Monday, October 10, 2011

Samuel Morse notebook, Library of Congress

A brief list of equipment needed for the making of daguerreotypes:

- Silver electroplated plates or cad plates
- Iodine and Bromine coating boxes
- Mercury fume/developing box with heater
- Fume hood - this is essential!
- Sanding materials - Polishing compounds and pads
- Buffing sticks
- Gilding stand
- Spirit lamp
- Camera fitted to hold your plates
- Fixing trays, gloves, iodine, bromine, sodium thiosulfate, gold chloride, mercury, etc.

Walking home the following evening from my first visit to Professor Morse's shop, my mind was overwhelmed.  So much had happend over the past 36 hours, I could not determine what to concentrate on first!

The evening before, once dinner had concluded and our child had been put into the care of her aunt, my beautiful wife Phebe and I were finally disposed to sit quietly in front of our tiny coal driven fireplace and discuss the morning's visitor to my jewelry shop on Maiden Lane.  She listened carefully and pleasantly while I explained to her Morse's offer, the benefit of adding to our establishment's services to our loyal customers and the potential to bring even more individuals to the door.  Being something of a sound businessman, I found it incumbent of me to weigh in on the potential for this proposition to adversely affect my ledger.

There was material costs involved.  Chemicals to acquire, tools and trays and gloves.  Perhaps Morse would make good on his discrete offer to supply these things but for how long and at what terms?  What of this camera obscura???  A glass lens protruding from a wooden box, indeed!  What do I know of such things!  This process of sun painting will take me away from the business of manufacturing jewelry boxes and watch repair, I concluded.  This is not the time to divert my attention from the business that has gotten me to this point thus far.  When I looked up from the amber flames of coal, my Phebe was smiling at me in her kind manner which often gave me pause to thank my creator for all that He has given me.

"My dear Jeremiah," she sighed, "you have been a success at all you have put your mind to ever since leaving your father's farm nearly ten years on.  Why must you torment yourself with self doubt when the next logical step that God places in front of you appears?  This man coming into your life is a sign, my dear husband."  The soft golden light from the lamp near where she sat, close to me, silhouetted her.  I reached across and placed my hand over hers.  With her other hand, she placed on her dress, gently patting her belly.  "Our Father is blessing us with another life in two meanings of the word, Jeremiah."

The following day, being a Tuesday as I recall, offered me the opportunity to call on Professor Morse for my own establishment was closed on Tuesdays.  On the long walk north to his rooms within the University's newly constructed gothically inspired building on Washington Square East, I continued the debate within myself as to whether this was indeed the time to take on something so new and unproven as this was at the time.  I must confess, there were several instances on that days journey where I found myself stopped, dead in my tracks, resigned to turning around.  

Upon recollection, it was only the echos of my dear, sweet wife's encouraging voice that furthered me along.

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