Benjamin Gurney was the son of Jeremiah Gurney, the noted jeweler turned daguerreotypist from Saratoga Springs, NY. Their Manhattan studio on Broadway became one of the most active portrait studios of the 19th century. The address on the card, 17 Union Square, is recorded as Benjamin's studio that he relocated to after his father's death and also that of George Rockwood, the photographer who helped popularize celebrity carte-de-visites.
Whitman was the likely the most photographed writer of the 19th century and his relationship with the camera started early in his career – indeed the famous portrait frontispiece of Leaves of Grass was taken from a daguerreotype. As cabinet cards became more accessible to the public, Whitman’s image became incredibly popular and thrust him into the status of a celebrity author, a writer who everyone felt they knew as they were so familiar with his likeness.
Interestingly, Whitman eventually tired of so many images of himself being available:"my head gets about: is easily recognized.... I meet new Walt Whitmans every day. There are dozens of me afloat. I don't know which Walt Whitman I am." (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, vol. 1. Boston: Small Maynard, 1906. p 108)
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