Tag Archives: Francois Gouraud

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


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).

Dr. Gregerson

1840                Address Unknown, Boston, Massachusetts.

April 3, 1840.  Manuscript Eloise L. Derby, Boston, Massachusetts to Mr. George L. Strong, George M. Strong Esq., 56 Wall Street, New York.  From my collection.

April 3d 1840                                                                                                                                                                  Dear Mary. George ,                                                                                                                                                As I believe I owe you a letter I will write to you and acknowledge the safe arrival of the bottle of Ipecac & and beg you to thank Papa for me in my name for the trouble he has taken about it & I know it will give you all pleasure to hear that your little namesake seems to be rapidly recovering.  He is still however as fond of myself & nurse as ever & nothing can induce him to go to any one else, but as he begins to be willing to kiss other people I hope he will soon get over his very great attachment to me, my arms as you may well imagine have felt his sickness very sensibly.

There is nothing thought of or talked about in this City now but the Daguerreotype.  I take it for granted you have seen it.  I left the baby a day or two since for a short time & went to the exhibition of ——— pictures prints impressions or whatplates I suppose ought to be the word.  I think them beautiful & consider it a most wonderful discovery but then I am so stupid as to be unable to see what good is to result from it, no impression can be taken from these plates (?) & then what is to prevent the silver from turning and if it as all silver unfortunately will & then if it does can it be cleaned without destroying the picture? & wont the copper corrode the thin coating of silver?  M. Gouraud asks 51 dollars for an apparatus, but Dr. Bigelow told me a few days since that a Dr. Gregerson of this city had fitted up an old cigar box at an expanse of $2— & had taken a very correct view of the upper part of Hanover St.  I should think that you were  just the one to be dabbling with it please send me some of your specimens…

Your affectionate Sister

Eloise L. Derby 

Dr. Gregerson is not recorded in other photographic directories.

Francois Gouraud

An early account of Francois Gouraud’s daguerreotype exhibition in New York City.  There is no mention of Gouraud in the article, but there are enough clues to verify that its his exhibit that the writer is talking about.

Recorded on  February 1, 1840 in the Maumee City Express (Maumee City, Ohio.)  The following account of that wonderful invention by which the vestal Nature is wiled from her seat, and made to become the painter of her own fair form; by which Art is constrained to leap from her pedestal and lay herself on canvass, without the intervention of the painters skill; and even the frowning thunder-clouds of Heaven are forced into the hardness, and made to draw—their own portraits, however un-pallette-able it may be to them, is from the Providence Journal.  The exhibition spoken of is in Chamber’s-street, New York.

The Daguerreotype.—I visited this morning the exhibition of pictures produced by the Daguerreotype, and propose to give some account of them, which although imperfect, may still interest those who have never seen them.  The collection consists of more then twenty specimens of different sizes, by measuring generally six or seven inches high, by four or five wide.  Each plate is surrounded by a wide margin of drawing paper and is framed and glazed.  They are displayed upon desks, but may be taken to the light and examined at the pleasure of the visitors.  The greater part of them represent certain views in the city of Paris; the rest, groupings of still life, formed apparently in the studio of M. Daguerre.  The reader may obtain a tolerable idea of the general effect of these pictures, by imagining them to have been painted with some delicate silvery pigment upon a metallic mirror of the most even and highly polished surface,–this surface itself being left untouched for the darks and the greater or less brightness of the pigment indicating the various gradations of light.  The protogenic process is indeed similar to this.  It is only the lights of the object which act upon the prepared plate, and produce that infinitely thin deposit of silver grey mineral which by its greater or less accumulation forms the picture.  The dark parts of the object produce no chemical change at all upon the plate, and therefore the corresponding parts of the representation at the end of the process, appear entirely untouched, and when the picture is held at a particular angle show the bright polish of the naked metal, all the rest of the surface being dull and clouded.  This explanation I am aware, is obscured, but I give it, because it is upon this point that those who have never seen protegenic drawings are most curious.  Their general effect is in truth so peculiar it cannot be easily described by any familiar comparison, and must be seen to be comprehended, I may add here, that contrary to what might be supposed, these untouched parts of the plate, except when seen at the particular angle mentioned, do not appear bright and polished but form the dark and well defined shadows of the piece, and give it a depth of tone equal to that of any mezzotint or India ink drawing.  It may be seen also from this, that the lights and darks of the object are properly represented without being reversed as many believe.

