Biographical/historical: This collection of daguerreotypes was compiled from multiple collections by the Schomburg Photographs and Prints Division. Daguerreotypes were invented in 1839, and are one of the oldest and first widely available photographic technology. The format was popular in the 1840s and 1850s until the invention of the ambrotype.
Augustus Washington (circa 1820-1875) was a Black daguerreotypist and photographer. Washington enrolled at Dartmouth College in 1843, and learned to make daguerreotypes to help fund his education. Washington left Dartmouth the following year, and moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where he opened his own daguerreotype studio and taught photography to Black students.
Washington emigrated to Libera in 1853, and opened a daguerreotype studio in Monrovia. He ultimately left photography for a career in politics, serving in both the Liberian House of Representatives and Senate, as well as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1865 to 1869.
Content: The collection contains seventeen daguerreotypes made by mostly unknown photographers between the 1840s and 1850s. The images depict individuals, most of whom are Black, in a posted portrait style. There are three images which are credited to a daguerreotypist, one from C. Evans, Philadelphia and two by Augustus Washington. Both daguerreotypes credited to Washington portray white subjects. The daguerreotypes are arranged alphabetically by title, and include descriptive information about each item's housing, as well as the photographer, when one is credited.