D. W. Seager

1839                In Chilton’s, Broadway, New York, New York.       

D. W. Seager was recorded in four announcements, the first three are from the Morning Herald (New York, New York) the fourth is from The Evening Post (New York, New York) and one letter.  The first announcement appeared on September 30, 1839.  We saw, the other day, in Chilton’s in Broadway, a very curious specimen of the new mode, recently invented by Daguerre in Paris of taking on copper the exact resemblance of scenes and living objects, through the medium of the sun’s ray’s reflected in a camera obscura.  The scene embraces a part of St. Paul’s church, and the surrounding shrubbery and houses…It seems that for an annuity of $1200 a year, paid by the French Government, the inventor, in Paris, agreed to make public the process of taking such miniature pictures. Mr. Segur, of this city, on this description, set to work his powers, and, about three days ago, succeeded in making the experiment…

The second announcement appeared on October 3, 1839.  The Daguerreotype.—A lecture will be given by Mr. Seager, at the Stuyvesant Institute, on Sunday evening, the 5th inst. At half past seven o’clock, upon the Daguerreotype, or the art of imprinting, in a few minutes, by the mode of Mr. Daguerre, the beautiful images of landscapes, Architecture, Interiors, &c. formed in the Camera Obscura.  These drawings will be found so perfect that distant houses, appearing not larger than a pin’s head, may be magnified to discover doors, windows, &c.—The process is rapid and simple, but requiring delicacy and a certain adherence to rules which will be explicitly laid down, as well as the particular miniature to be observed to ensure a certainty of success.  The process cannot be carried to ultimate completion by candlelight, but every stage of the operation will be exhibited to familiarize others with the mode.

The following scientific gentlemen have given permission to be referred to as being familiar with the process and its extraordinary results:

President Duer, Columbia College; Professor Morse; James R. Chilton, Esq.; Jno L. Stephens, Esq.[1]

Tickets, 50 Cents, may be had of Dr. Chilton. 261 Broadway; at the Messrs. Carvill’s, at the Booksellers’, and at the Stuyvesant Institute.—Broadway.                                   

Advertisement ran from October 3 to 5, 1839.          

The letter is from the collection of the George Eastman House & Museum.  Printed on the outside of the envelope:  Nov. 7. 1839./ DW Seager/Daguerreotype painting.  To the manager of the American Institute.

Nov. 7 1839

Gentlemen

Allow me to present to the American Institute a specimen of the Daguerreotype which I produced in the month of September and exhibited at your last fair.  My first result was on the 16th Septr last and through nearly Eight weeks have elapsed I have seen nothing, with which to compare results.  This little specimen will serve to mark the progress of the art, the process of which is now generally known, but which simply consist in cleansing the silvered surface of a plate of copper with diluted nitric acid, subjecting it to the vapor of iodine for a few seconds and by placing it in a camera obscura to receive the impression of light from any object desired.  The drawing is produced by the action of light upon the thin film of ioduretted [?] silver & when the plate is subjected to the vapor of mercury at a temperature of 167 Fahrenheit the vapor is attracted and coheres to those parts most influenced by light.

Some of my more recent results now in the possession of Dr. Chilton I am told by those who have seen Daguerres drawings, are equal to some of his.  The truth of these drawings amounts almost to a reflection of the object in a mirror.  I have obtained good results at nine feet distance & Thus a complex and intricate piece of machinery, requiring much time a labor of an expert draughtsman to produce a drawing correct in all its measurements may in a few moments be drawn with such mathematical precision and exactness, that one part being measured or known would be the scale for the whole, and a moderate time would suffice for many drawings under different point of view, or relative position of parts.

I am [Gentlemen]

Your obedient Servt

DW Seager

150 Greenwich Street.

The third announcement appeared on January 21, 1840.  What is all this bluster and rhodomontade about, between Gouraud and Seager, respecting the Daguerreotype?  It looks a little like Twedledum and Twedledee.

The fourth announcement appeared on January 23, 1840. A newspaper controversy has taken place between Mr. Gouraud, who brought over the Daguerreotype from France, and a Mr. Seager, a pupil of his, who has set up for himself, and attacked Mr. Gouraud with great ferocity in certain advertisements.  That Mr. Gouraud is the person he represents himself to be—that he is a pupil of Daguerre, the inventor—and that he brings over to this country the latest improvement in the Daguerreotype—there can be no doubt; and the attempt to supplant him strikes us as unfair and unjust.  The charge that Mr. Gouraud has passed under a feigned name, is not true, as we know from having seen his passport made out by the French Police for this country.

D. W. Seager is known and recorded in a number of histories and in Craig’s Daguerreian Register but was added because he is an important early practitioner and may shed light into the controversy/disagreement between Morse and Gouraud.

[1] James R. Chilton (1810-1863); William Alexander Duer (1780-1858); Samuel Finley Breeze Morse (1791-1872); John Lloyd Stephens (1805-1852).

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