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Unidentified photographer (USA)
S. P. Peck Apothecary
Art Institute of Chicago
Gift of the Blum-Kovler Foundation, Reference Number: 1970.220
Curatorial description (Accessed: 5 October 2021)
Almost immediately after it was introduced in New York in September 1839, the daguerreotype became enormously popular in the United States. The first truly commercial photographic process, it was prized by millions for its precise, jewel-like detail and tonal range. To meet the public’s increasing demand for these affordable portraits, photographers proliferated around the country. Most portraits were made in a studio, but itinerant operators also traveled to make images, such as this portrait of a pharmacist in his place of business, possibly in Bennington, Vermont. Posing behind the counter with the tools of his trade—a mortar and pestle, apothecary jars, and measuring implements—the pharmacist had to remain still during the long exposure time that the process required in low light. Finally, the photographer sealed the photographic plate in a vacuum package to prevent tarnishing before encasing it in leather.