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John A. Whipple, "Preparing Plates by Steam" 
Photographic Art-Journal, May 1852

By many daguerreotypers it is thought impossible to prepare daguerreotype plates by power with that degree of perfection that they can be made by hand. This is a mistaken idea, as I can prove to any one in a few minutes who will call at my rooms and see the operation of machinery for that purpose. I have now had steam power in successful operation for the past four years, and can with truth say, I should hardly know how to work were I go back to the tedious old way of scouring and scrubbing and hand-buffing principle. Its advantage on the score of economy as well as ease and expedition are very great; for the small sum of twenty-five cents for coal I can keep my engine going from morning till night, one boy can tend it and scour more plates for buffing than three operators could use.…

After enumerating the many and great advantages of steam, I should be doing injustice not to say that to manage it with success and profit, it is absolutely necessary that one should have the most thorough practical knowledge of all its operations, otherwise it would be attended only with vexation and annoyance, not to say danger. To illustrate, I will give a specimen of my first operation. This boiler was put in place, the engine connected with suitable pipes and bolted to the floor. The boiler being new, leaked, and to prevent this a few handfuls of meal was put in, which had the desired effect; a fire was kindled, and presently the steam began to roar—in a close room it was frightful, especially to one unaccustomed to it. After putting the fire out and somewhat quelling its fury, steam was let on, the wheels began to move a little too fast; in endeavoring to shut it off the wrench slipped and fell, and by the time it was replaced the engine had gained such headway that it broke its fastenings which were insufficient, and jumped like a race horse—then came the finale; the weight was shaken from the safety-valve, the hot water and steam came rushing and roaring out in torrents, drenching us from head to foot and wetting nearly everything in the room. If the meal had not been added, steam only would have escaped doing little or no harm. However, after a few weeks use, one becomes accustomed to its management, and can tend it with the same regularity and certainty as he would mercuralize a plate after sitting. In fact, a regular system is everything in a daguerreotype establishment as well as in a merchant's counting-room, and without it no one can expect to prosper. I shall take pleasure in showing my apparatus to those who may have a desire to see it.


 
 

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