and a burning desire to be useful in her age and generation.
From this time much interest was manifested by our friends in our progress. Rooms were obtained in the Granite Buildings, corner of Broadway and Chambers street, and fitted for business. The rooms being small, it was soon found impracticable to use the arrangement of looking-glass, as previously spoken of; a new plan became necessary, to introduce which, the sashes were removed,
and two large looking-glasses were mounted in proper frames, thus:--
Just in front, and between the sitter and
the reflector, upon a proper stand, were used those paper muslin screen before described; also screens of tissue paper. These screens. however, when they were used, required so much time for a sitting, that some other medium, as a protection to the eyes, became absolutely necessary. The most plausible thing that suggested itself was blue glass; but, as this could not be found, numerous were the expedients proposed by the friends of the art, who from time to time visited our rooms. At the suggestion of Professor Mapes (who is ever ready to assist those in perplexity), a trough of plate glass s, about twenty-eight inches square in the clear, and from three to four inches thick, was filled with a solution of ammonia sulphate of copper, and mounted on the frame as in the sketch, which, for a time, answered extremely well; soon, however, decomposition of this solution became apparent from the increased length of time required for a sitting, although to the eye of an observer, no visible cause for such long sittings could be pointed out. Professor Mapes being appealed to, suggested that to the above solution a little acid be added which acted like a charm-- shortening the time for a sitting from six, eight, or ten minutes to that of about one. Decomposition, however, would go on by the action of light and heat through the solution. New solutions were tried, when the whole were finally abandoned as being, too uncertain and troublesome. (The reflecting apparatus R, was placed upon the stand as in the sketch, with a wedge for elevating the camera, between it and the table, to obtain the image properly upon the plate.) A quantity of blue window glass was next obtained, and holes drilled through the corners of it, and several sheets were wired together to increase the size, and, when complete, was suspended from the ceiling in its proper place, and so arranged that when a person was sitting, this sheet of glass could be moved to and from, the object of which was to prevent shadows on the face of the sitter produced from the uneven surface of the glass. This latter contrivance was used until a perfect plate of glass was procured.
The number of persons desirous of obtaining, their miniatures, induced many to entertain the idea of establishing themselves in the Art as a profession, and numerous were the applications for information; many persons paying for their portraits solely with the view of seeing the manner of our manipulations, in order that they might obtain information to carry on likeness-taking as a business.
The reflecting camera being a very troublesome instrument to make, and difficulties besetting us from every source, but little attention could be given to teaching others; and, indeed, as the facts seemed to be at this time, we knew but little of the necessary manipulations ourselves. In course of time, several established themselves. The first one, after ourselves, who worked the discovery of Daguerre for portrait taking in this city, was a Mr. Prosch; followed soon after by many others, in almost all cases copying the reflecting arrangement for light, as figured above, many using it even after we had long abandoned that arrangement for a better one.
Innumerable obstacles to the rapid advance of the daguerreotype, presented themselves almost hourly, much to the annoyance of ourselves, and those dependent upon our movements for their advancement. Among the most difficult problems of the day, was the procuring of good plates. Messrs. Corduran & Co. were among the first to supply the trade; at that early day, however, it was a very rare thing, to be able to procure an even perfect surface, from the fact that a pure surface of silver could scarcely be obtained, the manufacturers deeming it too much trouble to prepare silver plated copper with pure silver-- the result was, that in attempting to polish perfectly such plated metal as could be procured, the plates would become cloudy, or colored in spots, from the fact of having more or less alloy, according as more or less of the silver surface was removed in polishing the plate fit for an impression. To explain more clearly, it was the practice of most silver platers to use an alloy for silver-plating. In the reduction of the ingot to sheet metal, annealing has to be resorted to, and acid pickles to remove oxides, etc. The number of times the plated metal is exposed to heat and acid in its reduction to the required thickness, produces a surface of pure silver. The most of this surface is, however, so rough as to be with difficulty polished, without in places removing entirely this pellicle of pure metal, and exposing a polished surface of the alloy used in plating. Whenever such metal was used, very unsightly stains or spots frequently disfigured the portraits. The portrait, or portion of it, developed upon the pure silver, being much lighter or whiter than that developed upon the alloy; it therefore appeared that the purer the silver, the more sensitive the plate became. Accordingly, we directed Messrs. Scovills, of Connecticut, to prepare a roll of silver-plated metal, with pure silver; it fortunately proved to be a good article, but, unfortunately, a pound of this metal (early in 1840) cost the round sum of $9. Like descriptions of metal, the same gentlemen would be glad to furnish, at this time, for $4. Soon after this, some samples of English plated metal, of a very superior quality, came to our possession, and relieved us from the toil of making and plating one plate at a time, an expedient we were compelled to resort to, to command material to meet the pressing demands for portraits.
Having it now in our power to obtain good plated metal, a more rapid mode of polishing than that recommended by Daguerre was attempted as follows:
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