Daguerreotype by Thomas Mimmo & Co, Baltimore

Anonymous Young Man by Nimmo

My latest acquisition: a daguerreotype portrait by Thomas Mimmo of Baltimore. Not only was this an absolutely gorgeous plate (from a quality standpoint one of the finest daguerreotypes I have), but having been a previous resident of Baltimore, it appealed on that mental association as well. Baltimore was the birthplace of my photographic interest, having learned it at Maryland Institute College of Art.

Anonymous Young Man by Nimmo
Anonymous Young Man by Nimmo

If you look carefully at the image, this was the scion of a wealthy family – not only did he get his daguerreotype portrait made, but he paid extra to have the buttons on his waistcoat gilded. The fabric of his waistcoat is exquisite, and his bowtie is immaculately tied. He was obviously someone who cared a great deal about his appearance.

Mrs. Tom Thumb

Lavinia Warren and "baby", by Brady
Lavinia Warren and "baby", by Brady
Lavinia Warren and “baby”, by Brady

If you’re familiar with the story of Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren, you’ll know they were married for twenty-some years but never had a child of their own. P.T. Barnum, though, thought it would make for a good story for them to have a baby. Lavinia Warren was unable to bear children, so Barnum would simply rent a baby for them to pose with, and when the baby got too big, he’d go out and rent another one. This is one of the earliest “Baby Thumb” photos, as part of a set of images commissioned from Mathew Brady by P.T. Barnum to promote the Thumbs.

Lavinia Warren, by Appleton
Lavinia Warren, by Appleton

Another CDV of just Lavinia Warren. This is an unusual image that I hadn’t seen before. It really gives you a sense of how small she was, as you get a sense of scale from the chair she’s sitting in- she’s sitting on a bolster and still is barely above the top of the back of the chair.

General Tom Thumb – who’s the copy?

Tom Thumb and his Wife, by Masury
Tom Thumb and his Wife, by Masury

Here’s an interesting thing that happens when collecting 19th century images. Copyright law was somewhere between feeble and nonexistent in the second half of the 1800s. Photographers frequently ripped one another off, making copies of a very popular and successful image and re-selling them under their own name. Here I have two identical images, one on Masury’s logo, the other on Case & Getchell’s. It’s hard to tell who is the copyist and who is the original. Given the overall quality of both is quite high, it may be that one of them bought the negative from the other and reprinted the image legitimately.

Tom Thumb and his Wife, by Case and Getchell
Tom Thumb and his Wife, by Case and Getchell