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Daguerreotypes, Ambrotypes, and Other Imagery: Daguerreotypes

Daguerreotypes from the Noyes Family Papers

Jane Denham

The Noyes Family Papers collection at the University of Florida includes this daguerreotype of Jane Denham, a young girl.

Alonzo B. Noyes (1813-1876) moved to Florida in the late 1830s and married Jane Frances Cowan Hall (1815-1884) in 1841. They had five surviving children: Elvira (Ella), Emily A., Alonzo B. Jr., Edward Prescott, and Charles Albert. A.B. Noyes served as a Customs Collector and the Superintendent of Lights at St. Mark's, Florida. He also served as a major in the Confederate Army.

The Noyes family forged relationships with the Denham family and many of the letters in the collection are from this family. According to one of these letters, Jane Denham died in 1865 at age six, and a picture was sent to the Noyes family.

Defining Features of Daguerreotypes

Because daguerreotypes were very fragile, they were kept in special cases. These "Union Cases," as they are typically called, were manufactured using a mixture of shellac and wood fibers that were pressed into a steel mold. Some ambrotypes can also be found in these cases. Unfortunately, many of these cases become damaged over time.

Some of the daguerreotype cases in the Noyes Family Papers have damaged hinges and chipped wood. Below is an example of damaged hinges.

This is a daguerreotype of Emily and Alonzo B. Noyes, Jr., who were two of the five surviving children of Alonzo B. Noyes and his wife Jane.

Blurring in Daguerreotypes

This daguerreotype exemplifies one of the interesting features to this type of photographic process: blurred images. Notice that Jane Denham’s left hand is blurry. This is most likely due to the fact that daguerreotypes took a few minutes to create—even as long as ten minutes—so it was often difficult for the subjects of the photographs to stay still, especially if they were children. Any blurriness is most likely due to movement of the subject.

Damage to Daguerreotypes

Here is a closer look at the tarnished silver that daguerreotypes commonly develop over time, which distinguishes it from ambrotypes and tintypes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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