Unknown photographer, [Occupational Portrait of an Unidentified Stonecutter, Three-Quarter Length, Three-Quarters to the Right, Holding Mallet and Chisel Against Block of Stone], circa 1850-1860. Library of Congress
Is that one of our early Mequon pioneers, shaping a stone block for the front of the historic Jonathan Clark House, circa 1848?
Well, that’s not Jonathan Clark, and I don’t think it’s one of the Bonniwells or other early Clark House neighbors, many of whom had substantial construction skills and experience. But this daguerreotype does show a stonecutter from their era, complete with his usual work clothing, hammer, chisel, and a partly-dressed stone block. The stone looks like it might be the sort of cream-colored limestone that features so prominently on the Clark House facade.
Jonathan Clark House, Mequon, Wisconsin, facade, 2015. Photo credit Reed Perkins, 2023.
Occupational portrait daguerreotypes
In fact, we don’t know much about this particular stone mason. The image comes from the Library of Congress, whose curators had this to add:
Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre invented the daguerreotype process which was later announced in France on August 19, 1839. Although a complex and slow process, American photographers quickly capitalized on this new invention because of its capability of capturing a “truthful likeness.” Typically portraiture in nature, celebrities, political figures, as well as tradesman were often invited and encouraged to have their pictures taken by daguerreotypists. Daguerreotype portraits of workers provide a revealing look at the nineteenth century American trades. Workers, proud of their skills and professions, chose to present themselves honestly, spending nearly one day’s wage for their photographic portrait.
If you’re curious for more, here’s a link and another and another to some of the other occupations that I’ve discussed and occupational portraits that I’ve published here at Clark House Historian.
Sorry for the long gaps between posts. I’m still at work, doing a lot of reading and research, trying to finish about four or five big blog projects. And I’m preparing a talk! I’ll be speaking at the Cedarburg History Museum on April 22, 2023, at 3:00 pm. We’re going to look further into the life of Fred Beckmann, Sr., and how it led from the Concordia Mill to the Jonathan Clark House to Cedarburg’s Wisconsin House hotel and saloon (now the Cedarburg Cultural Center). I’ll have some good tales, rare images, a mystery or two and—of course—some fabulous maps. You’re invited!