NOVEMBER2007/THENORTHERNLIGHT

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rietyoflensesandotherspecialized

toolsavailable.

Inthemid-1800s,exposuretimesfor

daguerreotypeslastedabouttwentyto

fortyseconds.Tomakeagoodphoto-

graph,thesubjectwouldneedtore-

maincompletelyimmobileforthat

lengthoftime.

Otherwise,ascansometimesbeseen

inantiquephotographs,elementsofthe

imagewouldbeblurred.Onfirst

thought,twentytofortysecondsmay

seemlikeashorttime.But,trysitting

absolutelystillforthosesecondswhile

youtimeyourself—itislongerthan

youthink.

Still,comparedtothelengthyprocess

andcostnecessaryforapaintedpor-

trait,sittingstillforhalfaminuteorso

wasasmallpricetopayformostAmer-

icanconsumers.

Earlyphotographssuchasda-

guerreotypeshelpdemonstratethat

Freemasonrywasnotasecret,closed-

offgroup.

Someofthedaguerreotypesinthe

museum’scollectionshowaMason

withhiswife.Oneoftheseexamplesis

probablyfromMaineandshowsaman

wearingaMasoniccollarandapron.

Oneofhishandsrestsonthebackofa

chairwhereawomanisseated.Thein-

clusionofhiswifeinthepictureshows

thattherelativesofMasonswerefa-

miliarwithsomeofthesymbolsand

valuesofthefraternity.

Thisimageoffersanadditionalperk

forthehistorian—thedetailsoftheir

clothingcanbestudied,which,inturn,

canbeusedtohelpdatethephotograph

andtolearnmoreaboutthesubjects,

suchastheireconomicstanding;fash-

ionsoftheperiod,andpopularfur-

nishingsofthetime.

Daguerreotypeswereuniqueimages

exposedonglasswithcopperorlightly

silver-platedcopperbackingsandwere

themostcommontypeofimagecap-

turedbetween1839andtheearly1850s.

Thewet-plateorcollodionprocess,

whichwasinventedin1851,allowed

thephotographertomakecopiesofthe

image.

Atthattime,ambrotypesbecame

popular.Ambrotypesareglasspositive

imagesbackedwithblack.Theywere

quicklysupersededbytintypes(also

knownasferrotypes),whichusediron

thatwasjapannedblack,insteadof

glass,makingthemsturdier.

Bythe1860s,tintypeswerethepre-

ferredmaterialforphotographers,

giventheirlightweight,sturdynature.

Aroundthattime,carte-de-visiteswere

invented,allowingthephotographerto

printanimageonpaper(andalsoal-

lowinghimtoprinthisadvertisement

ontheback).

Oneofthekeystothepopularityof

thesephotographswastheircompact

size.Whilemanyportraitsfromthe

1700sand1800swerepaintedtobe

framedandhungonthewall,ada-

guerreotypeorcarte-de-visitecouldbe

carriedinapurseorapocket.Itcould

alsobedisplayedinthehomeforvisi-

torstosee.

Someoftheseimageshavebeen

termed“conversational”andmany

scholarsbelievethattheyfulfilledaso-

cialneedinthe19thcentury.Theycould

serveasareminderofaparticularper-

sonorevent,and,theyprovideda

meansofentertainment,offeringacon-

versationstarterforthesubjecttoshare

withfriendsandfamily.

Mid-1800sphotographsdidnotex-

emplifytechnicaladvancesintheirim-

agesalone.Thecaseshousingthepho-

tosalsoemployednewtechniquesand

materials.

Thebrownhingedcasesusedtopro-

tectglassdaguerreotypes(andlater

metaltintypes)werefirstmadefrom

pressedpaperandmoldedwithdesigns

toimitateleather.

Bythe1850s,thermoplasticcases,

oftenknownas“Union”cases,were

frequentlyused.Someweredecorated

withMasonicsymbols.Oneofthecases

inthemuseumcollectionhasanarch-

wayaroundanall-seeingeyewith

squareandcompassesenclosingthelet-

ter“G.”

Justasthephotosthemselvescould

beusedbytheirsubjectstoindicatea

Masonicassociation,socouldacaselike

this.TheexistenceofMasoniccasesalso

impliesthattherewasanactivemarket

forthem.

Astheinterestinphotographytook

offinthe1840s,manypeopleopened

theirownstudiossincelittleinstruction

andjustamodestinvestmentwere

needed.

However,manyoftheseentrepre-

neurswerenotseriousandwentoutof

businessasquicklyastheyopened.

WhileeasternUnitedStatescities,

®

Acarte-de-visiteusingatechniquecalled“spiritphotography,”depictinga

ghost-likeimagestandingbehindthemainsubject.

Anarchwaywithanall-seeing

eyeandsquareandcompasses

enclosingtheletter“G.”