Mathew Brady’s Prisoner Daguerreotypes of 1846

face of a prisoner

In 1846, Mathew B. Brady made daguerreotypes of inmates at Blackwell’s Island Penitentiary and the Long Island Farm School. Brady made at least eleven daguerreotypes of five men and five women at Blackwell’s Island Penitentiary, and at least eight daguerreotypes of eight boys at the Long Island Farm School. From these daguerreotypes, Tudor Horton made engravings that were published in Eliza Farnham’s American edition of Marmaduke Sampson’s phrenological analysis of crime, entitled Rationale of Crime. In her preface to that work, Farnham acknowledged:

Mr. Brady, to whose indefatigable patience with a class of the most difficult of all sitters, is due the advantage of a very accurate set of daguerreotypes.^

Farnham served as matron of Sing Sing prison from March 1844 to January 1848. She also included in her edition drawings of Sing Sing prisoners’ heads. Edward Serrell, a prominent New York civil engineer, made those drawings based on careful, first-hand measurements.^

Brady went on to become a pioneering photojournalist and a highly celebrated 19th-century American photographer.

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