The invention of daguerreotype photography in the mid-1800s created, for the first time, a relatively easy way for observers to document the world as they saw it. The world portrayed in daguerreotype portraits and landscapes from the 1840s and on might seem dusty and old, but at the time, photography was a radical, modern innovation. The first photographers used it, too, to capture glimpses of the even more distant past, linking people and events that seem very old and very distant with the more modern realm.
Take, for instance, Conrad Heyer, who’s in the portrait above. He was photographed in 1852 at the age of 103. Heyer, says the New Market Press, is the person with the earliest birth date ever captured in a photograph. Heyer himself was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. He’s also “the only U.S. veteran to be photographed who crossed the Delaware River alongside George Washington in December 1776,” says the Press. It’s incredible to think that any person had both those experiences—to have a small role both in the birth of the United States and in the birth of photography.
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