"daguerreotype" from 1830?

Victor aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 1 02:48:11 UTC 2009

I don't believe that this is entirely accurate but the basic dates are
correct. Daugerre transfered the patent to the French government in
1839, but the actual patent must have been obtained before that--Niepce
died in 1833 and the "collaboration", if it could be called that at all,
ended at that point. The term appeared some time between 1837 and 1839,
following the publicity (rumors) that Daugerre generated but before the
actual announcement of the invention. Whatever that timeline may be, it
is extremely unlikely that the word could have been used in English to
describe that particular type of invention (basic photograph) prior to 1837.

This is somewhat complicated by the fact that Daugerre's primary claim
to fame--at least, prior to 1839--was through dioramas. These were
generally built in large sizes, taking up a whole theatre-like space.
The idea, if I recall correctly, was to have a number of diorama
displays in the center with a rotating platform moving the audience from
one to the next. (Why this was not initially done in reverse, with the
audience staying put in one of three rooms and the diorama rotating is
anyone's guess.) To the best of my knowledge, the earliest diorama in
the US, however, dates to the 1840s. It is possible that might have been
some available earlier, but there is no record of one in Philadelphia
prior to 1840--and papers would have picked that up as it is was a major
entertainment event at the time. I thought, it might have been possible
(though not likely) that somehow the term "daugerreotype" might have
been used in reference to a diorama--after all, Daugerre's promotional
materials advertised his dioramas as "a play of light and space" and his
initial interest in heliograph was only in relation as to how it could
have been put to use in creating more realistic dioramas. As I said,
although the idea occurred to me, I find it extremely unlikely. First,
the term "daugerreotype" appears to have been coined by Daugerre himself
specifically to distinguish his new "invention" from the dioramas. I am
using the term "invention" rather casually here, in a somewhat edisonian
sense. Second, there appears to be no other record referring to anything
other than a precursor of a photograph (or the device that produced it,
or the process) as "daugerreotype". Third, there is the problem with the
dates of US dioramas. Finally, there is the problem that the text itself
suggests that the date is something other than what is being claimed. I
believe, any combination of these would have ruled out that possibility
of the clipping's actual date being 1830. But the combination of all of
them makes it virtually impossible. (This is not an episode of House,
after all.)


James Harbeck wrote:
> Daguerre patented the Daguerrotype in 1839, but
> there are daguerrotypes from before that -- he
> was still developing it but there are extant
> "daguerrotypes" from at elast 1837. Daguerre
> started working with Niépce in 1929. But the
> invention was announced by the French Academy of
> Sciences on January 7, 1839, and AFAIK
> daguerrotypes weren't really known well enough to
> be a byword before then. So the 1830 date seems
> no more likely than an 1875 reference to a
> phonograph, though the April 1839 is reasonable.

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