The Daguerreian Society


The newspapers have been quiet, so I'll offer a "month of November" item:

The following article appeared in the November 1894 issue of the "St. Louis 
& Canadian Photographer" (Vol., 12, No. 11, pp 520-1):
- - - - - - - -

An Old-Time Photographer and His Reminiscences.

  In the history of the lives of men there are few that posses more 
interest than those of older workers in photography. An interview with Mr. 
M. B. Brady, by a representative of The Washington Evening Star, is full of 
interest.
  "I took up photography," said Brady, "shortly after Daguerre made an 
artist of the sun, and my purpose ever since and all my tastes and energies 
have been devoted to advancing that branch of art in America. My first 
associate in the study of photography was Prof. Morse, the inventor of the 
telegraph, and I shall never forget our researches and experiments, and the 
disappointments that overwhelmed us, one after another. Diligence, however, 
always proves the greatest factor in success, and it was not long before I 
was well established in my profession. My first gallery was in New York, 
and old-timers will tell you what a central point of attraction 'Brady's' 
was forty years ago. Well-to-do visitors to New York deemed it a proper 
thing to come to me to have their pictures taken and to look at the 
collection of distinguished people whose faces looked out from my walls, 
and when I established a gallery in Washington the same custom prevailed 
here.
  "'What distinguished people have I photographed?" you ask. I was almost 
going to tell you to take the list of all the men who have obtained 
national prominence in this country, and all the distinguished foreigners 
who have visited it in the last fifty years, and use it for an answer. They 
all came to me, and I can see them in my mind's eye, like a procession of 
ghosts, passing in review.

      RECOLLECTIONS OF FAMOUS PEOPLE.

"'Tell you something about the characteristics of the great people who sat 
for me?" repeated Mr. Brady. "Well, I can only skim here and there over the 
pond, so to speak. There was Henry Clay. He sat to me in New York in the 
forties. He was easy enough to manage when you got to him, but he was the 
most difficult man to secure for a sitting I have ever known.
  "I made my first picture of Daniel Webster in New York in 1848. He was as 
courteous and as pliable as it was possible for man to be. 'Use me as the 
potter would the clay, Mr. Brady,' he said to me, and he was more than 
pleased with the result.
  "My first picture of Lincoln was made in New York in 1858, on the day 
before he made his famous Cooper Institute speech. He was full of fun in 
the gallery, as genial as a summer day, and teeming with reminiscence. One 
day, after he was elected President, Ward Lamon, who was marshal of the 
district, met me at the White House, and started to introduce me to Mr. 
Lincoln. 'Don't introduce me to Brady,' ejaculated the President, 'I know 
him, Lamon. Why, man, his picture of me and my Cooper Institute speech made 
me President.'
  "The first negative I ever took of Gen. Grant was attended with exciting 
incidents," continued Mr. Brady. "It was the day after he came from the 
West to Washington to take command of the army of the Potomac. It was a 
cloudy afternoon and rather dark in the gallery, so I sent an assistant, 
who was a German, upon the roof to take the tarpaulin covering off the 
plate glass sky light. Grant was seated before the camera immediately 
beneath the light. In his attempt to get off the tarpaulin my assistant 
slipped and fell on the glass, breaking it in innumerable pieces and 
falling through to his waist. The glass fell all around Gen. Grant in a 
shower, and if any of it had struck him it would have injured him severely, 
because it was an eight of an inch thick, and the pieces were as large or 
larger than a dinner plate. Grant never changed color or moved a muscle, 
save to look up and see the man's legs hanging through, His only movement 
of countenance was a slight drawing up of the nostrils; that was all. 
Secretary Stanton was white. He grasped me by the arm, pulled me into the 
dark-room and whispered: "For God's sake don't let this get out to the 
papers. It would look like a design to kill the General.'

      WAR PHOTOGRAPHS.

"  Ah! Yes," said Mr. Brady with a sigh, "those were stirring times and 
full of incidents. I was the first man to take a camera on the battle field 
and make it the historian of war. Many years ago the War Department 
purchased a large number of negatives that I took during the war and they 
have been largely used in illustrating the works issued from time to time 
by the government. 'Did I ever photograph Gen. Lee?" Oh, yes! I performed 
what was considered an impossible feat in photography, with Gen. Lee as a 
subject, on the day after his surrender at Appomatox. In the rear of his 
own house at Richmond I took twelve negatives of Gen. Lee in an hour, a 
performance in the art which was then considered impossible. Over 20,000 
copes of that photograph was sold in a short time:--
Photographic Times.

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Posted for your enjoyment.      Gary W. Ewer       
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11-13-96


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