This Day in History – August 19th, 1839

Daguerre 1

A daguerreotype of Daguerre.

On this day in 1839, details of Louis Daguerre‘s 1st practical photographic process, known as the daguerrotype, are released in Paris.

Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (November 18th, 1787 – July 10th, 1851) was a French artist who became known as one of the fathers of photography. Though he is most famous for his contributions to photography, he was also an accomplished painter and a developer of the diorama theatre.

The distinguishing visual characteristics of a daguerreotype are that the image is on a bright (ignoring any areas of tarnish) mirror-like surface of metallic silver and it will appear either positive or negative depending on the lighting conditions and whether a light or dark background is being reflected in the metal.

Several types of antique images, particularly ambrotypes and tintypes but sometimes even old prints on paper, are commonly misidentified as daguerreotypes, especially if they are in the small, ornamented cases in which daguerreotypes were usually housed.


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