There has been no exaggeration in description of the beauty of these Sun-paintings.  They reflect Reality so exactly that it is absurd to criticize them.  If you play the critic you must go beyond these images and find fault with the architecture of a building for instance, or the haziness of the atmosphere—matters over which the view-taker has no control.  He is the servant of Truth.  There is nothing inserted in his productions for effect.  You have a reliance in their perfect fidelity to the real, which introduces a new element into the feelings with which you have hitherto contemplated imitations of the outward world.  They bring you nearer to the originals than any representation by pen, pencil, or world of mouth has done before.  Here, for example, is that most beautiful of river views—the Seine, with its bridges, the celebrated façade of the Louve, and in the distance the antique towers of the Palais de Justice.  Here is the equestrian statute of Henry IV, upon the Pont Neuf.  It was taken soon after a shower, for you may see the rain-puddles upon the pavement.  Here is a side view of Notre Dame with every interstice of the stones faithfully represented.  How exquisitely penciled is that beautiful rose-window with its delicate tracery!  The most patient draughtman might work for months and fail to draw what this instrument has produced in ten minutes.

On another plate we have the Quai St. Michael and its book-stalls, on the other the glorious tower of St. Jacques de la Boucherie, starting up from a confused assemblage of houses.  The distance looks dim and indistinct, as in the reality, but even here a magnifying glass like a telescope, brings to view a lightning rod several miles off.  In one respect, however, this is not Paris.  Here is every stone and brick, but where are the people? the lively, restless people, which in the real Paris add a new charm to this gray and time-worn architecture, by placing beside its venerable immobility the contrast of man colored, ever-changing life!  Here, upon the bridge, is the umbrella of the old fruit woman, but where is the good woman herself, in her lofty Normandy cap?  Here is the long extended book-stall, but where is the dirty-faced, obsequious gentleman who tends it, and is at your side, usually, before you can turn a leaf of one of his dilapidated volumes?  Here are the muddy streets, but where is the grisette, with her smoothly-parted hair and dark eye—picking her way from stone to stone so nicely that not a spot appears on her well fitting stocking?  We mise the bonnes, too, and the gens d’armes, and the cabriolets, and the thousand and one sights which make this the gayest city in the world Paris, perhaps, has turned Protestant, and, this being Sunday, every body stays at home.  At any rate, the only human being visible, in these triste views, is an idler sitting upon a bridge.  One would like to know the name of this individual.

The most gratifying part of this collection to the artist must be its picture of still life.  Here the genius of the painter has come in and dignified, by his power of combination and composition, the servile fidelity of the Photogenic art.  M. Daguerre has himself arranged the materials for some of these paintings.  They consist of plaster casts, medallions, articles of virtu, cut glass vessels, shields of metal, tankards, engravings; and other articles, most gracefully grouped and relieved by a drapery falling in thick folds, which in many of the pictures is nothing more or less than a—Marseilles bed-quilt.  I can hardly describe the general effect of these works better than by comparing them to the most exquisite cabinet paintings of the Dutch school.  They differ, of course, in being entirely without color, but those readers who have seen, for instance, the celebrated “Evening School,” by Gerard Dow, at Amsterdam, may imagine pictures infinitely more delicate in execution than this, and exhibiting quite as beautiful contrasts of light and shadow.  This same Gerald Dow, who spent five days in painting a lady’s hand and copied objects from their images in a concave mirror, has produced nothing where the chiar ‘oscuro is more beautiful than in these drawings, and where the gradations of shadow are, as it is technically termed, fused so exquisitely.  They differ from all other pictures in this—that they show no marks of graver or pencil, or lines, or dots, or any thing which reminds one of a mechanical process.  They are images almost as pure as reflections in a mirror, and yet in the representations of the small plaster casts you trace the marks of the juncture of the moulds; you distinguish the peculiar cottony look of the quilt from the semi-transparency of the muslin drapery—the engravings from the oil-paintings, the clear glitter of the cut-glass from the metallic brilliancy of the shield and tankard.