It was on Jeopardy!

Last Tuesday I was watching “Jeopardy!” to cheer on Wright State senior Emily Bingham.  Not only was I excited about Emily’s impressive performance earning her a spot in tomorrow night’s semi-finals, but I was also excited that one of the clues showed this:







“View from the Window at Le Gras” by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce

The correct response was given and the fast paced quiz show continued…but I was still smiling over the first photograph in the world.  That photograph is 190 years old, and is at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas – Austin  ( .  The photograph, technically called a heliograph, was made from a piece of pewter with a substance on it called bitumen.  The bitumen hardens in light.  The pewter plate was placed in a box called a camera obscura, which was set in an upstairs window overlooking the courtyard of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce’s estate in Le Gras, France.  It took at least 8 hours of exposure time for the image to be captured.  The year was 1826.

It wouldn’t be until 1839 (a whole 13 years later) that the world would have its first commercially viable photographic process called the daguerreotype, named after its inventor, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (Daguerre had been Niépce’s partner until Niépce  died in 1833).  Can you imagine technology moving that slowly in today’s world?

The daguerreotype is a beautiful photograph made on a copper plate that is coated with a thin layer of silver.  The silver surface is highly polished, then sensitized with iodine fumes, creating a thin layer of silver iodide on the plate.  A follow up exposure to bromine fumes makes the plate more light sensitive, reducing exposure times from minutes to seconds. After exposure, the plate is developed with mercury fumes, resulting in silver amalgam particles forming the image.  The image is so fragile, it can literally be wiped away with a finger. The silver coating is also very susceptible to tarnishing and scratching.  To help protect the image, a brass mat and cover glass is placed over the image, held together with a brass preserver, and then placed inside a case. Hobbyists and a very few studios still make daguerreotypes today (

P1010389 P1010391As you can see from this daguerreotype of Reuben Wallace from the Wallace Family Papers ( a wonderful collection documenting five generations of a farm family in Clark County, Ohio), the daguerreotype has a mirror-like quality, which makes it difficult to view at an angle.  The image is crisp and beautifully detailed when viewed straight on.  The exact date of this photograph is not known, but because daguerreotypes were prominent from their invention to about 1850 when a less expensive process called the ambrotype became available, we can narrow the circa date to 1840-1850.

What I love most about these beautiful photographs, is the direct tie they provide with a moment in time.  The photographic plate that I hold in my hand is the exact one that was in the camera facing the person in the photograph.

I’ll be watching and cheering on Emily Bingham this week during the College Semi Finals on “Jeopardy!”.  Niepce and Daguerre would surely be amazed over the invention of film and video capturing Emily’s momentous experience.  Good Luck, Emily!


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Baseball Exhibit to Accompany CELIA Lectures on Feb. 10


Sultans of Swing (click to visit CELIA site)

We are taking an exhibit of baseball materials “on the road” – to Millett Hall – on Wednesday, February 10th!

As part of CELIA’s 2016 series The Sultans of Swing: 100 Years of Baseball, Jazz and Short Fiction, two lectures will take place on February 10th in the Millett Hall Atrium from 1:25 to 2:20 p.m., centering on the theme “Leagues of Their Own: Women and African-Americans in Baseball History.” Michael Carter, an expert in the histories of Negro Leagues and Dayton baseball, will present “Remembering Negro Leagues Baseball’s Place in History.” Leslie Heaphy, associate professor of history at Kent State University at Stark, will present “Unraveling Some of the Mystery of Baseball’s Past.”

In accompaniment of the February 10th lectures, our archivists will be bringing an exhibit of original photographs, programs, ticket stubs, and other items. Photographs, many of which are from our Dayton Daily News Archive, will include the Cincinnati Reds, the Dayton Ducks minor league team, and the infamous 1919 World Series. Many items from the Todd Holst Baseball Collection (MS-401) will also be featured.

The exhibit will be available in the Millett Hall Atrium from 1:00-3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, February 10th.

We hope to see you there!

Earlier this week, Dr. Scott Peterson, WSU Communications Department, was here filming some footage for his Sultans of Swing documentary.

Dr. Scott Peterson, WSU Communications Dept., filming some footage in Special Collections and Archives for his upcoming baseball documentary "Sultans of Swing." February 4, 2016

Dr. Scott Peterson, WSU Communications Dept., filming some footage in Special Collections and Archives for his upcoming baseball documentary “Sultans of Swing.” February 4, 2016

Learn more about the CELIA series The Sultans of Swing: 100 Years of Baseball, Jazz and Short Fiction on the WSU News Room.

Learn more about Dayton’s baseball history with these online resources:

  • Baseball in Dayton,” Dayton Daily News Archive blog, May 24, 2011.
  • Play Ball!” Out of the Box blog, April 4, 2012.
  • Opening Day,” Dayton Daily News Archive blog, April 3, 2012.
  • Baseball, Dayton Area Sports History web site
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New Exhibit: Vintage Valentines

In honor of Valentine’s Day this month, we have a special new exhibit of original vintage valentines out in our reading room:

Vintage Valentines Exhibit, Feb. 2016

Vintage Valentines Exhibit, Feb. 2016

The valentines are from the Pedrick Family Papers (MS-243) and are believed to date to the early 1900s. While some are handmade and others were commercially produced, they are all a delight to look at and read.

We hope you’ll stop by and take a peek!

Vintage Valentines Exhibit, Feb. 2016

Vintage Valentines Exhibit, Feb. 2016

The valentines will be available for viewing until the end of February.

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