Samuel F. B. Morse and the Daguerreotype: Art and Science in American Culture, 1835--1855

Front Cover
ProQuest, 2006 - 311 pages
0 Reviews
This dissertation is the first extensive examination of Samuel F. B. Morse's (1791-1872) daguerreotype activity. Morse, well known as an important nineteenth-century painter and inventor of the electro-magnetic telegraph, was among the first in the country to experiment with Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre's 1839 invention. Indeed, he was the most important, critical voice regarding photography in the medium's very early years. My study argues that Morse's work with the daguerreotype, particularly his partnership with chemist John William Draper (1811-1882) needs to be read as a vital link between his careers as a painter and an inventor. Through my analysis of Morse's photographic practices and products, I show that the artistic, photographic, and telegraphic work of Morse are linked through his life-long ambitions of personal greatness and national service, and that he repeatedly attempted to realize these goals through mechanical reproduction, be it the use of a camera obscura to create his most important paintings, the recording of a photographic subject, or the transformation of an electric current into a telegraphic message. While Morse had long been involved with both the fine arts and invention, his very conscious turn to privileging scientific technology over the arts in the 1830s is indicative of Morse's awareness of the emphasis American culture placed on native technology over the visual. I contend that Morse chose to yoke his desires for American fine arts onto this decided direction of American progress, and that the daguerreotype offered Morse the opportunity to bridge these two fields within his own work, an attempt that ultimately proved unsuccessful. Having unearthed new and important primary source information regarding Morse and the daguerreotype, I examine his role in the early photographic community in New York, and show his importance in the positive reception of the new technology within the United States, particularly as it relates to the fine arts. I also provide the first extensive discussion of Draper as a photographer.

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


Chapter 1
Morse as a Photographer 18391841
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Art and Science and Technology

Common terms and phrases

Bibliographic information