10
Apr
20

Exhibition: ‘Women of Progress: Early Camera Portraits’ at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

Exhibition dates: 14th June 2019 – 31st May 2020

Curator: Ann Shumard

The National Portrait Gallery, Washington has temporarily closed until further notice due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

#MuseumFromHome

 

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Lucy Stone' c. 1855

 

Unidentified Artist
Lucy Stone
c. 1855
Half-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 19.9 × 32.9 × 0.8 cm (7 13/16 × 12 15/16 × 5/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Lucy Stone (August 13, 1818 – October 18, 1893) was a prominent U.S. orator, abolitionist, and suffragist, and a vocal advocate and organiser promoting rights for women. In 1847, Stone became the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree. She spoke out for women’s rights and against slavery at a time when women were discouraged and prevented from public speaking. Stone was known for using her birth name after marriage, the custom being for women to take their husband’s surname.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Lucy Stone was unequivocal in her opposition to slavery and her support for women’s rights. Yet, when some abolitionists argued that her antislavery efforts should take precedence, she replied, “I was a woman before I was an abolitionist.” Stone helped to organise the first national women’s rights conference in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1850, and lectured widely on the topic of women’s suffrage. When she married Henry Blackwell in 1855, she defied tradition by retaining her maiden name. In 1866, Stone became a founder of the American Equal Rights Association, which sought to secure voting rights for African Americans and women.

Exhibition label from Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

 

Let us celebrate strong, creative, (com)passionate women.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the National Portrait Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

In mid-nineteenth-century America, the growing presence of women in public life coincided with the rise of portrait photography. This exhibition of daguerreotypes and ambrotypes from the 1840s and 1850s features portraits of early feminist icons, women’s rights advocates Margaret Fuller and Lucy Stone, abolitionist Lucretia Mott and best-selling author Harriet Beecher Stowe.

 

 

Seriousness of their intent and purpose writ large upon their faces. Portraits of the self, as if alone, without decorous engagement for the camera.

.
Elizabeth Gertsakis

 

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Charlotte Cushman' c. 1850

 

Unidentified Artist
Charlotte Cushman
c. 1850
Half-plate daguerreotype
Image: 12 × 9 cm (4 3/4 × 3 9/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Charlotte Saunders Cushman (July 23, 1816 – February 18, 1876) was an American stage actress. Her voice was noted for its full contralto register, and she was able to play both male and female parts. She lived intermittently in Rome, in an expatriate colony of prominent artists and sculptors, some of whom became part of her tempestuous private life.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Charlotte Cushman was the foremost American-born actress of her day and the first to enjoy critical and popular acclaim at home and abroad. Following her 1836 New York City stage debut as Lady Macbeth, she honed her craft there and in Philadelphia, where she managed the Walnut Street Theatre from 1842 to 1844. With a dramatic range and commanding stage presence that more than compensated for her lack of conventional beauty, Cushman boldly developed a repertoire that included male as well as female roles. Taking London by storm in 1845, she returned to universal acclaim in the United States in 1849.

Exhibition label from Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Charlotte Cushman' c. 1850 (detail)

 

Unidentified Artist
Charlotte Cushman (detail)
c. 1850
Half-plate daguerreotype
Image: 12 × 9 cm (4 3/4 × 3 9/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Harriet Beecher Stowe' 1852

 

Unidentified Artist
Harriet Beecher Stowe
1852
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
Image: 3.9cm x 3.4cm (1 9/16″ x 1 5/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Harriet Elisabeth Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) was an American abolitionist and author. She came from the Beecher family, a famous religious family, and is best known for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), which depicts the harsh conditions for enslaved African Americans. The book reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and Great Britain, energising anti-slavery forces in the American North, while provoking widespread anger in the South. Stowe wrote 30 books, including novels, three travel memoirs, and collections of articles and letters. She was influential for both her writings and her public stances and debates on social issues of the day.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Harriet Beecher Stowe authored numerous articles, essays, and books during her long career, but it was her dramatic, antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin that brought her fame at home and abroad. First serialised in the National Era newspaper, Uncle Tom’s Cabin appeared in book form in 1852 and sold more than 300,000 copies during its first year in print. Lionised by Northern abolitionists and vilified by Southern slaveholders, Stowe became the subject of intense public interest. When requests for her portrait multiplied, she responded by posing for several daguerreotype likenesses that were soon copied and distributed widely.

