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Collection Samuel F. B. Morse Papers at the Library of Congress, 1793 to 1919


Morse was an early adopter of Louis Daguerre's photographic method and went on to teach this technique to the famous portrait photographer Mathew Brady.

Daguerrotype, Samuel F. B. Morse

This head-and-shoulders portrait of Morse is a daguerreotype made between 1844 and 1860 from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Morse, considered one of the finest portrait painters of the Romantic Style in America, had studied art in Paris, where he met Louis Daguerre. Upon returning to the U.S., Morse set up his own photographic studio in New York. He was among the first in America to make portraits using the new daguerreotype method.

Letter from Mathew Brady to Samuel F. B. Morse, February 15, 1855

One of the first Americans to make daguerreotypes in the United States, Morse opened a studio in New York in 1840. There, he received many students who paid him to teach them the new daguerreotype process. More pupils came to him than to any other daguerreotypist at the time because of his prestige as president of the National Academy and an acquaintance of Daguerre himself. Some, including Mathew Brady, eventually became highly accomplished. In this letter to Morse, Brady recognizes his teacher's significance to early photography by calling him "the first successful introducer of this rare art in America."