My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY'S PHOTOS - The 1848 Cincinnati Riverfront Panorama (restored)

The Original Display of the 1848 Cincinnati Panorama
Cincinnati Public Library
 [from "1848 Daguerreotypes Bring Middle America's Past to Life"; Julie Rehmeyer; Wired magazine; August 2010]

"In 1848, Charles Fontayne and William Porter produced one of the most famous photographs in the history of the medium — a panorama spanning some 2 miles of Cincinnati waterfront. They did it with eight 6.5- by 8.5-inch daguerreotype plates, a then-new technology that in skilled hands displays mind-blowing resolution.
Detail of Restored Panorama
Fontayne and Porter were definitely skilled, but no one knew just how amazing their images were until three years ago, when conservators at George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, began restoration work on the deteriorating plates. Magnifying glasses didn’t exhaust their detail; neither did an ultrasharp macro lens. Finally, the conservators deployed a stereo microscope. What they saw astonished them: The details — down to window curtains and wheel spokes — remained crisp even at 30X magnification. The panorama could be blown up to 170 by 20 feet without losing clarity; a digicam would have to record 140,000 megapixels per shot to match that. Under the microscope, the plates revealed a vanished world, the earliest known record of an urbanizing America.

Detail of Restored Panorama
But the conservators also found trouble. At that magnification, dust motes smaller than red blood cells became image-obscuring blobs. Corrosion from a few molecules of water obscured a face peeking out a window. Even polishing marks from the original preparation of the plates became a mass of dark streaks.

Trying to restore the plates themselves might have damaged the images, and the conservators didn’t want to risk ruining the finest American daguerreotypes in existence. So they put them in a case filled with inert argon gas to arrest the deterioration and went digital, turning to computer vision specialists at the University of Rochester. To them, the images were just noisy data, which they knew how to scrub.

Now Fontayne and Porter’s daguerreotypes are stabilized and its details restored — 21st-century technology rescued an image from the 19th.

As a historical record, the Fontayne-Porter daguerreotype is unparalleled. It contains the first photographic images of steamboats, a railroad station, and one of the country’s earliest astronomical observatories. It may also be one of the earliest pictures to show free blacks, who were building a community in Cincinnati, just across the line from Kentucky slave country. A ditch running from the corner of a building down to the river — eroded by effluent from an outhouse — presages the cholera epidemic that hit the city the following year.
Even artifacts of daguerreotype preparation yielded new knowledge. The silver surface of an unexposed daguerreotype is tricky to polish to a mirror finish — even the finest cloths or brushes leave tracks that are clearly visible at high magnification. But the art historians didn’t want those marks removed; they wanted to be able to enhance them. It turns out that the streaks act as signatures. Each daguerreotypist had a distinct method of polishing — sweeping tiny suspended brushes across the plate or hand-polishing (as Fontayne and Porter did) with carefully chosen cloths. The resulting patterns vary, but in a small region they all look like very fine, roughly parallel dark lines. So Messing, Ardis, Tang, and their collaborators designed an algorithm to detect these unique patterns and bleach out the rest of the image.
After all the restoration, historians now know the exact hour and minute when the image was captured. Back in 1947, steamboat enthusiast Frederick Way and Cincinnati Public Library director Carl Vitz undertook an extensive historical investigation of the daguerreotype, using steamboat records to identify the only date on which all of those vessels were in Cincinnati: September 24, 1848. And by analyzing the angles of shadows, they figured the shots must have been taken just before 2 pm. A clock tower showed the time, but however much the researchers strained to read the 1-millimeter-diameter clock face with a magnifying glass, they couldn’t make it out.
After the images emerged from Eastman House’s microscope scanner, the team cheered when they saw the clock tower: It read 1:55."
Detail of Restored Panorama
Check This Out!
The Cincinnati Public Library has a website dedicated to viewing this amazing restoration -

You are able to see each of the eight restored plates online, then zoom into the image to see first hand its clarity and its details. It will ASTOUND YOU! Many of the buildings and areas are also described for their historical significance.

And to think it is very possible, even probable that my Horst ancestors - Johann Eckhard Horst (1802-1852), my 4th great-grandfather, and Martin Horst (1830-1878), my 3rd great-grandfather - were living in the city on the day that this photograph was taken. What an opportunity to see exactly what the city looked like over 160 years ago!?!

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