Poster ImageIntroduction

Introduced into America in the fall of 1839, shortly after its invention in France by Louis Daguerre, daguerreotyping quickly took hold in Philadelphia. The city had all the necessary components to successfully support daguerreotyping – a well-established scientific community that embraced the technological challenge, an artistic community that recognized the potential, and a population large enough to sustain a new profession. Until their gradual displacement by the more versatile paper photographs, daguerreotypes evolved in just twenty years from technological wonders produced by scientific experimenters to treasured personal objects produced in studios by operators who, at their best, combined technological expertise with artistic skill. Drawing on the Library Company’s strong collection of Philadelphia daguerreotypes (and significant examples on loan from other Philadelphia institutions), 19th-century books about daguerreotyping, studio advertisements, and other daguerreian ephemera, Catching a Shadow illuminates Philadelphia’s role as a vibrant center of daguerreotyping.