Jeremiah Gurney was born in 1812.
Upon the discovery of Photography in 1839, Gurney was a jeweler in Saratoga. Having an association with Professor Morse, Gurney was the first to learn from Morse the art in america. In Saratoga, he met an Englishman named Shaw, from whom he bought a camera in exchange for a watch. With this new found skill, Gurney moved his jewelry shop in 1840 to new york at No. 189 Broadway and included daguerreotypes for sale. This was the first Photo gallery to open in America. Gurney placed his small daguerreotype images in his show case, and he charged $5 each for a portrait. The first day he had one sitter, the second two, and from then on success was assured. Gurney is believed to be the first to be taught the process by Morse, and thus may be the second American to learn the art of daguerreotyping and the first to open a gallery.
in the early 1840's, Gurney's Daguerreian Gallery was a celebrated success. Gurney excelled in the art and became a very successfully photographer. He was also instrumental in teachng the first wave of photographic pioneers like the famous civil war photographer Brady. Mathew B. Brady was a journeyman in the jewelry case manufacturing house of E. Anthony & Co., who made the cases for Gurney's daguerreotypes. Brady saw the earnings potential in the new photographic art and started a rival gallery on the corner of Fulton street and Broadway. While Brady was securing his place for photographing the politicians Gurney was doing a splendid business photographing society people where he featuring "reception saloons," or galleries, with portraits of "Distinguished Persons of the Age".
Gurney's Photography and Galleries received accaladies throughout the 1800's and were recorded and described by serveral periodicals of the day including Scientific American, who descibed Gurneys photographs on December 5, 1846 as "Magnifying Daguerreotypes: A new Orleans paper expresses great admiration at the appearance of a well rought daguerreotype portrait when viewed through a common magnifying glass. There are but a few comparatively, however, that will bear the test of a powerful magnifier, but we have one taken by Gurney, so perfect in form, shade and color that when sufficiently magnified to produce the requisite apparent size, might be readily mistaken for real life. No painter could begin to approach such perfection". In New Yorks "Illustrated News", in 1853 article, it is written that Mr. Gurney's establishment consists of nine spacious rooms, devoted exclusively to this art. The proprietor owes the high reputation of his pictures entirely to his own personal exertions. Having had, we understand, more that twelve years' experience, he has attained for himself a theoretical and practical knowledge excelled by no others in the profession." and Leslies ilustrated monthly stated in 1859 that "From its infancy he has devoted his time and his means to is advancement, he has extended aid to other experimenters, and he has thus perfected the art, beautiful and useful as it is to-day. His magnificent gallery, at 707 Broadway, is adorned with specimens which delight and astonish the visitor. "
Throughout the 1840's Gurney exhibited his daguerreotypes, at American Institute Fair in New York City to the Crystal palace in London England and became internationally famous. He Won many prestiegous awards for his fine detail and quality as descibed in a article, which you can read by clicking here, found in the 1853 Scientific American describing highlights of the Crysal Palace exhibition for that year.
In the 1850's he pioneered mammoth daguerreotype plates, or double full plates.
In 1853 Gurney began to use paper processes almost exclusively. He continually improved upon the process exploring new methods such as mezzographs or daguerreotypes on paper, which have not only the appearance of an engraving but the advantage of being a perfect likeness; even the minutest tints of color are accurately produced.
From 1855 to 1857 Gurney went into formal partnership with C.D Fredericks.
From 1860 to 1874 Gurney was in partnership with his son Benjamin. During this time gurney purchsed a patent from Cutting and Rehn of Boston to improve on paper photography and gave it the name of Chrystalotype.
Jeremiah Gurney died in 1886 as one of the founding fathers of American Photography.
Leslies illustrated Monthly 24 September 1859
"The Star" (New York) Vol. 20, 6 November 1887
Illustrated News (New York) Vol. 2, 12 November 1853
Craigs Daguerreian Registry 1997.
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