Daguerreian Society

During the month of August in the year 1855, the following article (by 
the Philadelphia daguerreotypist Marcus A. Root) appeared in "The 
Photographic and Fine Art Journal" page 246-247:
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                           For the Photographic and Fine Art Journal.

     A   T R I P   T O   B O S T O N. -- B O S T O N   A R T I S T S.

   The Boston Daguerreotypists and Photographers, as a body, probably 
occupy a higher place of intelligence, energy and personal reputation, 
than those of any other city in the United States.  Already they have 
done, and they are now doing much for the elevation of Heliography and 
its professors, in the public esteem.  Even the "twenty-five," "fifty 
cents," and "one dollar" operators are more skilful, and produce better 
results than many of the "first class" elsewhere.
   But the profession, even here, is degraded by some of the same 
class, who have wrought so much mischief in other sections of our 
country.  To such narrow-minded "Rats" in the vocation, (to borrow an 
epithet from the printers,) we say, "Shame--shame,"--for thus debasing 
in the public estimation an Art at once so beautiful and so rich in 
valuable uses!
   One of the oldest practitioners in the United States, and probably 
the very oldest in Boston, is Albert Southworth, now, and for several 
years past of the firm of Southworth & Hawes, Tremont Row.  To their 
honor be it said, they have never lowered the dignity of their Art or 
their profession by reducing their prices, but their fixed aim and 
undeviating rule has been to produce the finest specimens, of which 
they were capable,--the finest in every respect, artistic, mechanical, 
and chemical; graceful, pleasing in posture and arrangement, and exact 
in portraiture.  Their style, indeed, is peculiar to themselves; 
presenting beautiful effects of light and shade, and giving depth and 
roundness together with a wonderful softness or mellowness.  These 
traits have achieved for them a high reputation with all true artists 
and connoisseurs.
   Their plates, too, have an exquisitely pure, fine, level surface, 
being resilvered and polished on their "patent swinging plate vice;" 
and are entirely free from waves, bends and dents,--in short, as nearly 
perfect, as is perhaps possible.  And yet, strange to say, their 
pictures seem to me to be fully appreciated neither by the majority of 
Heliographers nor by the public.
   This firm have devoted their time chiefly to daguerreotypes, and 
have paid but little attention to photography on paper.
   I noticed, however, in their Gallery, a photographic copy of Gilbert 
Stuart's original portrait of Washington, full size, and decidedly the 
best photographic copy of that celebrated portrait I have ever seen.  
Saving the color, it is as perfect as one could wish.
   They have also invented and patented a beautiful instrument, by 
which 24 or 48, or even more (stereoscopic) pictures--taken either upon 
plate, or paper, or glass,--are exhibited stereoscopically; and so 
perfect is the illusion, as to impress the beholder with the belief, 
that the picture is nature itself!
   Mr. Southworth explained the wonders of the stereoscope very 
clearly, and he takes his pictures of this class without distortion or 
exaggeration.  I think his principle correct, for his specimens were 
stereoscopically beautiful, and exempt from the many faults witnessed 
in those of others.  I hope his theory, with instructions for its use, 
may be published.
   At our friend Whipple's, (now "Whipple & Black,") Washington street, 
all was in active movement,--steam puffing; engine whizzing; shaft, 
buff-wheels, and even the miniature "sun-sign" above the door, 
revolving.  These things, with the busy motions of the several 
assistants, male and female, imparted to the whole establishment an 
aspect of great industry and prosperity.
  Whipple & Black have ever been and still are "hard-working" young 
men, and have now the advantage, in some points, of all other Boston 
Heliographers.  Competitors, however, are pressing them closely, and 
may, unless they are vigilant, outstrip them.
   Their daguerreotypes are like the majority taken by others.
   Their collodion photographs struck me as, generally, a little 
inferior to some others, taken in Boston and elsewhere.  And yet a few 
of the cabinet size were remarkable for clearness and depth, boldness, 
force and brilliancy.  Many, however, on exhibition lacked roundness, 
softness, fineness, and other properties essential to good portraiture.
   The crystalotypes, or albumen pictures, contrast strongly with the 
collodion pictures recently produced, both at Whipple's and several 
other Boston establishments.  Except for views and copies (for which it 
is admirably fitted, the albumen must give way to the collodion 
process.  For portraiture on paper or glass, the latter process, in the 
hands of several American artists, infinitely transcends at present all 
other modes of taking Heliographs.
   The ambrotype Patent being reserved exclusively by M. A. Cutting & 
Co., in Boston, others have had little encouragement to experiment in 
this beautiful style of Heliographic portraiture.  Yet I saw, taken by 
Mr. Black, a specimen likeness of a gentleman, which in delicacy and 
beauty was not only vastly superior to the finest daguerreotypes, but 
was what an enthusiastic virtuoso would pronounce "a miracle of art."
   In truth, all enthusiastic daguerreotypists who succeed in producing 
good photographic or ambrotype portraits by the collodion process, will 
probably lose--for a time at least--much of their attachment for the 
daguerreotype process:  so much more pleasing, and easily handled by 
the skilful artist, is the former than the latter.
   And here I would earnestly urge on Messrs. Cutting & Co. the 
propriety of sending to all located daguerreotypists who may desire to 
make these picture, the right of so doing, at rates, so moderate, as to 
inflict upon them no injustice,--offering the same to all, and 
permitting the most skilful to "lead the field."
   In the Gallery of Massury & Silsbee, Boston, I witnessed specimens, 
which, artistically considered;  i. e. for fine delineation, clear 
development and perfect "relief" from the background, coupled with 
beauty of finish, are, I think, rarely surpassed in this country.  Mr. 
Silsbee is an artist, and himself colors many of his pictures.
   In most specimens observed by me, he has selected the best position 
of the person and of the face;  his shadows are beautifully disposed, 
and, for the most part, soft and harmonious;  and the expression of the 
sitter has evidently been caught more happily, than by most artists.  
The lights and blacks in these photographs are rich, clear, and 
brilliant, and the collection, as a whole, exhibits much uniformity of 
tone and excellence.
   Mr. Cahill, in Washington street, has taken a position in the front 
rank of excellence.  His photographs are quite equal to the best I have 
seen without retouching or coloring, and some are exquisitely 
beautiful, of both small and life size.  There is a uniformity of 
excellence in his specimens, not often surpassed by the ablest Boston 
   I ought not, in concluding these notices, to omit mentioning Mr. 
Hale, of Washington street, who has confined himself hitherto to 
daguerreotypes.  His establishment in the perfect bijou in all its 
arrangements and appointments, from the front-door show-case through 
its whole interior.  Everywhere neatness, taste, elegance,--everywhere 
cheering and enlivening agencies, of which the sight and the song of 
rare-plumbed and musical birds, are not the least.  The Artist himself 
is a human bijou, and his pictures are very creditable specimens of the 
   Of Mr. Ives and Mr. Chase, both also located in Washington street, 
and both devoting their attention to daguerreotypes exclusively, I can 
speak in terms of high commendation.  By their many beautiful 
productions they have shown themselves able proficients in their art, 
while by their character and manners they do honor to their profession.
                                                     M. A. R.,
   Philadelphia, cor. Chestnut and Fifth sts.

Posted for your enjoyment.     Gary W. Ewer     

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