Daniel DeWitt Tompkins Davie was born to Samuel and Christina Scism Davie in 1816 in Otsego, New York. Little is known about his childhood or educational background. In 1839, the same year Louis-Jacques Mande Daguerre invented the daguerreotype, he married Azubah Burdick, and the couple would later have four daughters and son Daniel D. T. Davie II. He began publishing essays in photography and in 1846, three years after learning the daguerreotype technique, Mr. D.D.T. Davie opened a studio on Genesee Street in Utica, New York. Within a year, his mastery of the process had firmly established his professional reputation, and he was invited to Washington, DC to make daguerreotypes of both houses of Congress and other influential American political figures of the period. His 1850 photograph of statesman Daniel Webster is perhaps his most famous daguerreotype.
In 1851, Mr. Davie expanded his business to include the manufacturing of chemicals used in the daguerreotype process. That same year, he was named president of the Association of Daguerreotypists, and oversaw the investigation into Rev. Levi Hill's suspicious claims that he could produce color daguerreotypes with a technique he dubbed "heliochromy." Mr. Davie is credited to making such improvements as the compound lever buffing vice, the cast iron cone buffer, the machine for clipping and crimping plates, and the camera stand. He was actually selling plate vices more than six months before the W. & W. H. Lewis firm applied for a similar patent.
From 1851 to 1852, Mr. Davie partnered briefly with his brothers before opening another daguerreotype studio in Syracuse, New York, with his brother Joseph in charge of daily operations. At his Utica location, he entered a partnership with a man named Evans, and together they published the Scientific Daguerreian periodical. From approximately 1852 until 1855, Mr. Davie employed female photographic pioneer Julia Ann Rudolph at his Utica establishment. Sadly, the Utica gallery stockroom was destroyed in a devastating fire in 1854. Although unschooled in chemistry and little in the way of financial resources, Mr. Davie nevertheless absorbed whatever available instruction he could find that allowed him to develop professional processes that would be both fast and affordable. He learned the true albumen process from photographer P. C. Duchochois in 1857, which allowed him to photograph the Black River falls of Trenton Falls, New York. With Mr. Duchochois’ assistance, Mr. Davie succeeded in producing stereoscope transparencies. In 1858, Mr. Davie was listed as the proprietor of a gallery located at 494 Broadway in Albany, New York. Sixty-one-year-old Daniel D. T. Davie died in Bolivar, Allegany County, New York on February 12, 1877.
1891 Anthony's Photographic Bulletin, Vol. XXII (New York: E. & H. T. Anthony & Co.), p. 522.
2012 Daniel DeWitt Tompkins Davie (URL: http://crlive.com/roots/b469.htm).
1851 Photographic Art-Journal (New York: W. B. Smith), pp. 164-165.
2000 Pioneer Photographers of the Far West: A Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press), p. 463.
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