Josiah W. Thompson, 315 Broadway, New York                1852-1857     







Josiah W. Thompson is a relatively unknown entity from the Daguerreian era, and little apparatus or materials bearing his name survive today.  His name is more frequently seen on daguerreotypes, taken at various New York City addresses on Broadway and Fulton Street over the course of his career.  As a daguerreotypist, Thompson was also known to partner with Samuel Root and Joseph D. Davis.  Davis' name has been found stamped on daguerreotype mats along with Thompson's name, with a 164 Fulton Street, Brooklyn address. Per Craig's Daguerreian Registry, Davis partnered with Thompson in 1854-1855.  He was also a business partner with Henry W. Rockwell, another dealer in daguerreian apparatus during the mid-1850's, who also operated as a daguerreotypist at 419 Broadway during the late 1850's and early 1860's.

Josiah W. Thompson is listed as a daguerreotypist at 281 Broadway in Doggett's New York City Directory for 1846-1847, and 262 Broadway in Doggett's New York City Directory for 1848-1849.   New York Past, Present and Future for 1851, lists an ad for "J. W. Thompson's Daguerrean Miniature Gallery, 315 Broadway, New York."  This address was also advertised as "Thompson's Skylight Gallery", in the New York Daily Tribune for September 11, 1851. The Directory for the City of New York for 1852-1853 lists Josiah W. Thompson at 315 Broadway as a "daguerreotype" (daguerreotypist).

Thompson's advertisement in the Southern Business Directory and General Commercial Advertiser for 1854 proclaims "Daguerreotype Stock Depot and Picture Gallery, J.W. Thompson & Co., Daguerrean Artists, and dealers in Daguerreotype Stock, Apparatus and Utensils of all kinds, 315 Broadway, New York.  NB  All orders for goods executed with despatch and at fair prices.  J.W. Thompson & Co." The J.W. Thompson name appears in Humphrey's Journal of the Daguerreotype and Photographic Arts for May 1, 1855, in an advertisement for Empire Plate-Holders.   Thompson is also listed at 182 Fulton, New York in Smith's Brooklyn Directory for 1856.

The name J. W. Thompson continues to appear as late as 1905 in the Photographic News, as an individual participating in an exhibition of photographic work.  It's not known whether this is the same J. W. Thompson, but a Josiah W. Thompson died May 3, 1908 in Kings County, New York, survived by his widow Anna Thompson, 657 Evergreen Avenue, Brooklyn, New York.  Josiah W. Thompson's birth date is unknown.

This quarter-plate radial drive daguerreian (or early wet-plate era) lens is engraved "No. 107, J. W. Thompson, New York".  The lens measures 4-3/16" in height, with a 2-1/4" barrel diameter and 2-3/8" diameter at the lens shade.   With a square, radial drive focus mount, the lens barrel is nearly identical in construction to those marked Palmer & Longking.  Some lens collectors believe these early lens barrels were made by either Gardner, Harrison & Company or Levi Chapman about 1852/1853.  The straight knurling on the focus knobs (versus angled) and the square focus mount (versus round) are also suggestive of an earlier design.  These features have been found on lenses by other makers from the early 1850's.  Based on the foregoing and his known history as a dealer, Thompson no doubt privately branded this lens.


          Palmer & Longking No. 654               J.W. Thompson No. 107



          Palmer & Longking No. 654               J.W. Thompson No. 107

          Palmer & Longking No. 654               J.W. Thompson No. 107

       Daguerreotype by J. W. Thompson, 315 Broadway, New York  circa 1850's



                                            Close-up showing mat stamp


Daguerreotype by J. W. Thompson, 315 Broadway, New York circa 1850's that bears a strong resemblance to Jenny Lind, the "Swedish Nightingale".  Samuel Root, who in 1851 co-owned a gallery at 363 Broadway with Josiah Thompson, is acknowledged as the first American to make a daguerreotype of Jenny Lind.

Marcus Aurelius Root and possibly Samuel Root are known to have photographed Jenny Lind during 1850-1852, which coincides with Thompson's association with Samuel Root.

 Although exhibiting tarnish rings, the essence of the image still remains after 150+ years.