Say “Cheese!”

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The federal census that comes out every 10 years is invaluable to those tracking their genealogies. Not only does it provide evidence of where our ancestors lived or tell us who they were living with, it also gives some insight as to how they lived by providing us with some details of their lives, such as their professions.

Over the last few months, I’ve tracked ancestors from all walks of life; farmers, salesmen, musicians, miners, clergymen, and many more. But I recently ran across an ancestor who was unique in that he listed his profession as daguerreian. Research shows that this particular relative was at the forefront of the photographic age.

John T. Yearout, a distant cousin of my daughter-in-law, made his living taking daguerreotypes of subjects, both living and dead. If you have ever seen “photographs” of people living in the mid 19th century, most likely you were looking at a daguerreotype.

The process works as such: The daguerreian would polish a sheet of silver plated copper to a mirror finish. It would then be treated with fumes to make it light sensitive. Once placed in the camera, it would be exposed while framing the subject for as much time as was needed based on the lighting conditions. The plate would then be treated with a mercury vapor to reveal the image. The resulting image would be sealed behind glass to prevent marring and make it suitable for display.

In 1853, Yearout partnered with TJ Dobyns who was one of the first to begin franchising his brand. Dobyns & Yearout (and sometimes Dobyns, Yearout & Richardson) had operations listed in Nashville, Memphis, and New York City. In 1855 he and Hezekiah Yearout opened a daguerreian studio in Marshall, Tx under the name Yearout  & Co. By 1860, Yearout & Co. had expanded to a Nashville location.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides (as well as daguerreotypes). For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

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