Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 6: No 2) >> Two Missing Simms Daguerreotypes >> Page 24

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Page 24

Secondary Scholarship | 1998
Transcription Two Missing Simms Daguerreotypes

The Charleston Courier of 29 July 1840 noted that in 1839, the French
government made Monsieur Daguerre's invention available to the world.
Currently on display in that July of 1840 were "two miniature likenesses of our
distinguished novelist, Simms, taken by this new and wonderful instrument."
These could be seen at the bookstore of Mr. John P. Beile in Charleston. The not
continues that "The time occupied in taking the one was three and a half
[minutes], and the other two and a half minutes."
Simms would have been 36 years-old at the time these images were made.
The one known photographic image of Simms (at the South Caroliniana Library)
is said to date from 1859, when Simms was 53. The whereabouts of these two
early daguerreotypes are unknown. Perhaps in some collection, the unidentified
images already exist. So often pictures are unlabelled, but since we have good
evidence of how Simms looked, and that these two images did exist in 1840,
perhaps they may now come to light.
In 1841, there were notices in the Courier of" Daguerreotype Miniatures"
made in Charleston by Charles Taylor, a pupil of Samuel F. B. Morse (Courier,
10 March 1841). Prof. Ellet of South Carolina College was also said to have been
making improvements upon the French original. In February of 1841, Christian
Mayr advertised the execution in his King Street studio in Charleston of "whole
length likenesses in Daguerreotype" (Courier, 25 February 1841). Whether
Simms had his images made in Charleston or another city is not known. The
Simms Letters show he was in New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore from late
June to mid-July 1840, and back in Charleston by the third week in July, in time
for the 29 July notice in the Courier.