Leaving New York on the bark Salem, James Ford arrived inCalifornia in 1849. He opened a series of photographic businesses, first in Sacramento, where he remained until at least 1854, advertising his "stereoscopic daguerreotypes" in the city newspaper. He also established a gallery in San Francisco on Clay Street, where, according to the September 19, 1854, edition of the San Francisco Herald, "he...fitted up one of the MOST ELEGANT ESTABLISHMENTS OF THIS KIND IN THE WORLD!" Even so, the business failed, forcing him to sell. After subsequent failed ventures in San Jose, he opened another studio in San Francisco, hiring Carleton Watkins in 1865. In addition to being a daguerreotypist, Ford was among the first photographers in California to perfect the technique of making salted paper prints. Presumably he taught Watkins how to print such photographs.
Merry A. Foresta American Photographs: The First Century (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996)