Daguerreotypes

The American Antiquarian Society's photograph collection includes nearly 230 daguerreotypes. Daguerreotypes, the first commercial form of photography, appeared in America around the year 1839. These were produced by first sensitizing a polished silvered copper plate with iodine vapor, and then exposing the plate to light. The image was developed over hot mercury, fixed, and rinsed. This was a direct positive process, meaning that no negatives were produced, and so each daguerreotype is unique. Daguerreotypes can be easily distinguished from other early photographs by their reflective, mirror-like surface.

Access

The collection has been fully digitized. A fully illustrated collection inventory is available.

Images are also available through the Society's digital image archive.

They were generally produced in the following sizes, which are noted in the inventory:

  • Imperial or Mammoth Plate - Larger than 6 ½" x 8 ½"
  • Whole Plate - 6 ½" x 8 ½"
  • Half Plate - 4 ¼" x 5 ½ "
  • Quarter Plate - 3 ¼" x 4 ¼"
  • Sixth Plate - 2 ¾" x 3 ¼"
  • Ninth Plate - 2"x 2 ½"
  • Sixteenth Plate - 1 ½" x 1 ¾"

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