Photograph Collections


Named after its French inventor Louis Daguerre, the daguerreotype was introduced in 1839 and represented the first practical photographic process. To make a daguerreotype, a thin copper plate was coated with silver and then highly polished. This plate was then sensitized to light with iodine fumes. Once exposed in the camera, the latent image was developed with mercury vapor and then fixed and rinsed. This resulted in a positive image, which due to its fragile nature, had to be placed in a sealed case with a glass cover. Each daguerreotype was a one-of-a-kind image. Daguerreotypes have to be held at a certain angle to be viewed due to the mirror-like reflective surface.

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