The invention of the daguerreotype 175 years ago let our ancestors capture their own likenesses. Learn how to preserve and identify these pieces of the past.
The next time you snap a photograph, take a moment to thank France. Two of its citizens, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre and Joseph-Nicephore Niepce, produced the first lasting daguerreotype 175 years ago, after decades of experimentation. Daguerre is honored in the name of their photographic process.
The French government acquired the rights to their invention and made the process free to the world Aug. 19, 1839. It was a runaway success. The public clamored for more daguerreotypes and, following Daguerre’s published instructions, tinkerers began building their own daguerreotype cameras. For the first time, large numbers of people could freeze time in images of themselves and their loved ones—and today, those old images are ours to cherish. We celebrate the 175th anniversary of the daguerreotype with this identification and preservation guide.