Transcript: #Pixburgh: Daguerreotypes [VIDEO]

Lauren Uhl, curator, #Pixburgh, Heinz History Center

One of the things I liked best about doing the research for #Pixburgh was getting to look at some of the oldest photographs we have. The earliest photography comes out around 1840. The earliest images that we have are from the early 1850s – 1850-1852. And so it was fascinating to me to be able to look into the eyes of some of the earliest Pittsburghers to have their images taken.

As you can see, the actual images are small. They came in a hinged case for protection and they easily fit in your hand. But they also captured remarkable detail. We scanned them and enlarged them for the exhibit so you can see them more clearly, and what you notice when you blow them up is they are not completely black and white.

They’re often lightly colorized, sometimes their cheeks have a slight blush or their clothing is colored, or, often, rings or jewelry are painted gold.

So who are some of these people? These are two daguerreotypes of William and Paula Frank and their children in the early 1850s. The Franks were among the earliest Jewish families to settle in Pittsburgh and they became a family of philanthropists.

This is William Hawkins and his sister as young teenagers in the 1850s. William became a judge and lived until 1913, but his sister, Mary Margaretta, died at 16, and this is likely the only image ever made of her.

James and Anna Woodson are a newly married couple. Anna is wearing a wedding ring and these are likely their wedding portraits from about 1861.