Lewis Daguerreotype

Introduced in 1851.

Patented in 1851 (US 8513), at the end of the daguerreotype era - by W. Lewis (father), W. H. Lewis (son). This was probably the first camera to employ a folding bellows, which was reputed to have been made from Mrs. Lewis' black taffeta dress. The Lewis factory was briefly located on the Quassaick Creek, near New Windsor, New York, appropriately known as Daguerreville. The firm soon returned to its former quarters at 142 Chatham Square in New York City. Son, H. J. Lewis also worked for the firm, while another son, Richard A. Lewis was a prominent Daguerrian artist. A daughter, Jennie, married Alonzo J. Drummond, another Daguerrian photographer. Other children of William Lewis also participated in the business. Grandsons William H. Lewis, II and Frank S. Lewis, and son-in-law, Bradford Johnson continued various parts of the business beyond 1900. The Lewis family were the largest manufacturers of Daguerrian equipment, at the time, until eclipsed by E. and H. T. Anthony, whose company later became ANSCO and then GAF. They also had the most US patents for photographic equipment, in that era. Patents included the first bellows camera, (US 8513), the adjustable (Lewis) lens (US 8590), the first lantern slide projector and photographic enlarger (US 371,252), and numerous improvements in plate holders, camera tripods (US 336,815; 629,379),, posing chairs (US 119,090), stereo viewers (US 165,241; 168, 652; 170,749; 201,804), specialized cameras (US 307,965; 342,211; 342,212; 349,133; 360,314; 372,856; 386,996), camera shutters (US 359,797; 367,986; 372,857; 437,655), and many more.

The Daguerre process was neither positive nor negative (according to Beaumont Newhall) but both. It became one or the other depending on how its mirrored surface was viewed. The daguerreotype process is accomplished by:

a. polishing a thin sheet of silver, plated on copper;

b. sensitizing the plate by exposure to iodine vapor;

c. exposing the plate in the camera (for several minutes);

d. bringing the image up by exposure to mercury vapor;

e. fixing with hyposulfite (a step added later following the discoveries of Sir John Herschel; f. washing with water and drying.

The greatest single source of published LEWIS information is from William and Estelle Marder's book, "ANTHONY, the Man, the Company, the Cameras", which has a section on the LEWIS family.

Other LEWIS cameras are also in the collections of The Greenfield Museum, Dearborn MI; and the collection of Matt Isenberg, of CT. Other LEWIS-manufactured apparatus is at the George Eastman House, Rochester, NY.

R. L. (Robert) Protzman, gg-grandson of Henry John LEWIS contributed to the information above.

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