The Daguerreian Society

From Demorest's Family Magazine (New York) Vol. 34, No. 5 (April 1898) pp. 134-35, 156. This text is also available as a PDF file. (1.3 meg) The individual pages—in their original presentation—are also available for viewing: cover, page 134, page 135, page 156. (From the collection of Gary W. Ewer)

(page 134)



HIGH above the noises of a great city, in the top story of one of the old buildings that girt Scollay Square, in Boston, there labors daily a man who is probably the oldest active photographer in the world. His name is Josiah Johnson Hawes. He was born in Sudbury, Massachusetts, February 20, 1808 and is consequently more than ninety years old. He received his education in the common schools, studied art, and painted miniatures, portraits and landscapes until 1841. He then became interested in the invention of Daguerre and, with Albert S. Southworth, made for many years the finest daguerreotypes and photographs in America. He has occupied his present studio for upward of half a century.
   In these rooms have posed hundreds of men and women whose fame time has already made secure. Charles Dickens used to drop in upon Mr. Hawes, and loved to spend a leisure hour in a place that was to him even then a curiosity shop. Phillips Brooks posed here only a few years before his death, and General Butler’s picture is one that Mr. Hawes points to with pride, while among the living ones who have posed here are Julia Ward Howe and Louise Chandler Moulton. Mr. Hawes is also an inventor of note, having patented many appliances used in photography, among them the double swing-back camera, the reflecting stereoscope, the multiplying camera, and the curtain plate holder. The first stereoscopic views seen in this country were made by him, and his also was the idea of the vignette. He is still loyal to the daguerreotype which made him famous, when fifteen dollars was asked for a single picture and five dollars for each duplicate, and he has of late revived the art of daguerreotyping and has made some very beautiful pictures of that sort.
   But it is when the names are mentioned of Webster, Choate and Beecher, of Channing and Emerson, of Longfellow, Holmes and Hawthorne, of Phillips, Sumner, Banks and Garrison, and of Kossuth and Jenny Lind that Mr. Hawes’ memories become most luminous and interesting. His portrait of Daniel Webster is of the first importance. The sitting for it was given by Mr. Webster on the 22d of April, 1850, directly upon his arrival from Marshfield on his way to Washington. He sat for thirty minutes, and the result was one of the best likenesses of him in existence. Later in the same day, in Bowdoin Square, in front of the Revere House, Webster made his stirring speech on the Fugitive Slave law.
   Rufus Choate, great as a statesman and greater still as an advocate, long occupied an office in the same building with Mr. Hawes. The latter describes him as one of the most untiring workers he ever met, but always sympathetic, kindly, and helpful to those about him. His face, when in the company of others, says Mr. Hawes, assumed as many changes of expression as he had changes of moods and thought, and from the quiet rest of deep contemplation would light up with a sudden flash of playful humor or an expression of intense earnestness when he gave utterance to some new or inspiring thought. The manner in which Choate posed for Mr. Hawes was characteristic of the man. He rushed into the studio one day, leaving a crowd of clients waiting in his office, and, seating himself in a mahogany chair, urged the photographer to hurry up and get over with it. The likeness born of this sitting shows a sad, thoughtful face, half poetical, half philosophical, such as one sees in the pictures of Lamartine.
   Mr. Hawes’ portrait of Lyman Beecher was taken while the stout-hearted father of the brainful brood, destined to fill so large a place in our history, was still pastor of the Brattle street church where he grew into his full fame as one of the foremost pulpit orators of the land. William Ellery Channing, who loved Boston so well that he once declared that he “would not leave it for any other place on earth,” gave Mr. Hawes a sitting just before his death in 1842. The completed picture shows a face of rare spiritual beauty and sweetness, and is, perhaps, the best portrait that has come down to us of the great preacher, humanitarian, and reformer.