Exhibition label from Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Ezra Greenleaf Weld. 'Frederick Douglass with the Edmonson Sisters at Fugitive Slave Law Convention, Cazenovia, New York' 1850

 

Ezra Greenleaf Weld
Frederick Douglass with the Edmonson Sisters at Fugitive Slave Law Convention, Cazenovia, New York
1850
Half-plate copy daguerreotype
Case Open: 15.2 x 24.4 x 1.3 cm (6 x 9 5/8 x 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; on loan from Mr. and Mrs. Set Charles Momjian

 

 

Weld daguerreotype taken at the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law Convention, Cazenovia, New York. The Edmonson sisters are standing wearing bonnets and shawls in the row behind the seated speakers. Frederick Douglass is seated, with Gerrit Smith standing behind him.

Ezra Greenleaf Weld (October 26, 1801 – October 14, 1874), often known simply as “Greenleaf”, was a photographer and an operator of a daguerreotype studio in Cazenovia, New York. He and his family were involved with the abolitionist movement.

Weld opened his first studio in his home in 1845. In 1850, Cazenovia hosted the abolitionist meeting known as the Fugitive Slave Law Convention. This gave Weld the opportunity to photograph the legendary orator Frederick Douglass with the Edmonson sisters, Gerritt Smith and Abby Kelley Foster. This daguerreotype was given to the imprisoned abolitionist William Chaplin who had helped many of the attendees escape to freedom.

Of the six daguerreotypes of Douglass that have survived, only one besides Greenleaf’s image has had its daguerreotypist identified. Greenleaf’s image is unique because it is a group shot at an outdoor meeting rather than a studio portrait. Daguerreotypes were seldom attempted under these circumstances because the long exposure time required made it difficult to get a satisfactory result. Weld’s is the only daguerreotype of Douglass whose date is known with certainty. This daguerreotype is also unique in the paradoxical sense that it is the only one known to have been copied. Two original half-plates exist: One is held by the Madison County Historical Society in Oneida, New York, the other is in a private collection and currently on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Text from the Wikipedia website

The Fugitive Slave Law Convention was held in Cazenovia, New York, August 21-22, 1850. Organised to oppose passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 by the United States Congress, participants included Frederick Douglass, the Edmonson sisters, Gerrit Smith, Samuel Joseph May, and Theodore Dwight Weld, among others. The convention opened at the First Congregational Church of Cazenovia (now Cazenovia College’s theater building), then moved to “the orchard of Grace Wilson’s School, located on Sullivan Street,” to accommodate the estimated 2000 to 3000 participants. It was chaired by Douglass.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey; c.  February 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings. In his time, he was described by abolitionists as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a great orator had once been a slave. …

Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, whether white, black, female, Native American, or Chinese immigrants. He was also a believer in dialogue and in making alliances across racial and ideological divides, and in the liberal values of the U.S. Constitution. When radical abolitionists, under the motto “No Union with Slaveholders”, criticised Douglass’ willingness to engage in dialogue with slave owners, he replied: “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

Mary Edmonson (1832-1853) and Emily Edmonson (1835-1895), “two respectable young women of light complexion”, were African Americans who became celebrities in the United States abolitionist movement after gaining their freedom from slavery. On April 15, 1848, they were among the 77 slaves who tried to escape from Washington, DC on the schooner The Pearl to sail up the Chesapeake Bay to freedom in New Jersey.

Although that effort failed, they were freed from slavery by funds raised by the Congregational Church in Brooklyn, New York, whose pastor was Henry Ward Beecher, an abolitionist. After gaining freedom, the Edmonsons were supported to go to school; they also worked. They campaigned with Beecher throughout the North for the end of slavery in the United States.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Gerrit Smith (March 6, 1797 – December 28, 1874), also spelled Gerritt, was a leading American social reformer, abolitionist, politician, and philanthropist. Spouse to Ann Carroll Fitzhugh, Smith was a candidate for President of the United States in 1848, 1856, and 1860, but only served 18 months in the federal government – in Congress as a Free Soil Party Representative, in 1853-4.

