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Mathew B. Brady
1860 (taken) 1872, 20 April (published)
15 1/2 x 6 ins
Front page of the April 20, 1872 issue of Harper's Weekly newspaper with an engraving of Samuel Finley Breese Morse (April 27, 1791 – April 2, 1872) who was an American painter of portraits and historic scenes, the creator of a single wire telegraph system, and co-inventor, with Alfred Vail, of the Morse Code. The engraving is based on a Matthew Brady photograph which was taken in 1866. In addition to these accomplishments, he has rightfully been called the "Father of American Photography." Morse's involvement with photography dates from 1838 at which time he had gone abroad to secure patents in England and France for his telegraphic device. The negotiations for the patents were consider- ably extended and Morse was forced to remain in Paris until the spring of 1839. It was, of course, at this time that the work of Daguerre was attracting popular attention with the first daguerreotypes creating a sensation in the French capital. Morse, in common with many other celebrities-for his telegraph was also a matter of public conversation-asked Daguerre for an interview in order to see and discuss the specimens of the new art. Daguerre graciously responded and Morse, early in March 1839, had the privilege of viewing a photo- graph for the first time. He immediately wrote to his brothers in New York telling them of his visit with Daguerre and of the daguerreotype, which he described as "one of the most beautiful discoveries of the age." The description was published in the New York Observer on April 20, 1839, and was widely copied by other newspapers through- out the country. It was the first account of the daguerreotype written by an American. Morse did not learn daguerreotype while in Paris, but on his return from abroad in the fall of 1839, he became one of the first Americans to experiment with the new art. Before the year ended he had made many daguerreotypes, including portraits of his family.