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A 'new' Franklin Expedition Daguerreotype - 21 October 2009

Now here is some exciting news: the Wills family, relatives of Lt. Henry Le Vesconte of the Franklin Expedition, has identified a Daguerreotype of their lost relative previously unknown to Franklin Expedition researchers. The Daguerreotype remains in the hands of the family. They have kindly sent me a photo of it which is reproduced above.

This Daguerreotype appears to be either a similar or identical image to that of Le Vesconte held in Cambridge at the Scott Polar Research Institute. It appears therefore that either the pictures were taken immediately one after the other without the sitter altering his pose or, perhaps more likely, the 'photographer' Richard Beard had a Daguerreotype camera which could expose two plates at the same time. But the frame and case of this Daguerreotype is completely different and it obscures more of the original image than the Daguerreotype at Cambridge.

Let's now reassess where we know about the Franklin Expedition Daguerreotypes. We can now locate thirteen original Daguerreotypes from the Franklin Expedition: twelve in the SPRI collection and one in private hands. There are fourteen copies of Franklin Expedition Daguerreotypes in the Derbyshire County Archive at Matlock which appear to have been copied at an early date. Modern photographic copies of these 'Matlock' images are held by the National Maritime Museum. Most of the images at Matlock appear to be copies of the Daguerreotypes in Cambridge while others are copies of Daguerreotypes now lost. In no particular order then, here is the status of each one with a note about other portraits of each man:

Henry Le Vesconte, Lieutenant, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with a second identical Daguerreotype in his family's hands. There is a reversed copy of what appear to be the Cambridge image in the collection at Matlock.

Sir John Franklin, Captain, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with a reversed copy of what appear to be the Cambridge image in the collection at Matlock. There are quite a number of other portraits of Franklin in existence, including paintings and engravings.

Harry D.S. Goodsir, Assistant Surgeon, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with a reversed copy of what appear to be the Cambridge image in the collection at Matlock. A very early photograph of him also exists.

Charles Hamilton Osmer, Purser, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with a reversed copy of what appear to be the Cambridge image in the collection at Matlock.

Stephen Samuel Stanley, Surgeon, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with a reversed copy of what appear to be the Cambridge image in the collection at Matlock.

Henry Foster Collins, Second Master, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with an identical copy of the same image in the collection at Matlock.

Edward Couch, Mate, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with an identical copy of the same image in the collection at Matlock.

James Walter Fairholme, Lieutenant, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with an identical copy of the same image in the collection at Matlock.

Graham Gore, Lieutenant, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with an identical copy of the same image in the collection at Matlock.

James Reid, Ice Master, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with an identical copy of the same image in the collection at Matlock.

Charles Frederick Des Voeux, Mate, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with a copy of a different Daguerreotype in the collection at Matlock

James Fitzjames, Commander, HMS Erebus – there is a single Daguerreotype at Cambridge with a copy of a different Daguerreotype in the collection at Matlock. A beautiful chalk sketch of him is also held by the National Maritime Museum.

Francis Rawden Moira Crozier, Captain, HMS Terror – there is no surviving Daguerreotype but an early copy of one exists in the collection at Matlock

Robert Orme Sergeant, Mate, HMS Erebus – there is no surviving Daguerreotype but an early copy of one exists in the collection at Matlock.

It is clear that every officer on HMS Erebus was Daguerreotyped and in three cases - Fitzjames, Des Voeux and Le Vesconte – we now know that two Daguerreotypes were taken of each subject. I have heard it said that at one stage Graham Gore's family believed they held an original Daguerreotype but I have not been able to confirm this. If true that would a fourth confirmed 'double-Daguerreotype' and it would suggest that two were taken originally of every officer.

The two Daguerreotypes of Fitzjames and Des Voeux are clearly different images while the two of Le Vesconte seem to have been taken either simultaneously or immediately one after the other. The Le Vesconte images are also unique in that he is shown standing at the ship's wheel holding what appears to be the ship's log, whereas all the other officers were Daguerreotyped seated in what appears to be a curtained booth on the dock-side. Presumably the ship Le Vesconte was Daguerreotyped on board the Erebus and perhaps the Erebus was also the ship which can be seen in some of the reflections in the other Daguerreotypes, notably those of Gore and Fitzjames.

The only evidence that any Daguerreotypes were taken of Terror's officers is the single one of Crozier which survives as a copy at Matlock with the original now lost. It is possible that Crozier was the only officer on Terror to to be Daguerreotyped, although it may be that the accident of passing through Lady Franklin’s hands preserved the Erebus officers' Daguerreotypes. It is still possible that Daguerreotypes of some of Terror's officers may survive unrecognised in the hands of their families or of Daguerreotype dealers. A number of Terror's officers were social acquaintances of their counterparts on Erebus including Hodgson and Helpman so it would be a little surprising if they were not also Daguerreotyped.

Original post: https://hidden-tracks-book.blogspot.com/2009/10/new-franklin-expedition-daguerreotype.html?fbclid=IwAR2I0cXq90nNnecv5p2lFD8bIUqoxcbEsLPWX5yjqcDlb2s2hswlUWM-n9g

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