‘First photograph’ of New York, 1848

“This half-plate daguerreotype of a country estate is believed to have been made in Manhattan in October 1848 or earlier. The daguerreotype shows in the foreground what is almost certainly the old Bloomingdale Road, referred to as ‘a continuation of Broadway’ in the city directories of the day. In the deep well of the road, to the left, is a horse-drawn carriage with passengers that has come to a halt for the photographer.”

- Sothebys

8 comments to ‘First photograph’ of New York, 1848

  • I love your blog and have come to rely on your integrity, but this is the second time that you choose a title that is obviously wrong/misleading. By Sothebys own account, this is believed to be “among the very earliest photographs of New York City”, and clearly not, “THE FIRST PHOTOGRAPH”.

    You also made the same mistake with your “First Album Cover” in a post of “Firsts” awhile back. It was clearly not the first, nor at the very least, the first “designed” cover.

    Please refrain from lowering your standards for sensationalism. We are counting on your expertise.

  • Hi Kate

    Glad you love the blog. Your own is extremely beautiful, and your photographs are, well, rather wonderful.

    I chose the title to this post based on Sotheby’s comment that “all but the image offered here show buildings in Lower Manhattan, and only one is believed to precede the present daguerreotype in date”. At the same time, misleading people is not what I am about, so I have added quotation marks to the post title. You might be interested to see the earlier daguerreotype of the Unitarian Church in Lower Manhatten.

    I stand by the “First Album Cover” and I would refer the good people of the jury to the Taschen book “Alex Steinweiss, The Inventor of the Modern Album Cover“.

    Integrity is very important to me. So is sensationalism. My favourite museum artefact is in the V&A in London. It is a knight’s spur, dug up in the mid nineteenth century from the field of the Battle of Agincourt, 1415. And the root of a tree has grown up, in, and around the spur. The spur and the root are now entwined and inseperable.

    I love how I feel when I look at this spur and root. I imagine the knight who lost the spur, and the noise of the battle, and the silence of the centuries until the spur was found. And that feeling remains, even though both the spur and the root are fakes. Its a Victorian spur around which some nineteenth century chancer has bent, by steaming, an old tree root. Its on display in the V&A’s “Fakes” gallery.

    “Yes”, I hear you cry “but at least the V&A make it quite plain that its a fake!”. And you are, of course, quite right, and I have nothing more to add.

    Except perhaps – and here I lower my standards to the very very bottom – to offer you this…

  • Thanks for dropping your standards ‘to the very very bottom’, Chris; that made me smile. And thank you for the kind words.

    As for this post, I still respectfully disagree.

    And as for the Steinweiss album cover art, his Wiki page states: “However, colored artwork had already been used on special albums, from World War I onwards. This sometimes appeared separately printed and pasted onto album covers and occasionally also inside the albums: for example, HMV’s issue of Liza Lehmann’s “In a Persian Garden” and operettas by Edward German and Gilbert & Sullivan were all available by 1918 in such decorated albums.In 1939, Alex Steinweiss was the first art director for Columbia Records, where he introduced a very much wider application of the concept of album covers and cover art.” And even in the book you’ve quoted, it states that: “he launched the Golden Age of album covers”, alluding to the fact that they had already existed in some form.

    I think from now on, I’ll just have to conduct further research when reading your wonderful posts. That’s all.

  • Lolol

    You are actually surprised the media is misleading and falsifying information?

  • Is that New York? Not very impressive is it? I can’t see my ‘vagabond shoes’ longing to stray to the very heart of that pile of mud. What they ought to do is get some buildings. The taller, the better.

  • ilenebeth

    I see no horse-drawn carriage at all. Am I just missing it?

  • ilenebeth

    I see no horse-drawn carriage at all. Am I just missing it?

  • JBlackwood

    I can see the horse and carriage – just to the right of the white gate. They’re in a sunken road. The carriage is centered between thee fence posts, with either the heads of the driver or luggage sticking up above it. You can just see the curve of the horse’s neck after the post. The horse is facing right.

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