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Earliest Face?

December 2023
1min read

Sir: Recently, in the course of some research for a book, I arrived at a conclusion which I would like to expose to your readers. It requires a brief explanation:

Sometime in 1844 or 1845, on a trip up the Hudson to photograph Martin Van Buren and Washington Irving for his “Gallery of Illustrious Americans,” Mathew Brady paid a call on Major John Livingston, veteran of the Revolutionary War and a member of the distinguished Livingston family (his brother Robert was an author of the Declaration of Independence; Chancellor of New York State; the Minister to France who negotiated the Louisiana Purchase; and patron of Robert Fulton, who named his steamboat Clermont for the Livingston estate). Brady’s daguerreotype of Major Livingston was made when the old gentleman was in his ninety-first year (he was born in 1755, the year of Braddock’s defeat, and lived until 1851).

I believe that this extraordinary daguerreotype shows us the likeness of a man who was born before any other American of whom we have a photograph. Indeed, it is possible that Major Livingston antedates anyone whose photograph survives.

It would be interesting to know if any of your readers have information indicating that a photographic likeness exists of anyone born earlier than 1755.

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