Text from the Wikipedia website

In 1850, as Congress considered passage of a harsh new Fugitive Slave Law, more than 2,000 people heeded the call of abolitionist Gerrit Smith (standing, center) to meet in Cazenovia, New York, and protest the impending legislation. Among the nearly fifty escaped slaves to participate were Emily and Mary Edmonson (in plaid shawls), whose freedom had been purchased by abolitionists in 1848, and Frederick Douglass (seated, center right), who served as the convention’s presiding officer. On the gathering’s second day, the overflowing crowd moved from its initial meeting place in a church to a nearby orchard. There, a local daguerreotypist made this extraordinary record of the convention.

Exhibition label from Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Marcus Aurelius Root (American, 1808-1888) 'Lucretia Coffin Mott' 1851

 

Marcus Aurelius Root (American, 1808-1888)
Lucretia Coffin Mott
1851
Half-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 15 x 23.2 x 1 cm (5 7/8 x 9 1/8 x 3/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Marcus Aurelius Root (1808-1888) was a writing teacher and photographer. He was born in Granville, Ohio and died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

On 20 June 1846, he bought John Jabez Edwin Mayall’s Chestnut Street photography studio that was in the same building as Root’s residence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Root had success as a daguerreotypist working with his brother, Samuel Root. The Root Brothers had a gallery in New York City from 1849 to 1857. Marcus Aurelius Root authored an important book on photography entitled The Camera and the Pencil.

Text from the Wikipedia website

Lucretia Mott (née Coffin; January 3, 1793 – November 11, 1880) was a U.S. Quaker, abolitionist, women’s rights activist, and social reformer. She had formed the idea of reforming the position of women in society when she was amongst the women excluded from the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840. In 1848 she was invited by Jane Hunt to a meeting that led to the first meeting about women’s rights. Mott helped write the Declaration of Sentiments during the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention.

Her speaking abilities made her an important abolitionist, feminist, and reformer. When slavery was outlawed in 1865, she advocated giving former slaves who had been bound to slavery laws within the boundaries of the United States, whether male or female, the right to vote. She remained a central figure in the abolition and suffrage movement until her death in 1880.

Text from the Wikipedia website

A devout Quaker whose activism proved unsettling to some members of her faith, Lucretia Mott assumed a highly visible role in the abolitionist movement. After joining William Lloyd Garrison at the launch of the American Anti-Slavery Society, she helped to found Philadelphia’s Female Anti-Slavery Society. Her concern for women’s rights was a natural outgrowth of her abolitionist efforts. In 1848, Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organised the convention at Seneca Falls, New York, that galvanised the women’s suffrage movement.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Marcus Aurelius Root (American, 1808-1888) 'Lucretia Coffin Mott' 1851 (detail)

 

Marcus Aurelius Root (American, 1808-1888)
Lucretia Coffin Mott (detail)
1851
Half-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 15 x 23.2 x 1 cm (5 7/8 x 9 1/8 x 3/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will display photographs of 19th-century activists and professionals in “Women of Progress: Early Camera Portraits,” a presentation of 10 daguerreotypes and two ambrotypes from the museum’s extensive collection of antebellum portraits. This focused exhibition will explore the increasing visibility of American women in society before the Civil War and the corresponding advent of portrait photography. Organised by Ann Shumard, senior curator of photographs, “Women of Progress” is part of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, “Because of Her Story,” and is one of seven exhibitions in the Portrait Gallery’s 2019 – 2020 program to highlight women in history. “Women of Progress: Early Camera Portraits” will be displayed on the museum’s first floor June 14 through May 31, 2020.

The Portrait Gallery’s exhibition will reacquaint visitors with the fascinating lives of 13 memorable Americans. “In the 1840s and 1850s, the growing presence of women in public life coincided with the rise of portrait photography,” Shumard said. “As a result, women who were making their mark in endeavours as varied as journalism, literature, abolitionism and the burgeoning women’s rights movement became sought-after subjects for the camera.”

