The Silver Merchants

Case manufactured by Hiram Studley American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 852

The first product photographs doubled as portraits. Posing with their wares, peddlers demonstrated a standard of work and an assurance of quality. The daguerreotype, a direct-positive image on silver-plated copper, offered all manner of workers an increasingly affordable likeness. Here, silver dealers make the most of the medium, modeling careful attention to their inventory. They examine pocket watches, pendants, and fobs splayed in a sales case. Plying their trade before the camera, they mirror the work of the era’s newest silver merchants: photographers themselves.

The Silver Merchants, Unknown (American), Daguerreotype

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