   Of none of his illustrious sitters does Mr. Hawes cherish more pleasurable recollections than of Emerson and Longfellow. The former gave the photographer several sittings, but a likeness taken in the autumn of 1856, about the time that “English Traits" was issued, preserves the Emerson one best likes to keep in mind—the Sage of Concord in the flush of his physical and mental powers, and when his noble thoughts, whether delivered from the platform or embodied in the printed page, were working revolutions in the minds of men. Mr. Hawes’ two portraits of Longfellow show the poet at widely separated periods of his life. The first pictures him as he appeared to his fellows just before he retired from academic work in 1854; the second was taken a short time before his death in 1882 when he had become “the white Mr. Longfellow” so charmingly described by Howells in the recollections he has lately given to the world.
   Mr. Hawes’ portrait of Oliver Wendell Holmes was taken in 1857, not long after that poetic wit and witty poet had flashed upon the public, in the “Autocrat of the Breakfast Table,” the brilliant series of articles which brought the Atlantic Monthly into immediate vogue and made their author the most popular writer in America. The famous literary coterie of which Holmes was the last to die contained no more brilliant member than Hawthorne, who joined the growing list of Mr. Hawes’ sitters in 1861, soon after his return from Europe, and while he was living in Concord. Mr. Hawes describes him as the antithesis of Holmes, quiet, reserved, and almost shy. It was only after repeated urging by James T. Fields and other friends that he consented to give Mr. Hawes a sitting, but one rejoices that he did so in the end, for it yielded us a most striking portrait of the romancer so famous now and so strangely neglected during the larger part of his life. Indeed, those who knew Hawthorne declare it to be one of the most lifelike and telling likenesses of him in existence. It was the last one ever taken. Three years later he passed, almost without warning, into the eternal silence.
   Phillips and Sumner! How much that is noblest and bravest in the history of the last sixty years these names recall. One who was attracted to politics, but rose above them; less than a statesman, but more than an orator; a voice, a great heart, a firebrand, a silver trumpet, an intellectual Ishmael—bitter in controversy but gentle in private deeds—such was the Wendell Phillips who looks out to us from Mr. Hawes’ portrait, in the prime of the manly beauty that helped to make him one of the most winning and, at the same time, one of the most contradictory personalities of his time. Gazing upon it, one calls to mind the inscription which marks the site of his old home in Boston, and which tells the wayfarer that “ the charms of home, the enjoyment of wealth and learning, even the kindly recognition of his fellow-citizens, were by him counted as naught compared with duty.” The whole life of Wendell Phillips is written in these lines.
   Mr. Hawes’ photograph of Charles Sumner resulted from a sitting given a year before his second election to the Senate in 1857. A great man, a pure man, a man of patriotic sympathy and noble devotion to great moral ideas, such was Sumner, who Mr. Hawes describes as being, at the period of his visit to Scollay Square, a very marvel of physical strength and beauty.
   Additional niches in Mr. Hawes’ gallery are devoted to two other giants of the anti-slavery struggle—William Lloyd Garrison and Nathaniel P. Banks. “He was the greatest of them all,” Robert Collyer once said to me of Garrison; “not a dreamer or a visionary enthusiast, but a man mastered by a great and absorbing aim, who, when that aim was accomplished, was willing to rest content.” Mr. Hawes’ portrait confirms this estimate. It reveals the face of a born fighter and a resolute leader of men. General Banks’ likeness resulted from a sitting given about the time of the formation of the Free Soil party, in which the “bobbin boy of Waltham,” then a member of Congress and the pride of his native State, took a conspicuous part. It shows the features of a handsome and hopeful youth, very different from the refined and shadowed countenance of Banks of later years.
   About this time came Jenny Lind, and where is the veteran lover of music who does not delight to recall that glorious time when the Swedish song-bird sang in Castle Garden, and later toured the country, welcomed in each new city by brilliant and eager audiences? Boston proved no exception to the rule, and it was during her engagement there that she sat to Mr. Hawes for her photograph. She came to the studio one afternoon with Otto Goldschmidt, to whom she was married a few days later, and the two were taken sitting hand in hand.
   Two other names included in Mr. Hawes’ long and brilliant list of sitters merit a word in closing—those of Lucy Larcom and Celia Thaxter. The photographs of both of these gifted women reveal a type of American womanhood at once noble, gracious and refined.
   Our portrait album this month is made up of pictures of famous men taken by Mr. Hawes. The center picture is of Mr. Hawes himself, whose shaggy, white, picturesque head is nowise less interesting from being surrounded, as it is, with this galaxy of fine faces.

