Many urban daguerreotype studios sought the patronage
of notable sitters and specialized in making likenesses
for public consumption, which often were translated
into woodcuts, lithographs, and engravings for mass
reproduction. Photography made it possible for people
to see the actual face and form of individuals about
whom they had read in the press and talked of in conversation.
Galleries of politicians, generals, ministers, philanthropists,
actors, dancers, poets, and notorious personalities
were assembled and displayed in exhibition rooms attached
to daguerreotype studios as draws to the public.
Southworth & Hawes specialized in serving the
portraiture needs of the famous. Their advertisements
stated, “Whenever our friends introduce individuals
on whom the public have a claim on account of station
or talent, and wish for their likenesses for the
public, we will do our duty and bear our share
in the expense.” They approached public portraiture
with a different aesthetic than those made for private
consumption. “A likeness for an intimate acquaintance
or one’s own family should be marked by that
amiability and cheerfulness, so appropriate to the
social circle and the home- fireside. Those for the
public, of official dignitaries and celebrated characters
admit of more firmness, sternness and soberness.”
The portraits of Rufus Choate, Daniel Webster, and
Lemuel Shaw are masterpieces of public portraiture.
Painters such as George Healy made appointments for
his notable sitters with Southworth & Hawes for
daguerreotypes to serve his work. James T. Fields
brought Charles Dickens to the studio several times,
and Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes visited often.
Although it was taken as an honor to serve some celebrities,
doing so for the self-important was less tolerable.
Southworth, writing of the trials of the daguerreotypist,
stated, “He must be patient with those who have
patronizing airs, and endeavor to make him feel that
they do him a great honor to allow him to take their
likenesses.” Hawes complained that Louis Kossuth
did not pay for his likeness. Nancy reported to her
brother in California, “Miss (Dorothea) Dix
sat for her daguerreotype a few days ago. She was
too much in haste and fidgety and serious to get a
Nancy reported more favorably on the visit of another
distinguished celebrity. “Grace Greenwood…called
here last week, she shook hands with me!! Admired
the daguerreotypes, saw her one at the door, and did
not even request to have it taken away; so you see
I intend to like her very much for the future.”
The British daguerreotypist John Mayall asked for
a portrait of Emerson. Nancy reported, “Mr.
Emerson promised to come in and sit for us and Mr.
Hawes intended to make a nice picture of him and send
in exchange for one of Daguerre, which Mayall says
Southworth & Hawes took the opportunity to make
many exposures when a celebrity sat. Dorothea Dix
complained because so many copies were made, when
she had given express orders to have only three taken.
They were not impervious to the potential of profiting
through selling copies of celebrity portraits, as
their advertisements indicated, “We never sell
or dispose of likenesses without written order from
the one for whom they are taken; except those whose
position or standing before the public make it right
and proper for worthy and laudable purposes.”