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THENORTHERNLIGHT/NOVEMBER2007

A

reyouanavidphotographerat

familygatheringsorlodge

events?

Perhapsyouhaveanalbumofold

familyphotosthatyouliketoperuse

nowandthen.Doyouenjoysharing

youroldphotoswithyourchildrenand

grandchildren,tellingstoriesfromyears

past?Ifso,youarenotalone.

TheNationalHeritageMuseumcol-

lection,locatedatSupremeCouncil

headquartersinLexington,MA,in-

cludesover1,500photographsfromthe

1840stothepresent,featuringpeople,

places,andevents,manyofthemMa-

sonicinnature.

Theseimages,particularlythosefrom

the1800s,helpteachusaboutwhat

Freemasonsworeandhowtheyworeit;

thechangingtechnologyofthephoto-

graphicprocess,andearlyphotogra-

phersandtheirsubjects.

Theideaofcapturingone’slikenessis

thousandsofyearsold,stretchingfrom

naïvecavedrawingstoelegantpainted

portraits.

Americanportraitphotographyof

the1800sfollowsthetraditionofpor-

traitpaintings,oftenshowingpeople

holdinganobjectorwearingasymbol

thatwasimportanttothem.

Themuseumcollectionincludes

many1800sphotographsshowingmen

wearingMasonicregalia,likethe

unidentifiedsubjectofacirca1850da-

guerreotypewhowearsthejewelofa

SeniorWarden.Althoughwedonot

knowthisman’snameorwherehe

lived,wedoknowthathewasa

FreemasonandservedasSeniorWar-

den.Wecanalsointerpretfromthis

photographthatthismanvaluedhis

Masonicmembership.

Partoftheappealofphotographyfor

mid-1800sAmericanswasitsnewness

anditsrealism.Thesitterscouldsee

themselves,andtheirfriendsandfam-

ily,astheyreallywere,notthroughthe

painter’sbrushorartist’spencil.

FrenchmanLouisDaguerreiscred-

itedwithinventingaprocesstochemi-

callyrecordimagesin1839.Thisprod-

uctwasnamedforitsinventorandthe

daguerreotypewasborn.

By1855,thecommonwealthofMas-

sachusettsreportedthat403,626da-

guerreotypeshadbeentakenwithinits

bordersovertheprecedingtwelve

monthsandthat134daguerreotypists

wereworkinginMassachusettsatthe

time.Thesefigures,forjustonestate

alone,conveytheimmenseinterestthat

greetedDaguerre’sinvention.

Theprocessofhavingone’sphoto-

graphtakenwasslightlydifferentin

the1800s.

Today,almosteveryonehasaper-

sonalcamerathatcantakeagoodphoto

inafractionofasecond,tosaynothing

ofourautofocuscapabilities,ortheva-

Watch
the
Birdie

ByAIMEEE.NEWELL

Tellingstoriesthroughphotographs

AIMEEE.NEWELL,istheCuratorofCollections,NationalHeritage
MuseumatSupremeCouncilheadquartersinLexington,MA.

LodgeMaster,

circa1855.Da-

guerreotypeby

SamuelBroadbent

(1810-80),New

YorkorPhiladel-

phia.National

HeritageMuseum.

Proudofhisnew

statusasalodge

master,thisun-

knowngentleman

hiredphotogra-

pherSamuel

Broadbenttocre-

ateaportraitof

himdressedinhis

Masoniccollar,

apronandjewelof

office.