Historical Treasure: 19th century photography captures almost every detail – Terre Haute Tribune Star

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Updated: November 6, 2021 @ 1:10 pm
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Submitted19th century photograph: The majority of daguerreotype, ambrotype, and tintypes in the museum’s collection are unidentified and unknown people of the mid- to late-1800s. 

Submitted19th century photograph: The majority of daguerreotype, ambrotype, and tintypes in the museum’s collection are unidentified and unknown people of the mid- to late-1800s. 
We’ve all heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It’s true, many a mystery has been solved by the slightest of details found in a candid photograph. Every day historical puzzles are pieced together with photographic evidence and if it weren’t for the thousands of pictures in the collection of archives at the Vigo County History Center there is much of our local story that would be left untold. Photographs are often our No. 1 source and first stop when it comes to historical research. But sometimes a photo from the past can pose an impossible challenge when there is no known information to accompany it.
This is the case with many of the museum’s oldest and most fragile images, daguerreotype, ambrotype and tintype photos. Many of these visual artifacts can be dated according to the fashion or hairstyles depicted in the subject. However, with little to no identifying information, a conducive conclusion of its origin or provenance may be limited. While we can determine the process used to still the image, and thus narrow down an estimated time frame, information on the person or items photographed is often a mystery.
Daguerreotype process thrived in the 1840s. It was a special adaptation of creating a photo that could not be duplicated. Louis Jacques Daguerre invented the daguerreotype in 1839. These popular photos were quite delicate and had to be kept in a protective case to prevent them from breaking. The result of the process, a sharper and almost three-dimensional image over a mirror-like silver backing was unlike anything seen before.
When wet plate collodion photo processing was invented in the 1850s, English photographer and sculptor Frederick Scott Archer created the ambrotype photo. These were faster to process and more affordable, making them instant champions over the daguerreotypes. During this time tintype photos also came on the scene. A tintype is produced by applying the photographic emulsion directly onto a thin iron sheet. Like the ambrotype, tintypes produced a vivid picture with incredibly enhanced detail. Ambrotype and tintype photos most commonly depict individual or family portraits. They were produced through the years of the American Civil War and into the 20th century. Within each leather case and ornamental frame there is a unique image. Figures and faces held dear by loved ones near a bedside and in pockets of men at war. Once their names were known, now just a detail even the best photographic process couldn’t keep.
The Vigo County Historical Museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Visit https://www.vchsmuseum.org/ or call 812-235-9717 for information on admission tickets, upcoming events, and museum membership.

TERRE HAUTE [mdash] Audrey L. Cox, 101, of Terre Haute passed away Thursday evening, November 4, 2021. She was born October 27, 1920 in Carlisle, IN to Richard Eslinger and Mary Meeks Eslinger. Her husband, Charles Cecil Cox, preceded her in death in 1989. Survivors include her daughter, San…

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