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  Charles H. Williamson

Charles H. Williamson was born in Scotland in 1826. Little is known about his childhood or when he first arrived in the United States. It is believed he first learned about the photographic industry while serving as an apprentice in Springfield, Massachusetts. He became a daguerreotypist at Marcus Root's renowned Philadelphia gallery in 1849. After a year, Mr. Williamson moved to Brooklyn where he would remain for the rest of his life. He opened his first gallery in 1851, and in 1859, he moved to an adjacent building where he conducted business until his death. An accomplished watercolor painter and sketch artist, Mr. Williamson successfully combined his many talents to his photographic art. He invented a process he dubbed "Cameotype", which was typically a color-tinted daguerreotype of a mother and child or children that was mounted on an ornate or jeweled pendant-like setting. He also developed a drawing technique that enabled novice artists to sketch drawings from a transparent positive.

On the eve of the Civil War, baseball was well on its way to becoming America's pastime, and the most successful teams were located in Brooklyn. In 1859, Mr. Williamson assembled the Knickerbocker and Excelsior Clubs teams for a panoramic image believed to be the first known photograph taken on a baseball diamond. The professional Brooklyn Atlantics baseball team won an impressive series of championships in 1861, 1864, and 1865. Mr. Williamson was commissioned to commemorate the team's success by taking a "Champions of America" photograph. Copies of the photograph were mounted on cards and presented to players, and fans of both the Atlantics and their opponents' supporters. This represents the earliest existing baseball card.

Mr. Williamson was a great perfectionist who constantly strove for artistic excellence. He made sure he personally applied the finishing to every daguerreotype that left his studio. He was also a tireless promoter of photography and its latest techniques. Mr. Williamson was a founding member of the Brooklyn Photographic Art Association, and a frequent contributor to The Photographic Times and other popular photographic journals of the period. He also continued experimenting with new processes, and in 1874 was working on graying photographic backgrounds. In the autumn of 1874, he became ill with what was later diagnosed as cranial congestion. Charles H. Williamson died on October 22, 1874, leaving behind a wife, two children, and many important photographic contributions. An obituary of Mr. Williamson published in The Photography Times stated, in part, "By the death of Charles H. Williamson the photographers of this city and, indeed, of the United States, have lost one of their most able associates in the profession."

2009 Baseball Americana: Treasures from the Library of Congress (Washington, DC: The Library of Congress), p. 9.
2003 Baseball Legends of Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery (Portsmouth, NH: Arcadia Publishing), pp. 24-25.

1997 Eyes of the Nation: A Visual History of the United States (Washington, DC: The Library of Congress), p. 178.

1869 Oneida County Directory Business Advertisements (URL:

1874 The Photographic Times, Vol. IV (New York: Scovill Manufacturing Company), p. 176.

2013 Williamson Daguerreotype – Mother & Child Brooklyn NY (URL:

# 2625
2013-09-27 19:38:11

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