Those featured in the exhibition will include Dorothea Lynde Dix, activist and educator who sought humane treatment for people with mental illness; Margaret Fuller, editor and women’s rights advocate; Lucretia Mott, abolitionist and co-organiser of the Seneca Falls Convention; Lucy Stone, suffragist and a founder of the American Equal Rights Association; and Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Other pioneers are the actress Laura Keene, the first woman manager of a major theatre in New York City and Mary Ann Brown Patten, the first woman to command a sailing ship around Cape Horn. The exhibition will also highlight the abolitionists Emily and Mary Edmonson, who are pictured in a daguerreotype with Frederick Douglass at the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law Convention in Cazenovia, New York. Funding for the exhibition was made possible by the National Portrait Gallery’s Women’s Initiative Leadership Committee including Capital One and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.

Press release from the National Portrait Gallery [Online] Cited 03/11/2019

 

Rufus Anson. 'Laura Keene' c. 1855

 

Rufus Anson (American, c. 1821-?)
Laura Keene
c. 1855
Sixteenth-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 5.4 × 9.7 cm (2 1/8 × 3 13/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Acquired through the generosity of Bill and Sally Wittliff

 

 

Rufus Anson (active 1851-1867), American daguerreotypist who operated a studio in New York City.

An accomplished comedic actress, Laura Keene (20 July 1826 – 4 November 1873) rattled New York City’s theatrical establishment in 1855 when she became the first woman manager of a major theatre in that city. After leasing the Metropolitan Theatre, she opened Laura Keene’s Varieties, serving as manager, director, and principal star. Keene faced hostility from New York’s male theatrical managers. Her theatre was vandalised, and she lost her lease. Undeterred, she opened the Laura Keene Theatre in a new building in 1856. Well versed in all aspects of her craft, Keene was a highly successful manager who championed emerging playwrights and attracted the brightest stars to her acting company.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Rufus Anson. 'Laura Keene' c. 1855 (detail)

 

Rufus Anson (American, c. 1821-?)
Laura Keene (detail)
c. 1855
Sixteenth-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 5.4 × 9.7 cm (2 1/8 × 3 13/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Acquired through the generosity of Bill and Sally Wittliff

 

John Plumbe, Jr. 'Margaret Fuller' 1846

 

John Plumbe, Jr. (born United Kingdom, 1809-1857)
Margaret Fuller
1846
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

Short on funds and waiting to receive a commission from the United States Congress to survey the route for a transcontinental railroad, an idea which he is credited with originating, civil engineer John Plumbe, Jr., took up photography in 1840 after seeing the work of an itinerant daguerreotypist in Washington, D.C. A Welshman by birth, Plumbe opened a gallery in Boston the following year. He eventually maintained galleries in thirteen cities, making his name recognisable in numerous cities across the country. Plumbe opened his Washington, D.C., gallery in 1844, the first in the nation’s capital. By the time he established the National Plumbeotype Gallery of engraved and lithographic reproductions of his own images in 1846, Plumbe had been dubbed “the American Daguerre” by the press. In 1847 Plumbe found himself in financial trouble and he sold his business to his employees. Two years later he gave up photography and retired to Dubuque, Iowa, where [suffering from the prolonged effects of malaria and from acute depression] he met an untimely end by cutting his own throat [at his brother’s residence in Dubuque on May 28, 1857].

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019

After working briefly for the Wisconsin territorial legislature in late 1839, Plumbe went east to continue his campaign for a Pacific railroad. He turned to the newly introduced daguerreotype process of photography as a means of support and excelled in that endeavour. Within six years Plumbe had attained a national reputation through photographic competitions and by establishing a chain of 23 galleries. Plumbe’s Dubuque gallery, opened in 1841 and operated by his brother Richard (1810-1896), was the first photographic establishment west of the Mississippi. Plumbe manufactured and imported photographic materials, gave instruction to the first generation of photographers, and published dozens of lithographic prints of noted Americans based on his daguerreotypes. Among his many achievements are the earliest photographs of the U.S. Capitol and White House (exterior and interior), the earliest photograph of a president in office (James K. Polk), and thousands of portraits of the most noted personalities of the era. Plumbe pioneered brand name recognition, obtained patent rights for colour photography, and published a magazine filled with illustrations based on his photographs. By late 1848, however, Plumbe had experienced severe financial reverses due to competition and mismanagement and was forced to sell his galleries to pay his debts.

