loading background

Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

loading media...
Early Photographers

Early Photographers

GRHC - February 24th, 2010

Glance at the Past shares notes on the roots of photography in Grand Rapids.



To capture a person's likeness prior to the 1840s it required an artist to create a drawing or a painting.  That changed dramatically when Louis Daguerre of France discovered how to expose a photographic image on a silver-coated copper plate in 1839. Residents of Grand Rapids were first able to have daguerreotypes of themselves and their families in 1846 when Mr. Williams established his daguerreotype gallery. By 1853 at least nine daguerreians had set up shop in Grand Rapids, but it was a highly competitive business and many moved on to greener pastures.

Having your image recorded was an important occasion that required looking your best. The subject needed to remain motionless for a quite a while which is why you almost never see anyone smiling. Young children would often be photographed with their mothers who held them still. Only one daguerreotype could be made from each sitting.

In the early 1860s multiple photographs could be made from one image. Inexpensive photos printed on paper and mounted on cardstock became available.  During the Civil War men had their photographs taken before leaving home or carried images of their loved ones with them. One of the earliest photographers to print on paper in Grand Rapids was young James Keeney who had purchased O. W. Horton’s business when he arrived from Rochester New York in 1856.

Horton repurchased the business in 1858 when Keeney left for the South. It was Horton who first proposed the idea of selling furniture by photograph. He convinced local manufacturers to equip their salesmen with photographs showing their furniture designs. And, as they say, the rest is history.

Full Details

TitleEarly Photographers
KeywordsGlance at the Past, photo, photography, photographer, history, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, Podcast
Pubdate StringFebruary 24th, 2010

Like Us on Facebook
site by GRCMC