Richard Beard was born in 1801 at East Stonehouse, Devon. He originally worked in the family grocery business adding to its success with his business skills. In the 1830s he moved to London and became a successful coal merchant applying his managerial and entrepreneurial skills.
In 1839 upon the announcement of the Daguerreotype he visited Daguerre and purchased a yearly patent license for £150 a year.
In 1840 Beard was approached by American William S. Johnson who was marketing a photographic camera on behalf of his son, John Johnson, and Alexander Wolcott, an instrument maker. The Wolcott patent camera enabled the successful taking of life portraiture by reducing the subjects sitting time from 30 minutes to only 5 minutes. The significant reduction in processing time was achieved through the use of a concave reflector in the camera, while still using Daguerre’s chemical formula. Beard jointly secured the patent for Britain with Mr. Wolcott. Beard then commissioned chemist John Frederick Goddard to improve quality and reliability of the chemical process, and to act as Beads expert photographer.
On March 23, 1841 Beard opened the first portrait studio in England, located on the roof of the Polytechnic Institution on Regent Street, London. The studio was built with blue glass to allow ample light. The subject would sit in an elevated seat with head reclining backwards so that it could rest on a fixture without movement for the exposure duration. The camera with a miniature metallic plate (1 1/2" x 2") was mounted about five feet from the sitter high on a shelf.
On March 10, 1842 Beard patented a method coloring Daguerreotype pictures whereby likenesses and representations of nature and other objects, will be obtained in a more finished condition than can be effected by the simple process of Daguerre. The technique consisted of the deposition of various colors in the state of impalpable powders on different parts of the picture in succession, the outline and extent of each color being regulated by a pattern or screen somewhat resembling a stencil-plate.
In approximately 1843 Beard discarded the Wolcott camera and replaced it with a fast Petzval lens.
In 1850 the use of the daguerreotype process by others without a legal patent was wide spread. Beard pursued these with lawsuits, however the length and cost doomed the business and Beard became bankrupt.
In 1854, due to financial problems and the decline of the daguerreotype process caused by the introduction of the Collotype process, the Richard Beard studio closed. However he continued to sell pictures.
In 1857 Beard retired from selling photographs and he passed the business on to his son, located at 85 King William Street City.
In 1885 Richard Beard died.
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