American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Reason

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The Process

Two girls
Quinby, photographer
[Two girls]
Sixth-, ninth-, and sixteenth-plate
daguerreotypes, between 1850-1860
Prints & Photographs Division (122.6)
Gift/purchases

Augusta Currie Bradhurst Field
Photographer unidentified
[Augusta Currie Bradhurst Field]
Sixth-, ninth-, and sixteenth-plate
daguerreotypes, between 1850-1860
Prints & Photographs Division (125.11)
[digital ID# cph3d02149]
Gift/purchases

The daguerreotype is a direct-positive process, creating a highly detailed, unique image on a sheet of copper coated with silver. The process was labor intensive and required great care in processing. The plates, manufactured in standard sizes, had first to be cleaned and polished to a mirrored finish. Next, the plate was sensitized with iodine until it took on a yellow-rose appearance. The plate was then transferred to the camera and exposed to light. Later the plate was developed over hot mercury until an image appeared, which was fixed in a salt solution and then toned with gold chloride.

Man with cat
Photographer unidentified
[Man with cat]
Sixth-, ninth-, and sixteenth-plate
daguerreotypes, between 1850-1860
Prints & Photographs Division (125A.2)
[digital ID# cph3d01979]
Gift/purchases

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