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The Camera and the Press

American Visual and Print Culture in the Age of the Daguerreotype

By Marcy J. Dinius

Publication Year: 2012

Before most Americans ever saw an actual daguerreotype, they encountered this visual form through written descriptions, published and rapidly reprinted in newspapers throughout the land. In The Camera and the Press, Marcy J. Dinius examines how the first written and published responses to the daguerreotype set the terms for how we now understand the representational accuracy and objectivity associated with the photograph, as well as the democratization of portraiture that photography enabled.

Dinius's archival research ranges from essays in popular nineteenth-century periodicals to daguerreotypes of Americans, Liberians, slaves, and even fictional characters. Examples of these portraits are among the dozens of illustrations featured in the book. The Camera and the Press presents new dimensions of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables, Herman Melville's Pierre, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Frederick Douglass's The Heroic Slave. Dinius shows how these authors strategically incorporated aspects of daguerreian representation to advance their aesthetic, political, and social agendas. By recognizing print and visual culture as one, Dinius redefines such terms as art, objectivity, sympathy, representation, race, and nationalism and their interrelations in nineteenth-century America.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Material Texts


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p. vii

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pp. 1-11

In March 1839, Samuel F. B. Morse wrote to Louis-Jacques-Mande´ Daguerre with an irresistible proposition: I’ll show you my telegraph if you show me your daguerreotypes. Morse was traveling in Europe to secure patents for and promote his recent invention when Daguerre’s new image-making process...

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1. The Daguerreotype in Antebellum American Popular Print

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pp. 12-48

On the front page of the February 23, 1839, Boston Daily Advertiser, a brief article reprinted from Paris’s Journal des Débats appeared under what had become a common headline in an age of concentrated scientific experimentation and innovation: ‘‘Remarkable Invention.’’1 The article begins...

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2. Daguerreian Romanticism: The House of the Seven Gables and Gabriel Harrison’s Portraits

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pp. 49-85

This chapter focuses on an important story within the story of antebellum Americans’ encounter with the new medium of daguerreotypy as it took shape in a range of popular and professional print publications: that of the emerging epistemic virtue of mechanical objectivity in scientific image...

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3. ‘‘Some ideal image of the man and his mind’’: Melville’s Pierre and Southworth & Hawes’s Daguerreian Aesthetic

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pp. 86-125

Published the year after The House of the Seven Gables, Herman Melville’s Pierre; or, The Ambiguities bears an unmistakable resemblance to Hawthorne’s romance thematically, especially in its preoccupation with portraiture.1 Yet Melville’s digressive and disjointed narrative reads more like a...

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4. Slavery in Black and White: Daguerreotypy and Uncle Tom’s Cabin

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pp. 126-153

While Hawthorne and Melville were concerned about the artistic implications of the rise of mechanical objectivity and daguerreian aesthetics, Harriet Beecher Stowe and other writers interested in slavery recognized in popular discussions of objectivity and daguerreian accuracy both artistic...

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5. ‘‘My daguerreotype shall be a true one’’: Augustus Washington and the Liberian Colonization Movement

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pp. 154-191

Augustus Washington was one of the relatively few American blacks who not only supported African colonization but actually emigrated from the United States to Liberia.1 He was also a successful daguerreotypist in Hartford, Connecticut, who imaged black and white sitters alike in his...

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6. Seeing a Slave as a Man: Frederick Douglass, Racial Progress, and Daguerreian Portraiture

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pp. 192-232

In the February 12, 1852, issue of Gamaliel Bailey’s National Era, a brief ‘‘Anecdote of Daguerre’’ immediately follows the thirty-fourth installment of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (the continuation of chapter 32 and all of chapter 33), in which Tom is beaten for refusing to whip a female slave and is ministered...

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Epilogue. ‘‘An Old Daguerreotype’’

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pp. 233-238

By the time Frederick Douglass was delivering his lectures on pictures in the early 1860s, daguerreotypy was an outmoded technology. By the end of the century, the once-new medium, its first practitioners, and the subjects in its images had all grown old and become oddities to the always modern...


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pp. 239-277


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pp. 279-294


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pp. 295-304

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pp. 305-308

Much like a daguerreotype, this book developed gradually and involved more collaboration than meets the eye. I am tremendously grateful for the mentorship and friendship of Betsy Erkkila¨, Jay Grossman, Jeffrey Masten, and Julia Stern from this project’s earliest days. In the years since, many...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812206340
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812244045

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Material Texts
Series Editor Byline: Series Editors: Roger Chartier, Joseph Farrell, Anthony Grafton, Leah Price, Peter Stallybrass, Michael F. Suarez, S.J. See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 793012726
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Camera and the Press

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Literature and photography -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Daguerreotype -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Documentary photography -- Social aspects -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Photography in literature -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Public opinion -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • American fiction -- 19th century -- Illustrations -- Public opinion.
  • Visual communication -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
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