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Photo Chit-Chat #2
16 September 2009
Daguerreian Discovery: The Man with an Iron Bar through his Skull
New Special Exhibit: Cairo Cartes-de-Visite
End of the End of Summer Sale, Skylight Gallery 29

Daguerreian Discovery: The Man with an Iron Bar through his Skull

Gage with the rod that passed
through his skull
(Image owned by Jack and
Beverly Wilgus)

A reconstruction of Gage's accident
Featured in the current Daguerreian Society Newsletter is an outstanding recent discovery - a daguerreotype portrait of the 19th century neurological wonder, Phineas Gage. Gage was working as railroad construction foreman when on Sept. 18, 1848 an explosion blasted a three-foot iron tamping rod entirely through his skull and out the top of his head, taking pieces of his brain and skull along with it. A period medical wonder, Gage survived despite his injuries and lived for another twelve years. Reported changes in his personality after the accident became the focus of a medical debate which continues to this day. In the newly-found daguerreotype Gage is shown proudly posed with the large iron bar which forever changed his life, and, on some accounts, radically altered his personality.

According to the article, no photographs of Gage were previously known to exist, and the daguerreotype was identified as Gage through a series of lucky coincidences and research which it follows in detail. Both a life cast of Gage's head and the fateful tamping bar itself had been preserved in the Warren Anatomical Museum of Harvard Medical School. Gage's injuries as seen in the life cast were seen to match scars partially visible on the daguerreotype. Even more convincingly, the iron bar had been engraved during Gage's lifetime with an inscription that is still partially visible as he holds it for his daguerreian portrait.

If you are not a Daguerreian Society member or subscriber to their Newsletter, the issue containing the story of this image is available online here in PDF format. (DS Newsletter 2009, Issue 3 -- image illustrated on cover; article begins on page 6.)

Jack and Beverly Wilgus, the owners of Gage's daguerreotype and those responsible for much of the research that led to the uncovering of its story, also relate Gage's saga on their Meet Phineas Gage website.

A detailed treatment of Gage with additional documentation and medical imagery is also found in Wikipedia's Phineas Gage article.

New Special Exhibit: Cairo Cartes-de-Visite

A new display has been added to our Special Exhibits area, CDVs of Cairo, Egypt ca. 1865, which shows some thirty-four ethnographic and other studies of Cairo inhabitants by the photographers Hippolyte Delié and Ermé Désiré taken in the 1860s.

This adds to the existing special exhibits of:  -  The Bermuda Islands ca. 1890  -  Views of Alaska by Haynes  -  Microphotography by Joseph Janvier Woodward  -  The Urformen der Kunst by Karl Blossfeldt  -  Floral Photography by James Hill  -  Construction of the Paris Metro 1900  -  Ethnographic Studies of Laplanders by Roland Bonaparte

End of the End of Summer Sale, Skylight Gallery 29

End of the End of Summer Sale: With a few last items flying out the door, today marks our official LAST CALL for our Summer's End Sale, with savings of 30% on a variety of images. If you haven't checked it out yet, today is the last opportunity.

Skylight Gallery #29: Looking to the future, our upcoming Skylight Gallery #29 auction-format photography sale will be coming in October, with a closing on October 29, 2009. The online catalog is not yet available, but will be announced via email in the next few weeks.

...Until then, much enjoyment with your collecting!

--Christopher Wahren


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