Daguerreian Society

On this day (January 12) in the year 1856, the following article 
appeared in "The Liverpool Photographic Journal" pages 1-2.

You have no idea of the magnitude of some of the establishments here, 
or the magnificence, in some few cases, of the furnishings and 
fittings, where the elite are "taken off," at prices varying from ten 
to one hundred dollars, including the trimmings of a gilt frame, &c.  
Even the places where a Daguerreotype is advertised to be taken for a 
sixpence sterling, (or a shilling of our New York currency), up to as 
high as half-a-dollar, are, in many cases, by no means shabby.  There 
are a very great number of places where a real good Daguerreotype can 
be had in a case for the half-dollar.  We are not troubled with any 
other branch of the art than face-mapping; not that there would be no 
demand, but it would be requiring too great exertion from our people to 
have to learn how to do anything requiring a different routine to what 
they are accustomed to by having everything at hand in their rooms.  I 
infer that there would be a demand for landscapes if any were offered 
for sale, because in the importing print stores a very large number of 
actinic pictures are sold, not only of the celebrated localities and 
buildings, such as those large prints of Bisson Freres, but of numerous 
unknown scenes, even without an intimation of locality beyond the 
beauty of the picture itself.  I feel certain that prints from Mr. 
Fenton's collection would sell here at very high prices, and that a 
summer exhibition of them in New York, ready to open on the 1st of May, 
would pay as well if not better than in London or Paris.  The number of 
coloured French lithographs of the Eastern war which have been sold 
here, is beyond all conception, even although the government sympathy 
is with Russia, as is also, I am sorry to say, the mercantile.  Another 
characteristic of the art, in this country, is the great number of 
establishments on wheels, which may be termed itineraritypes.  They 
generally bear the name of "saloons," and are something of the 
appearance of the waggons of a menagerie in Britain, but much lighter 
in the wheels.  They are plentiful in the thinly peopled districts, and 
when every body has been "taken" who are within a convenient distance 
of the saloon, a team of horses, oxen, or mules is hired, and paid for 
in pictures, as is nearly all their other expenses of living, &c., and 
the saloon is moved to another neighbourhood, till all the faces in 
that are also mapped secundum artem, when another move takes place, and 
the process is repeated.  These perambulators are formed so that 
portions of the sides fall down to form a floor, in addition to the 
waggon bottom, and the sides-fitted up with sashes, india-rubber cloth, 
&c., all of which, with the steps and other "fixings," are packed 
inside when travelling from one spot to another.  As the body is always 
on springs, it is impossible to stir in one while a face is being 
mapped; the casual entrance of a visitor at such a time is mentally 
deprecated, and calls forth sundry efforts of ingenuity to stop the 
springs by props under the body to bear it off them.  Many of these 
concerns are very profitable indeed, and their cost originally, (the 
carriage alone), without any stock of plates, &c., is from 75 to 200 
sterling.  It is not every one who can manage with such customers as 
are most numerous at such establishments, and a peculiar tact is 
required to accommodate them.  I made a plan for one such saloon which 
cost the latter sum, and the owners in two years more than paid for it, 
his assistants, and his own time, having a considerable sum in the bank 
besides.  He has since sold it at a profit, and is now using a swimming 
Daguerrean saloon on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, on which are 
several other floating establishments, from the owners of two of which 
I have an occasional letter.  These saloons also migrate like wild 
fowls, according to the degree of exhaustion of business in any 
locality, and in several cases receive their pay in any kind of produce 
they may require for their own use, or can dispose of.  From such as 
these perambulating establishments many fine views might be procured, 
were they only to turn their attention to the subject:  but the 
prospect of being paid for their trouble being so remote, and withal 
rather uncertain, they prefer the usual walk of face mapping as being 
by far the most available.  I have often wished I was rich enough to be 
able to take a trip round the country on an actinic tour among the fine 
scenery of America, where everything is on a gigantic scale.  I have 
even designed, or invented, whichever you may call it, a camera for the 
purpose of taking views on glass, which you may have seen.  Three of 
them will receive the whole visible horizon, or 120 degrees each.  I 
could have arranged it for 150 degrees, as in Martens, but two whole 
tablets and a fractional one would have been required, whereas, I 
thought it better to have the whole horizon in three equal parts.  I 
term it the "Scioptric camera," and have several times, through 
Humphrey's Journal, offered to allow any one to inspect it who has ever 
contributed an article of any description, except an advertisement, to 
any scientific periodical of any kind, yet you may be assured my 
visitants were few, only three in all, and of these only one had a 
right to see it.  It has taken a picture of three companies of soldiers 
extended in a line, and with the same trouble could have taken a 
regiment;  the same arrangement can be adopted to a tent without a 
camera box, and this was the one adopted for the above view.  The 
impression was a print, and was spoiled in the process of deepening in 
order to convert it into a transfer for being printed from.  The size 
of the plate was 14 inches by 5, which was the widest the lens would 
cover, being only six inches focus.  As it must be constructed for one 
lens only, a change of lenses of different foci cannot be attempted, 
but a camera may be made for a lens of any focal length which may be 
most convenient.

Posted for your enjoyment.     Gary W. Ewer     

Return to: DagNews 1999

homepage society info search
resources galleries

Copyright 1995-2005, The Daguerreian Society -