Re: Color Daguerreotypes? (Long)

From: Phillip Murphy ^lt;[email protected]>
Date: 01/24/04-12:23:13 AM Z
Message-id: <>

I've always considered Levi L. Hill to be one of the most ingenious and
passionate souls in the entire history of photography. In the days of the
Daguerreotype, he was highly respected as an author and teacher of
the process as well as being an inventor of extraordinary talent.

His "Treatise on Daguerreotype" is one of the most thorough
examinations of the theory and practice of the art. S.D. Humphrey asked
Hill to be co-editor of the Daguerrian Journal which Hill accepted
for a year.

Levi Hill created the first full color photographic images in 1851.
He called his process the Heliochrome. Humphrey announced it as
the "Hillotype" in his Journal to honor Hill. By 1852, Hill was visited by
some of the greatest names in Daguerreotypy to witness the process.
Root, Gurney, Whipple and Samuel Morse were among them; all
testifying to the brilliancy of the colors and the genius of the process.

It was the inventor Samuel Morse who counseled Hill to not reveal
the process until he received patent protection. Hill went before a Senate
committee to achieve that aim and the finding was that since the colors
were created by a purely chemical means the patent laws of the day
could not provide any security. Hill decided to publish the process in
book form: "A Treatise on Heliochromy" which appeared in 1856.
The book gives a full account of the harassment and slander that
befell him from D.D.T. Davy and his "committee" in New York.
(watch the movie "Gangs of New York" and you'll get a sense of the
mob mentality that Levi Hill was facing by not giving away his process.)
Imagine a group of carbon printers demanding that the Fresson family
reveal their process!

Hill went on to experiment with illuminating gases and received four
patents. Remember, this was before Tesla and the streets of New York
were lit by gas. This activity segued to Hill organizing a successful
Petroleum stock company. He also had a gallery at 373 Broadway.

The Hillotype is not a Daguerreotype although it uses a Daguerreotype
plate as it's base. The surface of a Hillotype has more of an enamel
appearance. I know of two people who have re-created the process based
on Hill's manual. One is Joseph Boudreau and the other Arron Miller.
It is a complicated and toxic process which made it impractical for the
typical Daguerreotypist trying to turn a quick buck in the 1850's. Besides,
by that time, the wet-plate was beginning to replace the Daguerreotype
as the primary photographic medium. The Smithsonian has a number
of Hillotypes that are rarely viewed and have sustained considerable
fading over the past century and a half.


Jon Danforth wrote:

> Abrams' "The Invention of Photography" briefly mentions a 'Pastor Hill' and
> his attempts at color photography using the Daguerreotype. The book didn't
> elaborate on the process or the success but I was wondering if anyone has
> seen or heard of this kind of work? I would guess that the experiments
> would be in the 1860-1866 realm, is that on base?
> Maybe they could be talking about a toning procedure but I was under the
> impression that Daguerreotypes were generally toned with Gold after
> development.
> -Jon
Received on Sat Jan 24 00:20:14 2004

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : 02/02/04-09:49:59 AM Z CST