WhiteMountainHistory.org                
Telling the story of 200 years  of White Mountain History

                         J.W. Black Photographs

                  James W. Black and the First 
                    Photographs on Paper

 

The photographs on this page are probably the first photographs taken on glass, and printed on paper, in the White Mountains.  James W. Black, a Boston photographer, took them in 1853 or 1854. He was originally from New Hampshire, although from where is not yet known.

 

Black was in partnership with John Adams Whipple when Whipple patented a process for taking photographs on glass, producing a negative, from which multiple copies could be printed on specially treated paper.  Whipple received a patent for his crystallotype process in June 1850. The crystallotype process had certain limitations that are apparent in these images.  They are “salt prints” and therefore lack the sharpness that albumen prints would have a few years later. Prior to this time, photographs were daguerreotypes; each image was unique and usually quite sharp. Daguerreotypes remained the choice for portraits for several more years.

 

The earliest landscape photographs taken in New Hampshire were daguerreotypes taken by Samuel Bemis, a Boston dentist.  Bemis summered at Abel Crawford’s tavern in the White Mountain Notch, now known as Crawford Notch.  He took a number of daguerreotypes of the region in 1841.

 

Bemis’s photographs can be accurately dated and so can Black’s.  Black’s show Crawford Notch as it was just at the very beginning of the era of the Grand Hotels.

 

The photographs are in the collection of the Fogg Museum, at Harvard University, and are used with their permission.  (Harvard dates these photographs as 1854.  In A Certain Slant of Light: the First Hundred Years of New England Photography by William Robinson, the date is given as 1853.) White Mountain photography deserves more attention.  Those interested will find Robinson’s book a good introduction to the subject.

 

 
              Willey House
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                 Chocura
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             Crawford Notch
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            Crawford Notch
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             Crawford Notch
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            Crawford Notch
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               Unidentified
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               Crawford Notch
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              Crystal Cascade
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               Glen Ellis Falls
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            Crystal Cascade
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             Unidentified Mill
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       Cascade Falls, Jackson
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                Wolfeboro
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