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Easterly Daguerreotype Collection

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Identifier: P0250

Title: Easterly Daguerreotype Collection

Description: Thomas Easterly (1809-1882), a native of Vermont, was an itinerant calligrapher and teacher of writing in northern New York State and Vermont until the early 1840s when he took up the new art of photography. He appears to have learned the daguerreotype technique in Albany, New York and in 1844 left for the west, traveling up the Mississippi River via New Orleans. He was an itinerant photographer in Iowa and the upper Midwest until 1848 when he settled in St. Louis. He operated a daguerreotype studio in the city until the late 1870s. Easterly's studio prospered until the late 1850s. By the 1860s most photographers had abandoned the daguerreotype process for the albumen and collodion processes, and Easterly’s refusal to adopt new techniques resulted in a marginalization of his work and financial difficulties for his studio. The latest view in the collection dates from 1872. His last years were characterized by failing health, probably due in part to mercury poisoning from his beloved process. The Easterly Collection consists of 636 daguerreotypes by and attributed to Thomas M. Easterly. The Easterly collection is one of the largest institutional holdings by a single daguerrean. The collection contains portraits, but is notable for the unusual number of landscape and cityscape photographs, including the earliest surviving photographic views of St. Louis. Easterly is also noted for photographing significant sites over time, as in the documentary series of the destruction of the Indian mound "Big Mound" in St. Louis between 1853 and 1869. Approximately 120 of the plates in the Easterly Collection are views. Most of the rest are portraits. Significant portrait subjects in the Easterly Collection include portraits of Keokuk and other Sauk and Fox chiefs made in 1847, Iowa Indians made in 1849, celebrities such as Jenny Lind, Lola Montez, and Kate and Maggie Fox, the "Rochester Knockers," and both notable and common citizens of St. Louis. Twelve of Easterly's daguerreotypes were among the first items collected by the Missouri Historical Society in 1867, one year after its founding. Much of the collection came to the Society in the late 1890s, when Easterly's studio collection was acquired from the son of St. Louis photographer J.A. Scholten, who had purchased it after Easterly's death. The collection has been rounded out by gifts from other collectors over the years. The most complete appreciation of Easterly's life and work, with 233 illustrations is Dolores Kilgo's “Likeness and Landscape: Thomas M. Easterly and the Art of the Daguerreotype” published by the Missouri Historical Society Press in 1994. An exhibit of the same name accompanied the book.

Rights: UND

Place:

Dates: ca. 1840 - 1872

Type(s): Collection

Maker/Creator: Thomas Easterly (St. Louis)

Subjects:

Permalink:
http://collections.mohistory.org/resource/140256

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