Text from The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019

 

John Plumbe, Jr. 'Margaret Fuller' 1846 (detail)

 

John Plumbe, Jr. (born United Kingdom, 1809-1857)
Margaret Fuller (detail)
1846
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

The only known daguerreotype of Margaret Fuller.

Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli (May 23, 1810 – July 19, 1850), commonly known as Margaret Fuller, was an American journalist, editor, critic, and women’s rights advocate associated with the American transcendentalism movement. She was the first full-time American female book reviewer in journalism. Her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century is considered the first major feminist work in the United States. …

Fuller was an advocate of women’s rights and, in particular, women’s education and the right to employment. She also encouraged many other reforms in society, including prison reform and the emancipation of slaves in the United States. Many other advocates for women’s rights and feminism, including Susan B. Anthony, cite Fuller as a source of inspiration. Many of her contemporaries, however, were not supportive, including her former friend Harriet Martineau. She said that Fuller was a talker rather than an activist. Shortly after Fuller’s death, her importance faded; the editors who prepared her letters to be published, believing her fame would be short-lived, censored or altered much of her work before publication.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Olive Oatman' Nd

 

Unidentified Artist
Olive Oatman
Nd
Ambrotype
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

In the spring of 1851, a band of Apache men in present-day Arizona captured thirteen-year-old Olive Oatman and her younger sister. They killed or seriously injured the rest of the family during the attack. At the time, the Oatman family-originally from Illinois-was headed west to California to start their lives anew. Shortly thereafter the Apache sold the two sisters to a Mohave family. While living with this family, Oatman was tattooed on the chin, a custom common among members of the tribe. In 1856, after enduring five years in captivity and the death of her sister, Oatman had her freedom negotiated, and she was given over to authorities at Fort Yuma. Accounts of her release were published widely, and her biography became a best-seller. Though Oatman stated that her Mojave family treated her well, stories such as hers reinforced commonly held assumptions that Native Americans were violent savages.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019.

 

Olive Ann Oatman (September 7, 1837 – March 21, 1903) was a woman born in Illinois. While traveling from Illinois to California with a company of Mormon Brewsterites, her family was killed in 1851, in present-day Arizona by a Native American tribe. The town of Oatman, Arizona is named after the Oatman family and the massacre which occurred therein. Though she identified her family’s attackers as Apache, they were most likely Tolkepayas (Western Yavapai). This small group of Native Americans clubbed Olive’s family to death. They captured Olive and her younger sister, Mary Ann, and enslaved them for one year. The girls were traded to the Mohave people. Olive spent four years with the Mohave. During her time with the Mohave tribe her sister, Mary Ann, died from starvation. Olive returned to white society five years after the Oatman Massacre, wearing a blue tattoo on her chin as a reminder of her time with the Mohave people.

Following her repatriation into American society, Olive’s story began to be retold with dramatic license in the press, as well as in her own “memoir” and speeches. Novels, plays, movies, and poetry have been inspired by Olive’s story, which resonated in the media of the time and long afterward. She had become an oddity in 1860s America, partly owing to the prominent blue tattooing of Oatman’s face by the Mohave, making her the first known tattooed American woman on record. Much of what actually occurred during her time with the Native Americans remains unknown.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Olive Oatman' Nd (detail)

 

Unidentified Artist
Olive Oatman (detail)
Nd
Ambrotype
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

In the United States, the rise of studio portrait photography during the 1840s and ’50s coincided with a period of heightened visibility for women, who were emerging as prominent players in arenas including activism, literature, journalism and theatre. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for example, sold 300,000 copies across the nation in the first year following its publication, while in 1855, comedic stage actress Laura Keene became the first female manager of a major New York City theatre. These women, as well as others making their mark in antebellum America, increasingly found themselves in front of the camera, posing for portraits to be shared with the public or exchanged among loved ones as tokens of affection.

“Women of Progress” catalogues the stories of 13 such mid-19th century figures through the lens of ten daguerreotypes and two ambrotypes. Some of these individuals remain household names today – Beecher Stowe, Lucretia Mott and Dorothea Dix, for example. Others, including Mary Ann Brown Patten, the first woman to sail a clipper ship around Cape Horn; Charlotte Cushman, a popular actress who played both male and female parts; and Mary Ann Meade, a daguerreotypist in her own right – are lesser known. Regardless, the women are united by both their progressive bent and the fact that their camera likenesses survive as a direct result of the burgeoning popularity of photography.

