This is another in our "best of series" written by the late Gloria McCullough.
The earliest photographic process to gain popularity in America was the daguerreotype and was used from 1840 to 1860. Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre developed this process in 1839 in France. At about the same time in England, Henry Fox Talbot was creating a similar process called calotype, later known as tablotype.
A daguerreotype consists of a silver-plated sheet of copper with the whites (or highlights) of the image being a combination of silver, mercury and gold and the darks pure silver metal. The daguerreotype surface is reflective and the process has been called "the mirror with a memory." To enhance the effect of the image, daguerreotypes were often hand-colored with pigment.
The Giroux daguerreotype camera was the first commercially manufactured camera and was made by Alphonse Giroux of Paris, a relative of Daguerre's wife. It was a sliding double box camera based on the experimental apparatus used by Daguerre in perfecting his process. Chevalier, a Parisian optician and instrument maker, manufactured the lens.
The earliest cameras used in the daguerreotype process were made by opticians or sometimes even by the photographers themselves. The most popular cameras utilized a sliding box design. The lens was placed in the front box. A second, slightly smaller box slid into the back of the larger box. Sliding the rear box forward or backwards controlled the focus. A laterally reversed image would be obtained unless the camera was fitted with a mirror or prism to correct this effect. When the sensitized plate was placed in the camera the lens cap would be removed to start the exposure. Exposure time for these early cameras ranged from three to as long as fifteen minutes and the slightest movement of the subject would blur the image.
By 1851, an Englishman named Frederick Scott Archer improved upon this process by inventing the collodion process. The earliest example of this was known as the ambrotype, popular in America from 1851 to about 1870. The ambrotype, like the daguerreotype, was a direct-positive process which means that negatives were not involved in their production. In this process a piece of glass was hand-coated with collodion (a thick syrupy binder of guncotton in alcohol and ether that held light-sensitive salts in suspension). The glass plate was then immersed in a solution of silver nitrate to make it light sensitive and then it was exposed to light in a camera and immediately developed. The back of the glass was painted with black lacquer. The tintype process, patented in 1856 and used throughout the remainder of the 19th century, involved applying a coating of collodion onto a sheet of black lacquered iron in a process similar to the ambrotype.
The albumenprint process, introduced in 1850 and used during the period from 1855 to 1885, involved printing images from a negative by means of direct sunlight onto a high-quality paper treated with a solution of albumen (egg white) and silver nitrate. The resulting prints were very thin and were mounted on decorated cardboard. These mounted photos, popular in the 19th century, varied in size and shape from the carte-de-visite, a calling card, measuring about two and half by four and a quarter inches to the cabinet photo, measuring about four and a quarter by six and a half inches, usually displayed in the home or photograph album. An ornately decorated photo album containing photos of the royal family and other dignitaries was often found on a table in the parlors of Victorian homes.
The early years of photography saw yet another development between 1850 and 1854. This was called the stereograph, sometimes known as the stereogram or simply a stereo view. This was a double photograph or printed image placed side by side and when viewed through a stereoscope, it appears as a three dimensional image. The subject of the photos was usually scenic and the photographers who specialized in this type of photography usually were classified into four categories: 1. Photographers who specialized in local views. 2. Resort photographers who took photos of particular tourist sites. 3. Studio photographers who did some portraits and the interior views of churches and public buildings. 4. Those who photographed unusual events such as parades, floods, fires, train wrecks, etc. and sold the photos as souvenirs.
As early as 1853 there is evidence of a photographer in Honesdale named Leroy Hancock. By 1857 there is a record of a photographer named Charles Foedisch in Hawley and a photography studio called Collamer & Condit in Honesdale. In 1861, photographer Lafayette Lord is located in Equinunk and F. A. Leonard is in Hollisterville along with J. Edgar Canfield in Pleasant Mount.
By 1863, E. J. Stearns has opened a studio in Honesdale, to be later joined in the business by his son Lee. Joseph A. Bodie, an apprentice to Stearns, bought a share of the business and opened his own studio in Honesdale in 1872. His son, Joseph A. Bodie, Jr., joined the business in 1908 and the family-owned business continued into the 1940s. J. H. Lant and R. Warg each opened studios in Honesdale in 1875, followed by Louis Hensel in Hawley in 1878. Sidney Joseph Tyler opened a studio in Galilee in 1897. His uncle Albert North was known to be engaging in experimental photography earlier but the actual date is not recorded.
William Dowd established a studio in Honesdale in 1900 and had a studio in Waymart as early as 1885. H. T. Dolmetsch had a studio in Honesdale in 1897 but was bought out by George Ward Robbins later that year. In 1904, Curtis E. Jones had a photographic studio in Lake Ariel, Ulysses Grant Ridgeway opened a studio in White Mills in 1906 and at about the same time J. C. Stenger established his studio in Milanville.
The Hensel Collection, the work of photographer Louis Hensel, is housed at the Hawley Public Library.
The Wayne County Historical Society has over 7,000 photographs of local people, places and events cataloged in the Joseph C. Hook Memorial Photo Archives. Reproductions are available for a fee. The historical society is closed for the winter and will re-open on April 21. For more information go to the website at www.Waynehistorypa.org.