Daguerreian Society

On this day (October 1) in the year 1856, the following review was 
written for the Cincinnati newspaper "Daily Despatch."
  The article was reprinted in a promotional booklet by Jeremiah 
Gurney, "Etchings on Photography" (New York: John P. Pratt, Printer, 
1856) pp. 12-14.
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To the Editor of the Daily Despatch:

We were rambling down Broadway of a sunny morning, some two weeks since 
(for we profess to have a great admiration for pedestrianism in the 
main street of our great metropolis--we love to look in at the show-
windows and examine all the wondrous curiosities of trade and 
commerce.)  We have many weak points, reader, and our principal one is 
a loving of prying into everything.  We love to examine rich laces, 
beautiful flowers, fine things, in general, but pictures, statuary and 
such things, have a peculiar charm for us.  We had just been in 
Williams' & Stevens' (a fine loitering place that,) examining some of 
their oil paintings;  there were some of Herring's, Hart's, Cropsey's, 
Huntingdon's pictures there, and it was indeed a feast of reason and a 
delight to the eye.  We, however, remembered our promise to little 
Kitty, that we should bring home father's picture, and therefore we 
paused to consider what establishment we should patronize.  So many 
conflicting advertisements of so many different establishments had met 
our eye in reading the newspapers, that we were unable to determine 
which one to enter;  so we sauntered down the street;  but hardly had 
we advanced a hundred steps when we were attracted by some excellent 
colored Photographs hanging in the vestibule of a building.  Looking, 
however, at the sign, we observed it was the establishment of J. 
Gurney.  Now were remembered this gentleman of many years since, when 
he took Daguerreotypes a great many blocks down town.  They didn't take 
such pictures then as they do now.
   In ascending the stairs we perceived that the walls and stairs had 
all been newly decorated.  We were shown into the reception room, or, 
as we should call it, picture gallery, for never have we seen one which 
was more entitled to the name:  for here were portraits from the simple 
Daguerreotype to the full length picture.  The reception room is 
luxuriously furnished, and besides the regular adornments, there is a 
fine piano which the visitor can use while waiting for a sitting.  One 
of the finest oil paintings we have ever seen, is that of Miss Bridges;  
it covers the whole of the space above the mantel-piece.  The sumptuous 
dress, the delicious and flesh-like coloring, combined with the perfect 
likeness, would certainly warrant us in stating it to be the finest 
portrait in the country.  This is a Photograph taken on canvass, and 
afterwards colored by one of Mr. Gurney's Paris artists.  There are no 
less than sixty elegant oil painted Photographs adorning this reception 
room, besides others in pastel, water and plain photographs, which are 
miracles for accuracy.  We have no hesitation in asserting, that there 
never has been anything like them in this country.  The clearness, 
boldness and life-like appearance which they present, surpass all 
previous photographic attempts.  There is also in this and the 
adjoining rooms Daguerreotypes of the most eminent men and women in the 
various professions.  Here may be seen the majestic head of Webster, 
the logical face of Calhoun, beside that of beautiful women.  No 
stranger who desires to enjoy the various attractions which New York 
affords should fail, whether they desire a picture or not, to visit 
this gallery, which is free to the public.
   On the centre-table we were shown a large shade, under which were 
placed the various prizes Mr. Gurney had obtained from different 
institutions.  Here was saw the magnificent silver pitcher awarded to 
him by the committee appointed to present the Anthony prize for the 
best daguerreotype.  There were also various gold and silver medals 
awarded by the Crystal Palace judges, the American Institute, the 
massive Napoleon medal, which he obtained at the Paris Exhibition, and 
which was the only one awarded.  On the same floor we were shown the 
ladies' boudoir, and elegantly furnished room for ladies.  Beyond this 
is one of the artist's rooms.  He was engaged in finishing a remarkably 
accurate portrait of the proprietor.  Mr. Gurney's son was kind enough 
to take us through the various operating rooms, and we must confess our 
surprise at their number and accommodation, the numerous artists 
employed, and also the regularity in which everything seemed to be 
carried out.  Many of his artists have been celebrated in Europe, and 
remain with him under heavy salaries.  It would seem incredulous the 
amount expended in the support of this establishment.  There are oil 
painters, pastelle painters, water colorers, photographists, 
daguerreotypists, sitters, chemical plate preparers, buffers, plate 
cleaners, &c., forming a complete corps, and working in harmony 
together.  We sat for our picture, and an impression was taken almost 
instantaneously, to our satisfaction and that of our friends.
   From all we have seen elsewhere, and from an examination of the 
establishment, we have no hesitation in pronouncing it superior to any 
in this country.  The conveniences are greater;  there is also the 
ability, combined with years of experience, that cannot be purchased.
   Mr. J. Gurney informed us that he had not removed any branch of his 
establishment to any part of the city, nor had he any intention of so 
                                                J. T. VAN BUREN.
    Cincinnati, Oct. 1, 1856.

Posted for your enjoyment.     Gary W. Ewer     

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