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.