Occupational Portrait of Three Railroad Workers Standing on Crank Handcar


Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (1789–1851) invented the daguerreotype process, which was announced in France on August 19, 1839. American photographers quickly capitalized on this new invention because of its capability of capturing a "truthful likeness." Daguerreotypists encouraged not only celebrities and political figures to have their pictures taken, but also ordinary tradesmen. Workers, proud of their skills and their professions, would spend nearly a day’s wages to have a photographic portrait made. This daguerreotype, made by an unknown photographer sometime in the 1850s, is an occupational portrait of three railroad workers standing on a crank handcar. An accompanying note reads: “Jacob Lewis Davis, my dear father. Taken when he worked on the railroad. He is the tall man with a beard standing on the left end.” The photograph is enclosed in a case with a central floral motif surrounded by leaves.

Last updated: July 16, 2013