8 October 2009
FREDERICK AND WILLIAM LANGENHEIM (1809-1879) and (1807-1874)
Cast-Iron Lighthouse under Construction, Carysfort Reef, Florida, August 2, 1849
annotated 'Cast iron lighthouse, without the lantern, destined for Cary's fort [sic] Reef, Florida, executed and put up temporarily at Merrick & Towne's Foundry, Philadelphia, by order of the U.S. Government' in ink, printed credit and date (in the margin)
9 x 7¾in. (23.7 x 19.7cm.)
The Estate of Frederick DeBourg Richards
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Taft, Photography and the American Scene, Dover Publications, 1938, 1964, p. 108; Particulars, pl. 103, p. 32
George Eastman House, Rochester, New York, Particulars, 1983
As a young man, William Langenheim emigrated to the United States from Germany. He settled in Texas, where he served in the Mexican-American War under General Samuel Houston and helped to recapture the Alamo in 1836. In 1840 William moved to Philadelphia with his brother Frederick. They opened a daguerreian gallery in Philadelphia's Mercantile Exchange, displaying samples of their work to build their clientele. Their daguerreotype business flourished, placing the brothers among the first successful commercial photographers in America.
Upon learning of William Henry Fox Talbot's calotype process, William Langenheim acquired the patent rights for the United States, but that investment proved to be a failure. Although the calotype was never commercially successful for them, the Langenheims used the process and exhibited a calotype panorama at the Crystal Palace Exposition in London in 1851. They were later pioneers in the use of the stereograph and the lantern slide.
The Langenheim Brothers were commissioned to photograph the construction of the Carysfort Reef Lighthouse. An innovative engineering feat, it was one of the earliest pre-fabricated structures to be erected anywhere. The lighthouse is still in service today.
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