An 1846 photograph of journalist Margaret Fuller falls into the first of these categories: In a letter to her brother, the writer explains that photographer John Plumbe Jr. asked her to pose for a portrait. The resulting image, a sixth-plate daguerreotype, depicts its sitter reading a hefty tome, seemingly so engrossed in the text that she remains unaware of the camera’s presence. The image was later displayed in Plumbe’s studio to attract future clientele.

The circumstances surrounding the production of an 1851 half-plate daguerreotype of abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Lucretia Mott are far hazier. Taken by photographer Marcus Aurelius Root, the portrait served as the basis for a widely circulated lithographic print by Boston-based artist Leopold Grozelier. Unlike daguerreotypes, lithographic prints could be produced in multiple copies. Lithographs also conveyed a greater variety of tones than earlier printing methods, allowing for more accurate copies of original works such as daguerreotypes and paintings.

Shumard says it’s possible Root’s photograph was taken with the direct intention of serving as the basis for Grozelier’s print. Whereas a daguerreotype sitting typically produced just one plate, lithographs could be easily mass-produced for public purchase. …

To make copies of daguerreotypes, photographers placed original plates on specialised copy stands and then reshot the image – a process known as redaguerreotyping. Although these copies often lacked the level of contrast and subtle gradation seen in the original daguerreotypes, they were more accurate than lithographs and could be circulated on a smaller scale. “Women in Progress” features two copies – an 1852 picture of Beecher Stowe and a half-plate depicting sisters Mary and Emily Catherine Edmonson in a group photograph taken at an 1850 gathering of abolitionists protesting the impending passage of the new federal Fugitive Slave Law. The Edmonsons earned their freedom from slavery with the help of the Uncle Tom’s Cabin author’s brother, Henry Ward Beecher.

Shumard notes that the group portrait had previously been exhibited in relation to two of its better-known sitters, abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Gerrit Smith. Now, however, the scene’s female subjects are the ones commanding visitors’ attention. “In this instance,” she says, “it’s really nice to be able to highlight the Edmonson sisters.” The Beecher Stowe copy, Shumard says, stems from one of several studio sittings that yielded multiple plates ready for reproduction and distribution to an eager public.

The majority of daguerreotypes produced in mid-19th century America were designed for private rather than public consumption. “They are very intimate objects, [made] to be held in your hand and looked at,” says Shumard, or perhaps gifted to a loved one as a personal memento.

The medium’s capacity for conveying familiarity is apparent in an 1855 half-plate of abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Lucy Stone, who took the then-unheard of step of keeping her maiden name upon marrying husband Henry Blackwell. In the portrait, Stone’s features and clothing – including hand-coloured peach-tinted flesh and a pink pigmented skirt – are accentuated in an attempt to make the keepsake image look more lifelike.

Other notable images not to be missed include an 1850 quarter-plate daguerreotype of poet Sarah T. Bolton, who urged readers to “Battle for the right. / And break the chains that bind / the mighty to the few,” and a sixth-plate ambrotype of Olive Oatman, a young woman who was abducted by Native Americans and spent five years in captivity, first as a slave of the tribe that murdered most of her family and later as an adopted member of the Mohave people.

Oatman’s 1856 return attracted national attention. She was the subject of an exaggerated 1857 account, Life Among the Indians: Captivity of the Oatman Girls, and traveled the country on a publicity lecture circuit. Her likeness, meanwhile, was cemented in the public’s imagination by blue markings tattooed across the length of her chin. This facial tattoo, applied with cactus ink, is just discernible in the exhibition ambrotype, which is among the National Portrait Gallery’s most recent acquisitions.

Referencing the Oatman and Brown Patten ambrotypes, Shumard concludes, “I’m so excited that we have these ambrotypes of [women] who are not household names but… who experienced such trying circumstances and managed to survive.”

