[Blind Man and His Reader]

Artist: Unknown (American)

Date: ca. 1850

Medium: Daguerreotype

Dimensions: Image: 9.1 x 6.6 cm (3 9/16 x 2 5/8 in.)
Case: 12 x 9.4 cm (4 3/4 x 3 11/16 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005

Accession Number: 2005.100.271


Little is known about this enigmatic portrait except that the young reader holds a copy of the New York Herald. Known for its prurient interest in scandal and crime, as well as its pioneering use of the telegraph and railroad to gather news, the newspaper, launched in 1835, had the largest circulation of any daily in the United States. One wonders what was in the news the day this photograph was made. The outbreak of the Mexican-American war in 1846? The discovery of gold in California in 1848? Or perhaps an article from Brighton, England, on Dr. W. Moon's system (1847) of raised type that allowed the blind to read with their fingers? Moon type, as it was known, pre-dated by more than twenty years the universal adoption in 1869 of Louis Braille's system (1834) of raised points.