enumerate all the 
varieties of pictures which this crude discovery has produced, to 
explain the operation and various processes by which each picture is 
perfected, would require a volume.  The Daguerreotype, the Talbotype, 
the Photograph, the Ambrotype, the Ivorytype, all these are based upon 
the one principle.  Photography stands first.  We owe a debt of 
gratitude to the art, and to the artist through whose means we are 
enabled to present the most beautiful scenes in nature before our 
readers.  Lakes and mountain scenery, the wild forests, the deep 
valleys, the majestic rocks, the simplest flower; we can copy almost 
instantaneously and in exactitude of size and perfection of naturalness.  
The painter's easel is almost abolished, except as a handmaiden to 
photography.  Great men, whose actions and deeds fill the world, are 
brought before the eye with their characteristic expression.  Terrible 
battles, with all their dreadful scenes of carnage and slaughter, are 
transferred to paper upon the instant, and soon go hurrying over 
thousands of miles to be viewed by the humble peasant in his peaceful 
abode.  But we must not dwell upon an art that has now become familiar 
as a household word.  Yet, we must not fail giving credit to the minds 
and the hands that have thus brought photography to perfection.  The 
portrait of Mr. J. Gurney, which heads this article, presents a woodcut 
from a photograph.  It is the picture of one who has pursued this 
business for nineteen years; in fact, he was the first to practise the 
art of Daguerreotyping after it was introduced into this country by 
Professor Morse, and he has since labored as earnestly and successfully 
to advance photography as any artist in this country.  From its infancy 
he has devoted his time and his means to is advancement, he has extended 
aid to other experimenters, and he has thus perfected the art, beautiful 
and useful as it is to-day.  His magnificent gallery, at 707 Broadway, 
is adorned with specimens which delight and astonish the visitor.  
Careful attention to business has amassed him a large fortune.  Yet time 
has left no wrinkles on his brow, he wears still the appearance of 
youth, and we have no doubt he will continue to crowd the land with home 
mementoes of those faces we love and hold dear to memory.

Posted for your enjoyment.      Gary W. Ewer       

Return to: DagNews 1996

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