Looking through the different photographs we have sold over the years, this daguerreotype really stood out to me. This full plate daguerreotype (lot 1410, 4/28/18 auction) was made by Jacob Byerly of Frederick, Maryland. Born in 1807, Byerly became one of the leading photographers in the area, and ran Frederick, Maryland’s first daguerreotype studio. It is believed that he was at one time friends and photographed with renowned photographer Mathew Brady of New York.
Making a photograph like the one seen here was no simple task. To make an image, the daguerreotypist would polish a sheet of silver plated copper, treat it with fumes that made the surface light-sensitive, then expose the plate in the camera for a calculated amount of time (early daguerreotypes sometimes had to be exposed for 60 to 90 seconds). The photographer would then cover the exposed image with mercury vapor, apply a mix of chemicals that would halt its sensitivity to light, rinse, dry and then seal the vulnerable image behind glass.
The daguerreotype process was the first publicly available form of photography, popular through the 1840’s and 50’s. Invented by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre and introduced worldwide in 1839, daguerreotypes were almost completely replaced by 1860 with new, more cost effective processes being brought to the public.
by John Burdumy