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Langenheim Album

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Identifier: P0285

Title: Langenheim Album

Description: The Langenheim Album is a collection of rare calotypes, or Talbotypes, created by brothers, William and Frederick Langenheim in 1850. The Langenheims were German immigrants based in Philadelphia and were among the nation's most significant pioneer photographers in the mid-nineteenth century. They maintained an active interest in European innovations in photography throughout their careers as well as experimenting on their own. They used their knowledge to keep a high professional profile and build a successful photo studio.

In 1849, William Langenheim traveled to England to secure the exclusive right to produce calotypes in America from process inventor, Henry Fox Talbot. The calotype was a paper negative which could be used to produce an unlimited number of positive paper prints (salted paper prints). Though there were many experimental processes at the time, the dominant form of photography was the daguerreotype - a process that created a unique image on metal that was not easily reproducible. The calotype offered a means of producing multiple copies of a single image, but was not successful, in part, because Talbot insisted on licensing the process rather than freely sharing the technique.

The Langenheim Album contains 175 portraits and views produced by the brothers as part of a project that was perhaps intended to demonstrate the mass production possibilities of the process. It is the only extensive record of the Langenheims' partnership with Talbot and contains extremely rare American-made calotypes. Of particular interest are "Views of North America" Series which include prints of outdoor scenes and architectural studies such as the Washington Navy Yard, the U.S. Capitol Building, and Niagara Falls. "Views of North America" was also the first large scale attempt by American photographers to use the new negative-positive process to extensively document native sights and landmarks.

The prints were likely assembled into an album by Eduard Robyn, a fellow German immigrant who worked with the Langenheims as a colorist from 1848 to 1850. Robyn moved to St. Louis in 1850 where he operated a lithographic firm with his brother Charles from 1850 to 1857. Afterwards he moved with his family to Hermann, Missouri. The album was found in the attic of the family farmhouse and donated to the Missouri Historical Society in 1940.

To learn more about the collection please consult "The Robyn Collection of Langenhaim Calotypes" by Dolores Kilgo. Gateway Heritage vol. 6, Number 2, Fall 1985, p.28-37.



Dates: 1850

Type(s): Salted paper print

Maker/Creator: Robyn, Edward, 1820-1862

Subjects: Photographers


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