Archives // Subscribe // Random Article

The photo above is a daguerreotype – the first publicly announced type of photograph.   The technology of its eponymous creator, Louis Daguerre, daguerreotypes were, relative to modern photography, slow.  It took over ten minutes for a concoction involving silver halide and mercury (and a lens) to take the viewed scene and turn it into a photograph.  Anything which moved out of the frame during this period would, by and large, be invisible in the finished product.  For this reason, the early daugerreotypes — typically, streets of Paris (where Daugerre worked and lived) — lacked people, as they’d not stay still (or even know to) for the period necessary.

The first exception: the image above, of Paris’ Boulevard du Temple, taken in 1838.   At the corner of the tree-lined street appears a man getting his shoes shined by a young man.  (Can’t see it?  Here’s a bigger version.)  No one knows who the people depicted are, as at the time, the historic value of their identity was unappreciated.  The daguerreotype would be used for portraits in the future.  In fact, the first known photograph of Abraham Lincoln, seen here, was one.

Bonus fact:  In 1851, a Prussian photographer used the daguerreotype method to take the first known photograph of a solar eclipse.

From the Archives: Foul Tip: How a photographer accidentally captured a small bit of obscene language on film — and also accidentally had it ending up appearing on a baseball card.

RelatedThe Scenic Daguerreotype: Romanticism and Early Photography by John Wood.  Unreviewed on Amazon.

Originally published

NOW I KNOW is a free email newsletter of incredible things; you'll learn something new every day. Subscribe now!

NOW I KNOW is a free daily newsletter of incredible things; you’ll learn something new every day!

Written and distributed by Dan Lewis.

Click here to learn more about NOW I KNOW, or to subscribe.

Click here to see the full archives.

Click here to search the archives.

Copyright © 2010-2013 Dan Lewis. All rights reserved.

Now I Know is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Some images via Wikipedia, available for use here under a Creative Commons license, and copyright their respective owners.