The following is the second in a series of guest posts by Micah Messenheimer, Assistant Curator of Photography, Prints and Photographs Division that discuss the parallel development of two technologies in the 19th century: railroads and photography. Picking up the story after John Plumbe’s successes as a daguerreotypist and his disappointments in plans for a transcontinental railroad route…
In March 1853, Congress appropriated funds for the wide-ranging Pacific Railroad Surveys to identify “the most economical and practical route for a railroad to the Pacific from the Mississippi” and the feasibility of a winter crossing of the Rockies and Sierra Nevada. Prominent among these photographically was General John C. Fremont’s Fifth Expedition (1853-54) along the 38th parallel. The daguerreotypist Solomon Nunes Carvalho traveled as part of the expedition, establishing a model for future photographic documentation as an integral part of survey reporting.
Solomon Nunes Carvalho. Daguerreotype, ca. 1850. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.39308
Carvalho was born to a Portuguese-Jewish family in Charleston, South Carolina in 1815. It is believed he studied with the Philadelphia portrait painter Thomas Sully during his visits to Charleston in 1841 and 42. By 1853, Carvalho had established galleries displaying both his daguerreotypes and oil paintings in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. He was known as a technical innovator and it’s likely that Fremont requested he join the survey for his understanding of processes to develop daguerreotypes at sub-freezing temperatures.
View of a Cheyenne village at Big Timbers, in present-day Colorado, with four large tipis standing at the edge of a wooded area. Daguerreotype by Solomon Nunes Carvalho, produced by Mathew Brady’s studio, [between 1853 and 1860. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.39309
While Carvalho’s daguerreotypes were reproduced as wood engravings in magazines, his originals were unfortunately lost in a fire. Only one known photograph of the expedition exists—likely a Brady studio copy of Carvalho’s daguerreotype—and it is held by the Prints and Photographs Division. Although the details are hard to pick out in the surviving image, one can glean an impression of life in a Cheyenne village in Kansas Territory.
The following is a guest post by Naomi Subotnick, Liljenquist Fellow, Prints and Photographs Division, Summer 2017. This past summer, I worked as a Liljenquist Fellow in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress, where I helped to digitize, catalog, and house recently acquired Civil War-era photographs. Working with the Liljenquist Family […]
The following is a guest post by Helena Zinkham, Chief, Prints & Photographs Division. You can find libraries at the heart of many different communities, from the center of a town or a college campus to a shared toolbox at a construction site. The new book American Libraries, written by architectural historian Kenneth Breisch, takes […]
When John Margolies gave a talk at the Library of Congress in 2011 about his project to photograph roadside attractions and commercial vistas all across America, he remarked, “If anybody knows if these places still exist, tell me later ’cause that’s very often the only way that I find out whether things are there anymore.” […]
The basic goal of a portrait is to capture the likeness of the subject. But a portrait can offer a lot more information than simply the shape of a face. As with all visual images, portraits lend themselves to further exploration. Why was the portrait made? What does it tell the viewer about the subject […]
The following is a guest post by Melissa Lindberg, Reference Librarian, Prints and Photographs Division Now that autumn has begun, it’s natural to look forward to its visual splendor. Searching the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog for visual inspiration to match the brisk change in the air, I stumbled upon this autumnal scene from 1911 […]
September 22 is World Car Free Day, an annual event when participants around the world set aside their car keys and find alternative methods for getting to work. This annual observance goes back to the 1970s, and gained more ground in the 1990s to coincide with the European Union’s “In Town Without My Car” campaign. […]
The following is the first in a series of guest posts by Micah Messenheimer, Assistant Curator of Photography, Prints and Photographs Division. Two defining technologies of nineteenth-century America—railroads and photography—largely developed in parallel and brought about drastic changes to how people understood time and space. Trains bridged considerable distances with great speed; photographs brought past […]
Time to go back to school! The relaxing days of summer are giving way to busy schooldays for millions of children – and teachers – across the country, with many already at their desks and ready to tackle a new school year. Photographers for the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information traveled all […]
The following is a guest post by Leslie Granillo, a Junior Fellow in the Prints & Photographs Division, Summer 2017 This summer I’ve been lucky enough to work with a wonderful collection of Photochroms. Going through them has been like taking a vacation through Europe, with the added advantage of being able to travel back in […]