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A Medley of Memorabilia

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Daguerreotype of Samuel H. Fisler, MD

Daguerreotype of Samuel H. Fisler, MD.

Daguerreotype of Samuel H. Fisler, MD

This daguerreotype of Samuel H. Fisler (1813-1893), an 1844 graduate of Jefferson Medical College, was taken at the time of his graduation. Named for its inventor, Louis Jacques Daguerre, the daguerreotype is one of the earliest forms of photography.

Introduced by Daguerre in 1839 the process involved a series of rather involved procedures. First the photographer coated a copper plate with silver then cleaned and polished it. Then the photographer placed the plate in a box and exposed it to iodine fumes for five to thirty minutes. This produced a fine coating of sensitized silver iodide on the plate which was then placed into a camera and exposed to light. After exposure, the photographer placed the plate into another box containing a pan of heated mercury. When the mercury fumes brought forth an image on the plate, it was removed and washed it with a mixture of water and salt or soda then dried over a flame. Each daguerreotype is a unique item since it is a direct positive image without a negative.

This daguerreotype is one example of the portraits preserved in the Art/Photo Collection of the University Archives and Special Collections. The Archives has several others of these relatively rare cased photographs, including an early daguerreotype portrait of Jefferson's founder, Dr. George McClellan.

Many of the images in the Art/Photo Collection have been digitized and placed online as part of the Philadelphia Historical Digital Image Library (PHDIL).