Case Open: 9.4 x 16.4 x 1.4cm (3 11/16 x 6 7/16 x 9/16")
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of John D. Duncan and an anonymous donor
The birth of photography in 1839 provided a new means of recording and disseminating likenesses of America's presidents. The first photographic method employed for this purpose was the daguerreotype, which yielded mirrorlike images remarkable for their detail and sense of immediacy. Soon, sophisticated portraits of presidents emerged from the studios of such daguerreotypists as Mathew Brady or Southworth and Hawes. As one-of-a kind objects produced without the use of negatives, original daguerreotypes of the presidents enjoyed only limited circulation. But reproduced as wood engravings in illustrated newspapers or as popular prints, these images reached countless Americans who could never have hoped to see their president in person.