Charlotte Prosch, one of ten children born to German immigrants William and Christiana Dotter Prosch, was born in Pennsylvania in 1821. Her eldest brother, George, was a successful camera manufacturer and supplier of equipment for Samuel F. B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph. Miss Prosch likely learned about the burgeoning daguerreotype medium from either George or another brother, Andrew, who was a photographer. In 1845, she reportedly opened her first portrait gallery in New York City, at 235 Broadway. The following year, she was operating at 179 Broadway.
Perhaps seeking more lucrative professional opportunities elsewhere, Miss Prosch moved to Newark, New Jersey, where she found the bustling city heavily populated by several newly arrived German transplants. In either 1847 or 1848, Miss Prosch opened a studio at 259 Broad Street. In The Newark Daily Advertiser, she promoted herself as “an experienced Daguerrian Artist.” Families could receive group portraits for a minimum of one dollar (with additional charges based on plate size and type of frame). Miss Prosch further distinguished herself by taking post-mortem photographs, where she would be commissioned to make final portraits of the deceased relative for posterity. A highly successful marketer of her business, Miss Prosch advertised herself both in print and at local county fairs, where she exhibited her ornately framed portraits. She eventually equipped her studio with a skylight, which allowed her to further adjust lighting and contrast for her desired effect. She also insisted on posing her customers at midday to capture optimum lighting. Miss Prosch also likely used an immobilizer or clamp positioned behind the sitter’s head, and controlled her exposures by manipulating the lens cap. Her brother George worked at her gallery for a time, before opening his own competing studio across the street, at 250 Broad Street.
Miss Prosch married her chief operator, Alfred Day, on March 9, 1853. Shortly thereafter, she renamed her studio Excelsior Daguerreotype Gallery, in which she advertised daguerreotypes ranging in price from .75 to $10, and expanded her inventory to include frames, cases, and various jewelry items into which pictures could be inserted. After the birth of their first child, the Days moved to Paw Paw, Michigan, where Mrs. Day produced her last known daguerreotypes. Her husband’s various failed business ventures prompted several moves, unfortunately with little success. Shortly after moving to New England, it is believed the couple began living separately, but never divorced. Alfred Day died on March 24, 1896, and his wife succumbed to a cerebral hemorrhage three years’ later, on November 5, 1899. Both are entombed at South Dartmouth Cemetery in Massachusetts. Charlotte Prosch is believed to be New Jersey’s first female daguerreotypist, and her few remaining portraits presently reside in private collections.
2016 Charlotte Prosch: New Jerseys First Female Daguerreotypist by Gary D. Saretzky (URL: http://gardenstatelegacy.com/files/Charlotte_Prosch_New_Jerseys_First_Female_Daguerreotypist_Saretzky_GSL31.pdf).
1996 Daguerreian Registry, Vol. III, edited by John Craig (Torrington, CT: Craig Camera), p. 466.
2004 Encyclopedia of New Jersey edited by Maxine N. Lurie and Marc Mappen (Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press), p. 635.
2013 The Inventor and the Tycoon by Edward Ball (New York: Anchor Books), p. 227.
1848 Newark Daily Advertiser (April 8) (Newark, NJ: William Burnet Kinney), p. 3.
1850 Newark Daily Advertiser (April 25) (Newark, NJ: William Burnet Kinney), p. 3.
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