"REMINISCENCES OF SAMUEL HOPKINS DD"! The woman on the left held an antislavery/abolitionist pamphlet with the readable title above her hand clearly displayed on the cover. (Once I enlarged and reversed the image, see second scan). The small tome was published in Providence RI 1843 by Isaac H. Cady. Rev. Hopkins was a preacher at The First Congregational Church in Newport Rhode Island beginning in the 1750s until his death in 1803. He was a firebrand who was totally ahead of the times regarding slavery and other progressive topics. Here are two links I found on the internet. The first one is a brief overview of Hopkins life while the second much longer tract goes into tremendous detail about his teachings and abolitionist views.http://www.yaleslavery.org/Abolitionists/hopkins.htmlhttps://truthplace.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/samuel-hopkins-and-slavery.pdf
Reading about Rev. Hopkins and the pamphlet’s publisher, Isaac H. Cady, is certainly broadening my knowledge from that time frame. In fact, while information about Cady is difficult to obtain, especially for me because I don't know how to properly use search engines, what I have discovered is quite interesting. He actually might have been related to Elizabeth Cady Stanton. After he sold his business in Providence he returned to New York City and continued in a similar occupation. He also published tracts by Harriet Beecher Stowe and other abolitionists.
I have been unable to identify the women. However, I believe they were taken outdoors when they posed for this historically important archivally sealed sixth plate. The quality of the light suggests that the subjects might have been seated on a porch. I was hoping when I removed the rare octagonal paper mat there would be more clues as to the location. The SCOVILLS plate had clipped corners and flat sides. The entire reverse of the dag was covered with an original linen cloth seal! That type of presentation was very rare and only used on very early daguerreotypes. The complete leather case had two exterior metal hinges and the bottom paper was beautifully marbled. This was also unusual. The females were taken, circa 1843 or early 1844, and most likely soon after the book the woman held was sold to the public. I have been unable to find out the month when it was released. Looking at their clothing suggests that they were NOT taken in the dead of winter. My dear friend and client, Martin Kamer, who is an expert in 19th century fashion mentioned that the older lady was holding a turkey feather fan. Neither of us had ever seen that type of accessory fully opened in a daguerreotype.
The silver was polished horizontally and possibly in a circular fashion also. Their maker was beyond amateur status and actually made an image that had fine contrast and impressive reflective depth. His focus was quite accurate also. Since both subjects moved their heads during the exposure, I wonder if iron restraints had been placed behind them? Or because the light was indirect, the lens could have been uncapped for 10 seconds or more. The entire production appears to have been the orchestration of an itinerant operator. The ancient gal holding that decorative piece had a pair of rings on two beefy fingers. Her sunken lips and hollow cheeks might have indicated that she was instructed to suck in a deep breath and “hold it” or she might have been missing many teeth. Her companion focused her intense eyes directly at the camera. Her body language resembled a tightly wound spring ready to expand! Because she was so tense and fiery the woman tightly gripped that book. Her objective was to clearly display the title, but it was blurred because her hand moved. I suspect that the older woman might have been part of Reverend Hopkins’ congregation 30 years earlier and like her younger companion, an abolitionist. This was a portrait with a purpose and the message obviously referred to the anti-slavery movement. While I don’t know where the ladies were taken, I strongly suspect it was in New England. Their daguerreotype might represent the earliest extant likeness where a direct correlation can be made to the growing abolitionist movement.
Dennis A. Waters at