10:03 PM

1848 Daguerreotypes Bring Middle 

America's Past to Life

Photos: Daguerreotypes courtesy of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Arabia Connection
Although in 1848 Steamboat Arabia had not been built, this is as close to what Cincinnati looked like when Arabia left for her first trip west in 1853. Arabia left Pittsburgh, passed this very place as she headed to St Louis. 
As I mentioned before in a previous blog, Arabia was one steamboat of several contracted for the Glover & Mather's US Mail Line serving the St Louis to Louisville route. The above image was taken by dagerreotypists Fontayne and Porter and shows the pick up and drop off point for the Pittsburgh US Mail Daily Line and the Louisville [US Mail] Daily [Line]- There were many, many steamboat contracts and more later with maps...
There is another Arabia connection with Cincinnati- When the first clerk Springer sells his interest in the Arabia in 1854 to the second clerk, Brickle, who happens to reside in Louisville, KY, Arabia makes a drastic change. The Sidewheeler which regularly did trips from St Louis to Louisville (Mississippi and Ohio River) began to provide service between Louisville and Cincinnati. At first I couldn't understand what was happening and even said during a lecture back in 2001 at the Nelson Akins Museum that Arabia could ply the rivers during the low water season and seemed to be substituting for other steamboats. At this time, the contract for delivering US mail was abruptly ended by the Post Master General and it was only when I realized the change in the clerks caused the Arabia to change her route. This shows "Clerks Rule" and they are the ones who oversees the freight and controls where Arabia goes at all times- not the Captain.

Enjoy these few details I posted and do go to the site to see the plates on the above link- Enlarge by clicking on image

Article - By Julie Rehmeyer Email Author July 9, 2010  |  3:41 pm  |  Wired Aug 2010
In 1848, Charles Fontayne and William Porter produced one of the most famous photographs in the history of the medium — a panorama spanning some 2 miles of Cincinnati waterfront. They did it with eight 6.5- by 8.5-inch daguerreotype plates, a then-new technology that in skilled hands displays mind-blowing resolution.

Fontayne and Porter were definitely skilled, but no one knew just how amazing their images were until three years ago, when conservators at George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, began restoration work on the deteriorating plates. Magnifying glasses didn’t exhaust their detail; neither did an ultrasharp macro lens. Finally, the conservators deployed a stereo microscope. What they saw astonished them: The details — down to window curtains and wheel spokes — remained crisp even at 30X magnification. The panorama could be blown up to 170 by 20 feet without losing clarity; a digicam would have to record 140,000 megapixels per shot to match that. Under the microscope, the plates revealed a vanished world, the earliest known record of an urbanizing America.
But the conservators also found trouble. At that magnification, dust motes smaller than red blood cells became image-obscuring blobs. Corrosion from a few molecules of water obscured a face peeking out a window. Even polishing marks from the original preparation of the plates became a mass of dark streaks.
Trying to restore the plates themselves might have damaged the images, and the conservators didn’t want to risk ruining the finest American daguerreotypes in existence. So they put them in a case filled with inert argon gas to arrest the deterioration and went digital, turning to computer vision specialists at the University of Rochester. To them, the images were just noisy data, which they knew how to scrub.
Now Fontayne and Porter’s daguerreotypes are stabilized and its details restored — 21st-century technology rescued an image from the 19th. The Cincinnati Public Library plans to make a zoomable version available online in the next year.