Daguerreville

This past weekend I was up in Orange County, NY and I attended a lecture given by Michelle Delaney from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. A photography historian for the past two decades, Delaney has recently focused on an area of the Hudson River Valley once known as Daguerreville. This unofficial name was given to an area near the Quassaic Creek (a tributary to the Hudson River right on the border of Newburgh and New Windsor) based on the presence of a large factory manufacturing photographic equipment, as well as interesting developments of early color photography.

Unfortunately, little is known about the company or the area in photographic history. Delaney has been researching local photography from the 19th century, as well as a Reverend Levi Hill who lived in Orange County around the same time and who was experimenting with colorizing daguerreotypes, in competition with chemists in Europe.

While the premise of the lecture was intriguing, it was a bit short and anti-climactic because her work is still in progress. Basically she is trying to broaden her findings and is looking to hear from anyone who knows more about the families involved in the daguerreotype movement in the Hudson Valley area, and who can provide more information about Hill, the equipment mills near the river, or where exactly Daguerreville was once located.

The setting for the afternoon lecture was the historic Captain David Crawford House in the city of Newburgh. Built by a maritime businessman for his family in the 19th century, the interior of the house has been restored with period-quality pieces, as well as some unique, original sketches of Crawford and his wife and child.

I’ve always loved touring old, historic homes and this was no exception. Downstairs, we could see a large greeting room, as well as a dining room.  Upstairs were a master bedroom and a childrens’ room, as well as a set of doors going to what must be a very large reading library. The front of the house was under a bit of scaffolding, and the vast porch was experiencing some peeling and fading paint, but it was still an impressive home that had been maintained through history.

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