Lot 2
  • 2

Anonymous American Photographer

25,000 - 35,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Anonymous American Photographer
  • Visiting the California Grave of Solomon Harthorn
  • 1/2 plate daguerreotype
  • Half-plate
half-plate daguerreotype, sealed, cased, circa 1853


Acquired from Joseph Buberger, New Haven


Oakland Museum of California, Silver & Gold: Cased Images of the California Gold Rush, January - July 1998, and traveling thereafter to:

Washington, D. C., National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, October 1998 - March 1999

Sacramento, Crocker Art Gallery, August - October 1999


Stanley B. Burns, Mirror Mirror: The Burns Collection Daguerreotypes (New York: The Burns Archive Press, 2012), pl. 61

Stanley B. Burns, Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America (Altadena, 1990), pl. 24

Drew Heath Johnson and Marcia Eymann, eds., Silver & Gold: Cased Images of the California Gold Rush (University of Iowa Press for the Oakland Museum of California, 1998), pl. 32

Catalogue Note

The mass migration to California of hungry fortune seekers at the height of the Gold Rush caused a catastrophic mortality rate from malnutrition, typhus, cholera, murder, and suicide.  A contemporary account noted ‘Suicides caused by disappointment are as numerous as the deaths resulting from natural causes’ (quoted in Silver & Gold, p. 203).  Graveside daguerreotypes offered often distant family last mementos of their loved ones.  In the affecting half-plate daguerreotype offered here, the grave marker clearly reads ‘Sacred to the memory of Solomon Harthorn / late of Milford M. E. / He died Sept. 26, 1852 / Age 42 yrs.’ 

The Harthorn family were early settlers in Maine, noted in the first United States census in 1790.  Solomon Harthorn married Julia Field in 1845 and they had at least one child, Albert, prior to moving West.  Albert’s death certificate notes his father’s occupation as ‘laborer.’