(page 135)

(For Page of Biographical Sketches, see Table of Contents.)

(page 156 / Table of Contents page:)



   Mr. Garrison, American abolitionist and journalist, was born in Newburyport, Mass., December 12, 1804. As a boy, he was apprenticed to a shoemaker. In 1818 he went into a printing office and at once began writing on various topics. In 1826 be became the proprietor and editor of a paper in his native town, and in 1827 was made editor of the National Philanthropist in Boston. He issued the first number of the Liberator, the anti-slavery journal, in 1831. In 1843 he was made president of the “World’s Anti-Slavery Convention.” His volume of “Sonnets and other Poems,” was published in 1843. He died May 24, 1879.


   Lyman Beecher, American writer and theologian, was born in New Haven, Conn., October 12, 1775. He was president of the Lane Theological Seminary, and interested in temperance and antislavery reforms. He wrote “Views in Theology” and “Six Sermons on Temperance.” He died in Brooklyn, N. Y., January 10, 1863.


   R. W. Emerson, American poet and essayist, was born in Boston, Mass., May 25, 1803. He graduated from Harvard College in 1821, and for years after was engaged in school teaching. In 1829 he was ordained as a colleague of Henry Ware at the Second Unitarian Church, Boston. He began his career as a lecturer in 1834, and edited The Dial during the last two years of its publication. His first series of essays was published in 1841, the second in 1844, and his first volume of poems in 1846. “The Conduct of Life” appeared in 1866, and “Society and Solitude” in 1870. He died April, 1882.


   Daniel Webster, American statesman and orator, was born in Salisbury (now Franklin), N. H., January 18, 1782. In 1796 he was sent to the Phillips Exeter Academy. A year later he entered Dartmouth College, partly supporting himself by teaching school and he graduated in 1801. He was admitted to the Boston bar in 1805, and seven years later was elected to Congress. He delivered his maiden speech, which made him famous, in 1813. He was a Whig United States Senator from 1827-41, was later Secretary of State, and again United States Senator before his death, which occurred in Marshfield, Mass., October 14, 1852.


   Mr. Hawes, American artist, was born in East Sudbury, Mass., February 20, 1808. He was educated in the common schools, and studied art and painted miniatures, portraits and landscapes until 1841. He then became interested in the invention of Daguerre, and soon became one of the most famous daguerreotypists and photographers in America. Among his best known sitters were Rufus Choate, Daniel Webster, Henry Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ellery Channing, and Jenny Lind.


   Mr. Sumner, American statesman, was born in Boston, Mass., January 5, 1811. He graduated from Harvard in 1830; studied law there and was admitted to the bar in 1834. He was a reformer and abolitionist during anti-slavery days. He was elected to Congress in 1850. On July 4, 1845, he made his famous speech on the peaceful arbitration of international difficulties. His addresses were first collected under the title of “Orations and Speeches,” (1850), to which was added "Recent Speeches and Addresses” (1856), and “The Works of Charles Sumner” (1871-75), He died in Washington, D. C., March 11, 1874.


   Henry W. Longfellow, American poet, was born in Portland, Maine, February 27, 1807, and died at Cambridge, Mass., in 1882. He graduated from Bowdoin College in 1825 in the same class with Nathaniel Hawthorne. In 1829 he was appointed professor of modern languages at Bowdoin College. Six years later he accepted a similar position at Harvard. His first work, “Outre-Mer,” was published in 1835. “Voices of the Night” (1839), “Ballads and other Poems” (1841), “The Spanish Student” and “Evangeline” (1847), “The Golden Legend” (1851), “Hyperion” (1839), and “Kavanagh” (1849). He received the degree of LL.D. from Harvard in 1859, and from Cambridge, England, in 1868, the same year in which he received the degree of D. C. L. from Oxford. A bust of Longfellow is in the “Poets’ Corner” of Westminster Abbey, London.


   Rufus Choate, American lawyer, was born at Ipswich, Mass., October 1, 1799. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1819. In 1820 he studied law at the Harvard Law School. He was admitted to the bar in September, 1823. He was sent to the House of Representatives in 1830, and was reelected in 1833. His success later at the Boston bar was phenomenal. He died from overwork July 13, 1859. The following are some of his most famous addresses: “The Puritan in Secular and Religious Life” (1834), “The New England Character” (1834), “Of the American Bar” (1845), and “Daniel Webster" (1853).


   Mr. Phillips, American orator and abolitionist, was born in Boston, Mass., November 29, 1811. He graduated from Harvard College in 1831, from the Harvard Law School in 1833, and was admitted to the bar in 1834. He was an ardent abolitionist, and an advocate of woman’s suffrage, prohibitory laws, and prison reform, and opposed to capital punishment. His most notable lectures are “The Lost Arts” and “Toussaint l’Ouverture.” A partial collection of his works was published in Boston in 1869. He died in Boston on February 2, 1884.

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