Frederick Langenheim

Frederick Langenheim
Frederick Langenheim MET DT370485.jpg
circa 1850
Born (1809-05-05)May 5, 1809
Died January 10, 1879(1879-01-10) (aged 69)
Philadelphia, United States
Nationality American
Occupation Photographer
Known for Niagara Falls panoramic pictures
Notable work
American solar eclipse pictures

Frederick Langenheim (May 5, 1809 – July 16, 1879) was a German-American photographer and pioneer of stereoscopic photography. With his brother, he made the first set of panoramic pictures of Niagara Falls and a sequential set of pictures of the first American total solar eclipse ever photographed.

Early life

Langenheim was born with given names Frederick David in Brunswick, Germany, on May 5, 1809.[1] He emigrated to America in 1840 to Philadelphia where his older brother William was already living.[2] William had immigrated to America in 1834 and lived in Texas for a while before moving to Florida and eventually to Philadelphia in 1839.[3] Their father Friedrich Wilhelm was mayor of Schoningen, Germany, from 1808 to 1813.[4]

Mid life and career

In 1840, Langenheim and his brother William began working for a German language newspaper edited by George Francis Schreiber in Philadelphia.[5] Langenheim acquired a daguerreotype camera from Von Voigtlander and formed a partnership with Schreiber in a photographic studio business for a couple of years in 1841.[5][2] In 1843 Langenheim went into the photography studio business with his brother at 26–27 Exchange Street in Philadelphia.[6] It was the W. & F. Langenheim firm and known as the Philadelphia daguerrotype establishment.[3] They made in 1842 the first advertising picture in history.[7] It was of patrons eating and drinking in the restaurant in the Philadelphia Exchange Building. The picture of people dining was hung in the hall of the building to attract potential customers for the dining room.[8][9][10]

Panorama of Niagara Falls by Langenheim (1845)
(second of the five images)

In 1845, Langenheim took the first set of panoramic pictures of Niagara Falls ever photographed.[11][12][2] The panoramic set of five adjacent scenes were placed in panels in a display frame.[13][14] The daguerreotype pictures were the first of Niagara Falls according to photo historian Robert Taft (1894-1955).[13][15] They were the first such pictures to gain world fame.[16][17] There were eight sets of copies made. A set was sent to the photographer Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre and five crowned heads of Europe, Queen Victoria, and one each to the reigning rulers of Brunswick, Prussia, Saxony, and Wurttemberg.[16] The seventh set was given to United States president James Knox Polk and the eighth set was retained by the Langenheim brothers.[11]

American Stereoscopic Company stereocard

Langenheim invented a technique in 1846 for coloring daguerreotype plates and was issued a patent for it.[18][19] With his brother in 1849 Langenheim used a photography technique invented by Abel Niépce de Saint-Victor which produced negative lantern glass slides.[20][14] They renamed it "hyalotype" photography and patented it in 1850.[5][21] The hyalotype glass slides were produced by an albumen process and were used for views of historic buildings in New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.[14] These slides were also used in portraits of famous Americans.[22] In 1850, Langenheim with his brother introduced stereoscopy and were the first Americans to sell stereocards to the public.[23] Langenheim and his brother were the first to produce stereographs commercially in America. They operated the American Stereoscopic Company from about 1850 to 1860 in Philadelphia.[24][25]

1854 – first set of American "Eclipse of the Sun" pictures ever taken
Brother William Langenheim, c. 1850
Frederick David Langenheim as child

On May 26, 1854, Langenheim and his brother took interval timed pictures of the first American total solar eclipse ever photographed.[26][27] There were eight phases taken of different time sequences and are the earliest known eclipse pictures taken in the United States.[28][29] The seven surviving pictures are owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[26] The pictures range in size from 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) high by 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide to 2.8125 inches (7.144 cm) high by 2.3125 inches (5.874 cm) wide.[26] Six daguerreotypists and another photographer took images of the event, but only the Langenheim ones survive.[26]

Later life and death

Langenheim and his brother William were active in selling photographs until William died in 1874; at that point, Langenheim retired.[30] He died in Philadelphia on January 10, 1879.[31]


  1. ^ Newhall 1976, p. 148.
  2. ^ a b c Robinson 2001, p. 158.
  3. ^ a b Brey 1992, p. 99.
  4. ^ "The 1st photographs of s total solar eclipse". The History Blog. 2017. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c Hannavy 2008, p. 825.
  6. ^ Hannavy 2008, pp. 825–827.
  7. ^ The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 4, Publication Fund of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1940, p. 298
  8. ^ "Society News". The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. Publication Fund of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 1940. p. 298.
  9. ^ LCP 1981, p. 266.
  10. ^ Craig 1994, p. 338.
  11. ^ a b Pennsylvania Arts and Science, 4, Pennsylvania Arts and Science Society, 1940, p. 20, In 1845 Frederick journeyed to Niagara Falls and made a series of daguerreotypes of this American scenic wonder, the first ever taken of the Falls.
  12. ^ "Panorame of Niagara Falls". The MET. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2017. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
  13. ^ a b Witkin 1979, p. 179.
  14. ^ a b c Naef 2004, p. 52.
  15. ^ "Missouri Historical Society". Quarterly Journal of the Missouri Historical Society. 6: 30. 1985. Retrieved September 20, 2017. In 1845, they successfully produced several multi-plate views of Niagara Falls, which photo historian Robert Taft designates as the first camera-made pictures of the scenic wonder.
  16. ^ a b Kane 1997, p. 414.
  17. ^ Daguerreian Society 1993, p. 19.
  18. ^ Hambourg 1993, p. 310.
  19. ^ Ostroff 1987, p. 189.
  20. ^ Gernsheim 1986, p. 16.
  21. ^ Taylor 2013, p. 179.
  22. ^ Rossell 1998, p. 24.
  23. ^ Frederick Langenheim bio
  24. ^ Darrah 1977, p. 26.
  25. ^ Simons 1857, p. 50.
  26. ^ a b c d "Eclipse of the Sun". All Collection Records. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2017. Retrieved August 25, 2017.
  27. ^ Miller 2016, p. 3.
  28. ^ Marien 2006, p. 35.
  29. ^ Daguerreian Society 1993, p. 71.
  30. ^ Hannavy 2008, p. 826.
  31. ^ Wilson 1880, p. 20.


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