Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.
Vintage photos of:
Philadelphia, November 1839. "Robert Cornelius, self-portrait facing front, arms crossed. Inscription on backing: The first light-picture ever taken. 1839." One of the first photographs made in the United States, this quarter-plate daguerreotype, taken in the yard of the Cornelius family's lamp-making business in Philadelphia, is said to be the earliest photographic portrait of a person. View full size.
Circa 1844-1860, another portrait sitter from the studio of Mathew Brady, this one with a striking amoeba-shaped chapeau. "Unidentified woman, head and shoulders portrait, facing front. Sixth-plate daguerreotype. Hallmark: Rinhart 31. Scratched on back of plate: 304. Same sitter as in Dag No. 116." View full size.
July 9, 1862. "James River, Virginia. Sailors relaxing on deck of the U.S.S. Monitor." From photographs of the Federal Navy and seaborne expeditions against the Atlantic Coast of the Confederacy, 1861-1865. View full size. Wet plate negative, left half of stereograph pair. Photograph by James F. Gibson.