Monday, October 22, 2012

Daguerreotype - Mystery Monday

My grandmother gave this photograph to my mother, but the identity of the woman in the portrait is a mystery. My mother's family was from Queen Anne's County, Maryland and the surrounding areas. Some of the surnames in her family are Sparks, Councill, Willis, Chilcutt, Godwin, Davis, Adams, Harmon, and Meredith, so it's possible that the woman is from one of these families.

The photograph is in a case which opens up and has a plush velvet-like material on the left side. I think this is a daguerreotype and the case and the woman's clothing could provide some clues as to when the photograph was taken. Her jewelry looks metallic and looks like it was enhanced in the photograph. The photograph is behind a glass plate which is very reflective and a bit tricky to capture with my little digital camera.

The outer case looks like a Union Case which might date it to sometime in the 1850s or 1860s. A Union Case was a mixture (or union) of shellac and wood fibers that were pressed into a steel mold. The Daguerreian Society has some good information on the history of daguerreotypes.

I'm hesitant to handle this too much as it's already showing some damage and has been in a humid climate for a long time. I'd love to hear from anyone that recognizes the woman or has ideas on how to trace the photograph's origins a bit further.

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