Daguerreian Society

During the month of June in the year 1855, the following text appeared 
in "The Photographic and Fine Art Journal" Vol. 8, No. 6 (June 1855) 
pg. 190:

                           For the Photographic and Fine Art Journal.


                       BY N. G. BURGESS.

   The experience of all those who follow the Daguerrean Art, as a 
profession, will show many amusing and laughable incidents which have 
been noted down from time to time.  For the benefit of the readers of 
the Journal I will transcribe a few, which may amuse at least if not 
instruct them.
   Persons who sat for pictures, in the early stage of the Art, were of 
course ignorant of the modus operandi, and they not unfrequently moved 
during the sitting, although the Artist may have given full directions 
to the contrary.
   An elderly lady was once seated in front of the camera, and was 
informed that for two minutes she must be in a perfectly passive mood 
and watch the glasses of the camera.  On returning to the camera, the 
Artist was surprised to find her standing by the window viewing the 
passers-by in Broadway.  She remarked that while she was waiting for 
the picture to come out of the box, she thought, there would be no harm 
in looking out of the window, as she expected her son to call for her 
about that time and she was wondering why he did not come.
   Another Artist, was called upon to take the likeness of a lady 
dressed in deep mourning, who when seated in the chair, and the focus 
of the camera drawn accurately upon the ground glass, and just as he 
was about to place the plate-holder in the Box, she called upon him to 
wait a moment, for her to request him to represent her in the picture, 
as holding in her lap a dear little child whom she had but a few days 
before laid in the cold grave.
   But a most amusing and laughable anecdote is related of an Artist 
who was called upon by a volunteer in the late Mexican War.  He was 
just starting for the battle-fields of glory, when, he bethought 
himself of his Daguerreotype, that he would leave with his lady-love.  
He had imprudently, imbibed too much of those strong drinks repudiated 
by the Prohibitory Law, and the day being rather cloudy, it required at 
least three or four minutes sitting.  When the time expired, our hero 
the volunteer, was found to be a sleeper at his post.  The Artist 
however did not disturb him, but quietly removing the plate, he 
proceeded to bring it out over the mercury bath, when it was found to 
be very dark, and withal, rather sleepy in appearance: The light was 
not sufficiently strong for another picture, and it was finished, and 
the sleeper awakened to receive his image on silver which was deemed 
rather dark and misty.  But the Artist assured him, when the weather 
became clear and his head also the picture would assume a clearness not 
then discernable, which fully satisfied the soldier, and he departed 
for Mexico.
   A traveling artist was quite amused by a call from a young man in a 
country town, late in the afternoon, just as the sun was sinking behind 
the western hills; when it was too late to produce any impression on 
the plate.  The young man was rather verdant; nor had he seen the 
wonderful process of Daguerre, much less any paraphenalia of a 
Daguerrean artist.  He was very anxious to obtain his portrait that 
very evening, as he was just starting for the west.  The Artist assured 
him it was too late to produce a good one, as his labors ceased at 
dusk.  But the youth was incredulous, and insisted on his likeness 
being then taken.  He would be satisfied with anything, if not so good 
a likeness.  The Artist was reluctant to comply, but he bethought 
himself of some old specimens in his plate-box, that might answer for a 
likeness and he requested the young man to be seated, in front of the 
camera, when he drew the focus and required him to remain still until 
he returned which would be at least five or ten minutes.  He repaired 
to his plate box, and found a picture that bore the only resemblance to 
the young man, in the fact that it was taken for another young man in 
the city of New York.  The likeness was sealed up and put into a case--
and then carefully laid in the Camera-box--when five minutes had 
expired the artist, withdrew the picture from the box, and immediately 
opened it to the astonished gaze of the sitter.  There were several of 
the artists friends and acquaintances in the room during the 
occurrrence, all anxiously watching the scene, and of course highly 
amused at the wonder expressed by the subject of the levity.  He was 
quite surprised to learn that he made so good a likeness, and still 
more so that the artist had given him such a fine suit of clothes; 
remarking that the coat had more buttons than his, and in fact was a 
very much better picture than he thought he would make.  The artist 
very complacently informed him that he knew it would please him the 
more to show his likeness in an improved dress and he accordingly added 
a few more buttons, and withal put on an entire new suite throughout as 
he sadly needed one.  The youth was much obliged to him, he took the 
picture and paid his dollar and left for the west.
  It may be questioned here whether the conduct of the Artist, on this 
occasion was strictly correct.  But many pictures are delivered daily 
that do not bear so strong a likeness to the one intended, as this one 
in question, being executed by those who have no skill or knowledge of 
any of the rules of Art.
   An instance of forgetfulness was mentioned as occurring many years 
ago, when it required five or ten minutes sitting.  A sitter was 
requested to await the return of the artist who thoughtlessly went to 
his dinner, and actually forgot that he had a sitter in his chair.  
When at least half an hour had expired the sitter's patience became 
exhausted, he left the seat, and sought in vain, for the Artist and it 
was several minutes before he returned when he humbly demanded pardon, 
for his forgetfulness, and proceeded to take another, which he 
presented him gratis; for his long forbearance and forgiving 

Posted for your enjoyment.     Gary W. Ewer     

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