Stephen A. Douglas Daguerreotype Lateral Image

© Albert Kaplan 2013

This quarter plate daguerreotype is clearly the product of a master daguerreian. Grant Romer believes it was made between 1850 and 1855.


The following text is an aside, of little or no consequence. Yet, the matter interests me, and perhaps will interest some viewers, especially students of early photography.


When I first saw this image I had the impression that the folio Douglas has in hand, as well as the book and papers on the small, fabric-covered side table, are his personal documents, not props of a photography studio. Thus, it seemed to me that this image was made at the Douglas residence.


Two leading early photography authorities disagree, claiming quite correctly that the circumstances and conditions required for a high quality daguerreotype, (such as this), are the product of a studio environment whereby all the variables – lighting, distances, elevations, background, and the like – have been carefully laid out, repeatedly tested, and finely tuned for the current portrait.


Yes, I agree that it would have been unusual if this daguerreotype was made at the Douglas residence rather than at the photographer’s studio.


It boils down to this: If these documents/papers were the personal property of Stephen A. Douglas, it strikes me as preposterous that he would have brought them to a photography studio.


Kaplan Collection Known Images