|J.Gurney Advertisement from 10.11.1839 NY Evening Post|
|University of City of New York Advertisement|
also from 10.11.1839 NY Evening Post
|Main Building, University of the City of New York where|
Morse's offices were established.
|Professor John William Draper, ca. 1879|
"Ah! Gurney! I was beginning to think you had changed your mind." Morse declares as he ushers me into the laboratory that also serves as his home, it seems. Dinnerware and drinking glasses, half eatten meals and piles of clothing, mainly waistcoats were strewn all about the place in a quiet state of disarray.
Ahead of me, off in a corner, a rather earnest looking man in a black leather apron tied over his white shirt, cravat and trousers, was busy polishing and buffing a metal plate. He looked up for a moment to acknowledge me with a polite nod before turning his attention back to his task. Near to him, perched on a high chair with her arms folded drowsily in her lap, a woman my age. She would have been quite lovely had it not been for what appeared to be a vast amount of cooking flour on her face.
She smiled at me through the flour and bowed her head slightly. Several feet in front of her a gigantic square wooden box on wooden stilts, with a brass cylinder protruding from one end, took aim at her countenance. Laced under her chin, a blue bonnet silouhetted by a ring of tiny flowers. She held a confident gaze.
Morse acknowledges my attention and with a wave informs me "That would the Drapers! The fellow I mentioned yesterday, professor Draper. John is from England although we don't hold that against him." Morse confers with a wink and a smile. "John's been working on capturing a view of the moon of all things! There's some debate as to whether or not such a nocturnal object can indeed be put to plate, as it were, but it's difficult to tell a man with so much intellectual curiousity that somethings simply can't be done once he has a mind to doing it."
"His assitant and sister, Miss Dorothy Draper. She's as intelligent as she is comely, eh! Ah, but you'll find that to be entirely true in time, Gurney."
I really can't say it was while Morse was initiating me into his world of science and beauty, knowledge and art, or whether it was days or weeks after when I took the recipe he provided and began to apply it myself. However, it happend. It did happen. The indescribable apartness that comes over me whenever I began to concentrate on all of the components necessary to create those early images we call daguerreotypes.
I had of course, had similar experiences in the intricacies of watch repair and the building of jewelry boxes and spectacles. This was something different, though. Something more devine. There were tools yes, but those tools were not merely made of metal and wood and glass. There were chemicals and heat to be considered. The proper temperatures and mixtures needed to be formulated and sustained elsewise all would be ruined. The image would disappear or bubble and burn in disaster.
Music was taking place in my mind while I tinkered with the recipe Morse had provided me. Notes were being played in addition to those written down in ledger after ledger. Columns strewn with calculations, more often than not, crossed out and rewritten with each small success or failure. There were sketches, too. Tiny, primitive drawings of rectangular boxes with a round tube extending out from the side. A glass lens at the very end of the tube where light and seemingly, the very memory of what stood in front of that lens was drawn into the box and in turn, settled upon those plates I saw professor Draper polishing so diligently.
And then there was time and light. The time of day and it's corresponding source and level of light. Then too, the length of time for various purposes involved. So much to consider. So much could go wrong.
I do know this. By the close of the first day's tutorial given to me by Professors Morse and Draper, I at once felt that I had come upon something that my mind had been yearning for. A fullness that surpassed what I had been doing up to that point and a desire to build upon their teachings. These were entirely new and endless avenues to explore!
|The first image of the moon, 1840, John W. Draper.|
|Miss Dorothy Catherine Draper.|
The first daguerreotype of a human face.
Taken in 1840 by John W. Draper.