A New Daguerreotype of...

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Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ will be constantly updated, so check back frequently!

Has the collector photo-shopped anything?

From the Collector, "Sam Carlo": “There has been no manipulation to any of the scans of the daguerreotype. You may see several different scans of the daguerreotype, and each is different. Over the years I did several. The changes you see among the scans depend on the DPI of the scan (I have scans from 400 DPI to 4800 DPI). The original paper tape ‘seals’ are still on the back of the daguerreotype. So it shows the plate has not been touched. This also means the original glass is on the cover. Glass from that period was not as pure as glass today. So on the different scans, the higher the DPI, the more impurities and reflections in the glass are evident. The lower DPI scans avoided glass issues, but then gave less sharpness to explore the dag closely. On one scan I only adjusted the “brightness.” I did so in order to see the embroidery on Kate Anthon’s dress. As mentioned, she wears a black mourning-style dress, and such details were difficult to see in the daguerreotype.

“As I mentioned, the original glass is on the daguerreotype. Once that glass is removed (only by a professional) and modern museum glass put on, can we do the final, and best... high DPI scans, with no issues. We will also have the daguerreotype plate itself photographed "naked" - with no glass over it. So you see, I would only be fooling myself, if I manipulated the dag now, because it would be readily apparent if I had done any "photo-shopping, when the dag is preserved, by replacing the old, with modern glass."

Has the daguerreotype been tampered with?

The 1859 daguerreotype has all the original seals and is untouched from day it was made. The seals need to be changed and the cover glass changed. Once that is done, the image itself will be much clearer.

What’s the story of the daguerreotype’s discovery?

In Fall 1995 Sam Carlo made a visit to an antique/junk shop run by a dealer in western Massachusetts, one who trafficked in REAL junk, was not, in other words an antique dealer, per se. Instead, this dealer made house calls and conducted house cleanouts. Usually most of what he had was just leftover household items, life’s detritus left after a death, or the remainders left behind after moving, or a divorce, or downsizing. . .any life event such as that. The dealer often had “some fun items,” as Sam Carlo characterizes them. So he would stop in now and then even though he “usually came out empty.”

But in Fall 1995, the dealer had a couple of daguerreotypes and other photos. Since Sam Carlo is a self-described “history buff and photography collector,” he was interested. When he saw the daguerreotype, he “thought the image looked like Emily right away,” paid $25, and took it home. As he was leaving, Sam Carlo asked the dealer if he could say where he obtained the daguerreotype, and the dealer replied, “In a house visit over by Springfield.” That’s important, because the possibly corroborating evidence in Emily Dickinson’s letters--“I will tell you about the picture – if I can, I will –“ (JL 252)--appears in an early 1860s letter to Springfield Republican editor, dear family friend, and admirer of Kate Scott Turner Anthon, Samuel Bowles. In the mid-1990s, there were still Bowles family members living in Springfield.

Who are the photographers Cooley and Spooner whose names keep being mentioned?

We thought it would be worthwhile to show some biographical information on the two photographers mentioned on this site. Both Otis Cooley and J.C. Spooner are from Springfield.

Many believe that Otis Cooley photographed Emily Dickinson (and her mother) in 1847. We agree. But there is further good evidence that Otis Cooley also daguerreotyped Emily's sister, Lavinia, in 1852. In 1855 J.C. Spooner bought out Cooley's daguerreian studio. Spooner probably worked for Cooley in the earlier years, and was adept at making daguerreotypes. It is J.C. Spooner whom we believe executed this new daguerreotype of Emily Dickinson and Kate Scott Turner Anthon.

The following biographies of Cooley and Spooner are provided by the late John Craig, and his remarkable research website - "Craigs Daguerreian Registry" (http://craigcamera.com/dag/). All lovers of things daguerreian, thank (and miss) him for this large & laborious effort.

Spooner, John C.

Active in Springfield, Mass., possibly as early as 1846. From 1856 to 1859 he was associated with Spooner Brothers in Foot's Block. The firm included H.B. Spooner, D.B. Spooner, and J.C. Spooner. They advertised primarily ambrotypes, but noted daguerreotypes would be taken "when desired." They also held Cutting's (ambrotype) patent for the city of Springfield. From 1859 to 1861 he advertised as J.C. Spooner & Co., Foot's Block, and noted the business was formerly owned by O.H. Cooley. Various residence addresses were listed. An alternate source placed this Spooner member as a daguerreian in Springfield as early as 1846. If this is true, it would be logical that he worked for O.H. Cooley. In 1860 Spooner employed Edward Hoffman. He was listed in Springfield until the turn of the century.

(Note: In 1855 J.C. Spooner purchased the daguerreian studio of Otis Cooley.)

Cooley, Otis H. (1820-1860)

He established his first daguerreian gallery in Springfield, Mass. in 1842, with his brother-in-law J.W. Stock (Stock was a cripple and confined to a wheelchair). The pair was listed in business as Stock and Cooley. The partnership continued to be listed in 1845, opposite Court Square. This is probably the "H. Cooley" noted in Springfield c. 1842 by another source.

In 1846, the partnership was listed in Lombard's Building. From 1847 to 1849, Cooley was listed alone as a daguerreian at the Hampden Daguerreian Gallery, Lombard's Building, Main Street, opposite the Chicopee Bank. He offered stock for sale, and specifically noted he did not take whole plate size images. He also offered instruction. In 1848 he moved into new rooms in Springfield at the corner of Main and State Streets (note: This is Foot’s Block). Another source reported that the new gallery was located at this corner, in the New Block (Foot’s Block), from April 1, 1849 until 1856. (Cooley sold his business to Spooner Bros. in 1855.)

In 1853, he was listed as a daguerreian in partnership as Cooley and Collins (T.P.). In 1854 he employed Charles Sexton as a daguerreian operator. He advertised that he and Sexton took all the images. He also advertised he had been in Springfield since 1843. It is probable that the firm, at least from 1853 to 1855, involved Cooley, T.P. and D.C. Collins, and H.W. Peale. 1855 was the last time Cooley was listed as a photographer in Springfield.

Last updated September 19, 2012