First Photos by J.W. Black

                                                                        James W. Black and the First  Photographs on Paper


The photographs on this page are probably the first photographs taken on glass, and printed on paper, in the White Mountains.  James W. Black, a Boston photographer, took them in 1853 or 1854. He was originally from New Hampshire, although from where is not yet known.


Black was in partnership with John Adams Whipple when Whipple patented a process for taking photographs on glass, producing a negative, from which multiple copies could be printed on specially treated paper.  Whipple received a patent for his crystallotype process in June 1850. The crystallotype process had certain limitations that are apparent in these images.  They are “salt prints” and therefore lack the sharpness that albumen prints would have a few years later. Prior to this time, photographs were daguerreotypes; each image was unique and usually quite sharp. Daguerreotypes remained the choice for portraits for several more years.


The earliest landscape photographs taken in New Hampshire were daguerreotypes taken by Samuel Bemis, a Boston dentist.  Bemis summered at Abel Crawford’s tavern in the White Mountain Notch, now known as Crawford Notch.  He took a number of daguerreotypes of the region in 1841.


Bemis’s photographs can be accurately dated and so can Black’s.  Black’s show Crawford Notch as it was just at the very beginning of the era of the Grand Hotels.


The photographs are in the collection of the Fogg Museum, at Harvard University, and are used with their permission.  (Harvard dates these photographs as 1854.  In A Certain Slant of Light: the First Hundred Years of New England Photography by William Robinson, the date is given as 1853.) White Mountain photography deserves more attention.  Those interested will find Robinson’s book a good introduction to the subject.


 From Historic Camera website

James Wallace Black was born to a carpenter and his wife in Francestown, New Hampshire on February 10, 1825. Orphaned while still in his teens, the boy took work wherever he could find it - in a tannery in Lowell, Massachusetts and then in a cotton mill - before becoming a daguerreotype apprentice at John A. Lerow's Boston studio during the 1840s. After spending a few years as an itinerant photographer, he became a machine operator and plate polisher at L.. Hale & Company in Boston. After a brief partnership with Loyal M. Ives, Mr. Black became John Adams Whipple's apprentice in 1850, and quickly established himself as an expert in the new crystalotype technique.

Mr. Whipple rewarded his talented pupil by making him a partner in his business, which operated as Whipple & Black from 1856 until 1859. During this period, Mr. Black honed his portrait skills, and while he was personally more interested in photographic composition and the manipulation of positive and negative space, he became professionally known for capturing the emotional essence of his subjects in natural poses. Utilizing the crystalotype process he perfected, Mr. Black received critical praise for his New Hampshire landscape photographs. According to art historian Sally Pierce, what sets these landscape views apart are their textural characteristics that mirror the rustic terrain of the region. Also at this time, Mr. Black began experimenting with astronomical photography at the Harvard Observatory. 

                                                             Double clicking these images will allow you to enlarge them.

          Willey House






          Crawford Notch


 Crawford Notch



         Crawford Notch





           Crystal Cascade




      Glen Ellis falls