Extract from Meilan Solly. “How the Camera Introduced American to their Heroines,” on the Smithsonian.com website July 9, 2019 [Online] Cited 12/11/2019

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Dorothea Lynde Dix' c. 1849

 

Unidentified Artist
Dorothea Lynde Dix
c. 1849
Half-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 15.4 x 24.4 x 1.3cm (6 1/16 x 9 5/8 x 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

 

In 1841, teacher, humanitarian, and reformer Dorothea Dix launched a vigorous campaign to secure humane treatment for those afflicted with mental illness. At a time when such individuals were more often imprisoned and abused than cared for and treated, Dix became a tireless advocate for their welfare. Personally investigating the “cages, cellars, stalls, [and] pens” where sufferers were confined, she reported her findings in speeches and articles, as well as in the petitions she submitted to lawmakers. Thanks to her efforts, facilities for the mentally ill were greatly expanded and improved.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019. For more information see the large Wikipedia entry.

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Dorothea Lynde Dix' c. 1849 (detail)

 

Unidentified Artist
Dorothea Lynde Dix (detail)
c. 1849
Half-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 15.4 x 24.4 x 1.3cm (6 1/16 x 9 5/8 x 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Meade Brothers Studio. 'Mary Ann Meade' c. 1850

 

Meade Brothers Studio
Mary Ann Meade
c. 1850
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 9.6 × 15.9 × 1.6 cm (3 3/4 × 6 1/4 × 5/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Dudley Emerson Lyons

 

 

A daguerreotypist in her own right, Mary Ann Meade began her career in the successful photography business founded around 1840 by her brothers, Charles and Henry Meade. After Charles’s death in 1858, Mary Ann gained greater visibility in the gallery’s operations. At a time when few women worked behind the camera, she was listed as a photographer in Trow’s New York City Directory (1861-62). In 1861, an article about the Meade Brothers gallery noted, “Mr. [Henry] Meade and his sister attend personally to visitors.” By June 1863, Mary Ann had become the gallery’s director and was billed as “Successor to MEADE BROTHERS.”

Text from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019/

Meade Brothers Studio

The brothers opened their daguerreian gallery in Albany, N.Y., in 1842, and their business later expanded to other cities. They each traveled to Europe and in 1848, Charles Meade became the first American to photograph Frenchman Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre – the originator of the daguerreotype process. In 1850, the Meade brothers established their flagship American Daguerreotype Gallery on Broadway in New York City, where they photographed such famous subjects as statesman Daniel Webster and entertainer Lola Montez.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019

 

Meade Brothers Studio. 'Mary Ann Meade' c. 1850 (detail)

 

Meade Brothers Studio
Mary Ann Meade (detail)
c. 1850
Sixth-plate daguerreotype
Case Open: 9.6 × 15.9 × 1.6 cm (3 3/4 × 6 1/4 × 5/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Dudley Emerson Lyons

 

Unidentified Artist. 'Mary Ann Brown Patten' c. 1857

 

Unidentified Artist
Mary Ann Brown Patten
c. 1857
Ninth-plate ambrotype
Case Open: 7.4 x 12.4 x 0.9 cm (2 15/16 x 4 7/8 x 3/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Dorthy Knouse Koepke

 

 

Mary Ann Brown Patten (April 6, 1837 – March 18, 1861) was the first female commander of an American merchant vessel. She was the wife of Joshua Patten, captain of the merchant clipper ship Neptune’s Car. The ship was bound around Cape Horn from New York towards San Francisco when Joshua Patten collapsed from fatigue in 1856. His wife took command for 56 days, faced down a mutiny, and successfully managed to navigate the clipper ship into San Francisco. At the time she was 19 years old and pregnant with her first child.

Text from the Wikipedia website

In 1856, Mary Ann Brown Patten became the first woman to sail a clipper ship around Cape Horn, through the notoriously treacherous waters at the tip of South America. Schooled in navigation by her sea captain husband, she took helm of his ship after he fell seriously ill and the first mate proved untrustworthy. Only nineteen years old and pregnant at the time, Patten captained the San Francisco-bound Neptune’s Car for fifty-one days, during the most hazardous portion of its 15,000-mile voyage. Upon bringing the vessel safely to its destination, she was hailed for her skill as well as her courage.

Exhibition label from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 13/11/2019

 

 

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
8th and F Sts NW
Washington, DC 20001

Opening hours:
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Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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