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J.J. Hawes, "Stray Leaves from the Diary of the Oldest Professional Photographer in the World"
Photo-Era, February 1906

Four years ago, on Aug. 7, 1901, there died at Crawford, N.H., whither he had gone for rest, Josiah Johnson Hawes of Boston, the oldest living professional photographer in the world. He was ninety-four years old, and did his own posing, developing, and printing until the last. He had been associated with the process of Daguerre from the time of its introduction into America in 1840. He built the first photographic studio with a skylight ever erected in this country. He sat at the cradle of photography and helped to rock it into life. He saw photography developed from modest beginnings into a popular science, then into a world-embracing industry, and finally its recognition as a fine art. He was part of this wonderful growth and development for sixty years—an experience that seldom falls to the lot of man.

We have recently been favored with some Mss. copy from an autobiography which we reproduce here through the courtesy of Dr. E.S. Hawes of the Brooklyn, N.Y., Polytechnic School.

"I was born February twentieth, 1808, in the town of East Sudbury, Mass. (now called Wayland). Seventeen years of my early life were spent on a farm. I was then apprenticed to a carpenter, and learned the carpenter's business, until I was twenty-one, and spent two years as a journeyman carpenter.

"Happening one day to come across an ordinary oil painting which I was admiring, a friend of mine asked me to close one eye and look at the picture through my hand with the other eye. The surprising change which took place, from its being an ordinary flat canvas to a realistic copy of nature with all its aerial perspective and beauty, so affected me, that from that time I was ambitious to become an artist. I purchased books, colors, and brushes, and commenced the study of art.

"I practiced miniature painting on ivory, likewise portraits in oil, landscapes, etc., with no teacher but my books.

"About this time—1840—the excitement of the discovery of the daguerreotype took place; and some specimens of it which I saw in Boston changed my course entirely. I gave up painting and commenced daguerreotyping in 1841.

"My partner, the late Mr. Albert S. Southworth, and myself built a studio and carried on the business in Boston for the next twenty years. We had the reputation of making as fine daguerreotypes as were made by anybody. Some of them were very large ones—20 x 24—probably the largest ever made on silver plates.

"From 1841 to 1854 we made daguerreotypes only. After that the daguerreotype was given up for the photograph.

"As I was one of the first in the business, I had the whole field before me. In the early period of the art, all daguerreotypes of buildings taken from the ground were smaller at the top than at the bottom, the lines sloping inwards. In order to correct this, I made a camera with the holder for the ground glass and the plate frame suspended from a universal joint which could be set at any angle sufficient to correct the lines. This camera my partner and I used for ten years before any one else could make a picture with the lines of architecture parallel. This camera also had a holder made at the same time, the same as is now called the curtain holder (a device which has since been patented). The somewhat celebrated combination of lenses called the Dallmeyer lens, I made and used fifteen years before it was known under its present name. It was used for copying Washington Allston's sketches on copper plates sufficiently silvered and the paintings of Gilbert Stuart. These plates were then engraved by John Cheney, following the lines of the daguerreotype.

"I think I made the first stereoscopic picture made in America. I am sure it was the first made in Boston.

"My partner and I received the gold medal of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association for a reflecting stereoscope. We likewise procured patents in this country and in Europe for a method of making stereoscopic pictures by two movements, lateral and perpendicular, which was thought to be an improvement on a single movement. Any one can test the idea for himself by looking at a landscape where there are many horizontal lines, by turning his head on one side so as to raise one eye a little above the other. He will perceive the stereoscopic effect.

"We were also the originators of the multiplying camera.

"We had many celebrated men and women of the time as our customers, among them Daniel Webster, Rufus Choate, Governor Boutwell, Judge Shaw, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Jennie Lind, Kossuth, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Longfellow, Dickens, Channing, and in fact almost every Bostonian of note, as well as many foreign celebrities."

In September, 1901, we wrote of Mr. Hawes as follows:—

"The Photo Era is glad to pay this tribute to his worth here, because of the distinguished services he gave to the art of photography. The generation of great men and women who knew him, profited by his knowledge and marveled at his art—beautiful, are passed and gone. He was the last link in the long chain connecting the past and present of photography. But his memory will live in the hearts of those who delight to make pictures and who honor the profession of which he was such a distinguished member."

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