Part I

Pre 1800: The forerunner of the camera is the camera obscura. This principle has been known since Aristotle's time. People had noted that a small opening in a darkroom projected an image of the sun on the opposite wall. Lenses were eventually added to create a better "image". This principle was then applied to what we now call cameras.


1802: Thomas Wedgwood, son of the famous potter, can make images, but can't "fix" them.

1816: Single wire telegraph is introduced.

1816:  Joseph Nicephore Niepce makes negative on paper sensitized with silver chloride, but he cannot make a positive, and the negative cannot be made permanent.

1819: Sir John Herschel discovers "fixer" but doesn't connect it to photography,

a term he coined, until he becomes aware of Niepce and Daguerre's work.

1827: Niepce creates first permanent image with bitumen of judea that hardens

with exposure to light. Daguerre is working separately.

1827: Charles Wheatstone conceives of a moving shutter.

1829: Joseph Nicephore Niepce and Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre form a partnership to develop photography in France. They use a copper base. Niepce dies in 1830.

1835: William Henry Fox Talbot makes "sun" pictures using paper in England.

1837: Daguerre makes his first daguerreotype. Generally used 1839 to late 1850s. A daguerreotype is a one of a kind, reversed image made on a plate of highly polished silver plated copper. The plate is sensitized with iodine vapor, exposed and developed with mercury vapor. Thus a very fragile surface that had to be protected with glass and a hard case. Exposures could range into the minutes.

Head clamps would support the subject. And don't smile, you might

move, let alone show your bad teeth. A daguerreotype would cost $2 to $3 dollars. (Different dollars today!) It's been estimated that over 30 million were made in the U.S. between 1840-1860.

1839: The daguerreotype is announced at the Academy of Sciences in Paris.

1839: The Giroux Daguerreotype camera is the first commercially produced camera.

1839: Jan. 31st Talbot announces his paper negative process to the Royal Society in England.

1840: Josef Max Petzval designs an improved, much faster lens for daguerreian portraiture. (f/3.5 instead of ./11)

1841: A newspaper ad for Daguerreotype photography appeared in the Detroit Daily Advertiser from October 14 through December 9, 1841.   The unnamed photographer was on the 4th floor of the Republican Building, corner of Jefferson Avenue and Bates Street, Detroit.  This is the earliest ad discovered for photographic services in Michigan. (Source: David V. Tinder, March 15, 2013)

1842: The cyanotype process is introduced Sir John Herschel. Still used today in "blue prints". The cyanotype process involves impregnating paper with iron salts and then used in contact printing. The paper is then washed, leaving a white image on an attractive blue instead of black.

1843: Talbot establishes the first photofinishing laboratory at Reading, England.

1843: Anna Children Atkins who published Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in 1843.  She designed, constructed and developed each separate page at her home in Halstead Place, Kent. This achievement made her the first woman photographer in addition to the first person to use photographic illustrations in a book.

1844: Talbot publishes The Pencil of Nature, the first book published with photographs.

1845: Mathew Brady begins his career by taking portraits of famous people.

1846-47: Irish potato famine.

1848: Claude Felix Abel Niepce de Saint-Victor starts to use albumen on glass plates as a negative.

1849: Sir David Brewester develops stereo photography.


1850: Albumen paper is introduced.

1851: The wet-collodion process is introduced by Frederick Scott Archer. This process is remarkably easier and could produce negatives, thus images are no longer one of a kind.

1854: Disderi patents carte-de-visites in France. These images made portrait photography readily available to everyone.

1854: The ambrotype is patented. Generally used 1855-1860. An ambrotype process was used for only a few years. Glass was coated with sticky iodized collodion. The plate is then sensitized with silver nitrate and exposed when still wet. It is then developed and dried. Then this faint image is backed with black paint, a blank tin type plate or a black piece of cloth to bring out the image. It was easier to view than a daguerreotype, but it didn't have it's "magic".

1854: Roger Fenton travels to the Crimean War to photograph Britains involvement. This brings the war home and he becomes the first well known war photographer.

1855: The tintype appears in the US. Generally used 1855 to the 1900s. The instantly popular tintype was the invention of either Prof. Hamilton Smith of Ohio or Adolphe Alexandre Martin. They are made on a thin sheet of iron covered with a layer of black paint. This served as the base for the same iodized collodion coating and silver nitrate bath used in the ambrotype process. Millions were produced well into the 20th century. A highly durable image, people carried them about in their pockets or mailed them to distant relatives. Tintypes were housed in many different ways. First in the same style cases as ambrotypes and daguerreotypes, then in various paper mats, or even nothing at all.

1855: Gaspard Felix Tournachon (Nadar) takes the first aerial photos from a manned hot air balloon.

1858: The first negative/image manipulations are done by Oscar Rejlander.

1860: Oliver Wendell Holmes invents the familiar Holmes stereo viewer.

1861-65: The Civil War is brought to the public by Mathew Brady and his crews.

1871: Richard Leach Maddox invent the first gelatin dry plate. No more chemical mixing and immediately taking pictures.

1873: Photos are now reproduced using the half tone method.

1877: Eadweard Muybridge is one of the first to capture motion with consecutive images. He was commissioned by California governor Leland Stanford to settle a wager that a galloping horse would have all four feet off the ground at once. The Governor won.

1878: Karl Klic perfects the a precise and commercially successful photogravure printing.

1880: George Eastman commercially manufactures dry plates ending the messy wet collodion era.

1886-89: Heinrich R. Hertz produces radio waves.

1887: Thomas Alva Edison and W. K. L. Dickson start work on a motion picture cameras.