The portrait of John Brown [left] was taken around 1846 while the portrait of businessman Urias Africanus McGill [right] was taken in the mid-1850s.   During this ten year period, the artistry of the daguerreotype developed into a complex arrangement of dramatic lighting, elaborate backgrounds, artificial coloring, and fancy presentations mats similar to that used in the daguerreotype of McGill.  The commercial success of the daguerreotype attracted an ever increasing number of aspiring photographers to the field and spurred the opening of a number of related businesses, including case makers, plate manufacturers, and other supply houses.  The invention of faster and less cumbersome photographic processes contributed to the decline of the daguerreotype by 1860.  [Photographs Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution]


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February 2000