Henry David Thoreau sat for his photograph twice, in Worcester in 1856 for the daguerrotypist Benjamin Maxham and in New Bedford in 1861 for the ambrotypist Edward Sidney Dunshee (1823-1907).
One of the Dunshee ambrotypes is in the collection, a gift to the Museum of Mr. Walton Ricketson and his sister Miss Anna Ricketson in 1929. Shortly after Thoreau’s death on May 6, 1862 — 150 years ago this month — Daniel Ricketson (Walton and Anna’s father) wrote to Henry’s sister Sophia Thoreau about the ambrotype: “We all consider it very lifelike and one of the most successful likenesses we ever saw.”
An ambrotype is a photograph produced by a process developed in the 1850s, whereby a photographic negative is produced on a glass plate. The negative, when backed with a black coating, appears as a positive image. Like the earlier daguerrotypes, ambrotypes were then mounted in a protective case, like this one made of leather and velvet. To learn more about the Concord Museum’s Thoreau collection, read An Observant Eye: The Thoreau Collection at the Concord Museum, by David F. Wood, available at the Concord Museum Shop.