This Photograph from 1840 is One of many Earliest Portraits Taken in America


A number of the earliest photographic portraits taken in America have been lately found in an unheated shed on Lengthy Island. The traditionally vital discover incorporates images from a number of the first experiments with the daguerreotype course of.

The daguerreotype course of — which is likely one of the first commercially viable photographic processes — was launched in 1839 by French inventor Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre. As the entire description of the method grew to become accessible later that yr, many raced to be the primary to provide marketable images.

Henry Fitz Jr., born in 1808 and died in 1863, together with companions Alexander Wolcott and John Johnson have been those to win that race. It was Fitz Jr.’s household portraits, consisting of twenty-two daguerreotype items, that have been discovered within the long-forgotten assortment that’s now thought of a historic photographic treasure.

Fitz Jr. was a New York Metropolis telescope maker who additionally helped develop what would turn into the primary patented digital camera in America. In 1840, he sat for a number of the earliest profitable photographic portraits taken in America. Solely a handful of those portraits from this era have survived.

Daguerreotype portrait of Henry Fitz Jr. Taken a while throughout January 1840. One of many earliest surviving photographic portraits taken in America.

“Think about a world with no means to seize a photographic portrait,” says Wes Cowan, Vice-Chair of Hindman Auctions. “When you wrap your head round that, the Fitz portrait is a window into the beginnings of a know-how that might endlessly change the world and the way we see ourselves in it.”

Web page 21 and 22 of “The Henry Fitz Jr. Archive of Photographic Historical past” catalog at Hindman Auctions

The photographic discover is critical as a result of, because the public sale home claims, “any scholar within the historical past of pictures in America has heard of Fitz and is aware of that he sat for a number of the earliest portraits taken.”

The gathering — which additionally incorporates extra portraits of his relations — survived because it was handed via the household of Fitz Jr.’s son George Wells Fitz. Though it was solely revealed to the world now, the gathering has been identified because the Nineteen Thirties, when one other son, Harry Fitz, donated a bunch of early daguerreotypes to the Smithsonian Establishment.

Web page 24 and 25 of “The Henry Fitz Jr. Archive of Photographic Historical past” catalogue at Hindman Auctions

Among the many donated photographs was a portrait of their father, which the Fitz household claimed was the earliest self-portrait of a residing human. Harry urged the institute to contact Geroge to accumulate extra traditionally vital household property however nothing got here of it. This meant that the archive lay forgotten for practically eight a long time till it was found in early 2020 in preparation for the sale of the property.

“As one of many earliest surviving photographic portraits in America, the Fitz profile, is after all extremely vital,” says
Grant Romer, a photograph historian and Curator Emeritus of the George Eastman Museum.

Web page 26 and 27 of “The Henry Fitz Jr. Archive of Photographic Historical past” catalogue at Hindman Auctions

Romer additionally requires the gathering to be preserved as a result of it “represents a rare alternative for students to grasp the primary few months of the event of a know-how and artwork that might change the world.”

In the same vein, a self-portrait, taken in 1839 by American photographer Robert Cornelius, has been acknowledged as one of many world’s first self-portraits, whereas daguerreotype by French photographer Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey has been hailed as one of many first to seize animals.

The Fitz assortment, together with the portrait, can be auctioned on November 15, 2021, with the complete itemizing info accessible on the Hindman web site.


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