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Henry Fitz Jr.
Daguerreotype self-portrait of Henry Fitz Jr.
Daguerreotype, 1/9 plate
12 x 15 cm (4 3/4 x 5 7/8 ins) (frame)
National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Id no: PG.4114A, Accession no: 109990, Catalog no: 4114A
Curatorial description (Accessed: 15 February 2019)
This self-portrait of early American photographer and optician Henry Fitz, Jr.(1808-1863) is a ninth plate daguerreotype said to have been made in a five minute exposure in bright light. Fitz took this image as early as the fall of 1839 giving it the distinction of being the first self-portrait taken in the United States. Fitz prepared the copper plate used for the daguerreotype in his workshop using a hammer on a polished anvil, and sealed it in a brass frame.
In October 1839, Wolcott and Johnson built a miniature camera (4 x 2 inches) that utilized a concave mirror instead of a lens to focus the light. Johnson sat for five minutes in full sunlight to make what he called a profile portrait that was not quite 3/8 inch square. With the assistance of the telescope maker Henry Fitz, Jr., the two built a bigger concave mirror camera and commenced working with 2 x 2 1/2-inch plates. Wolcott patented the camera in 1840. This corpselike self-portrait made by Fitz, with his eyes closed, is believed to be from those first trials.