Louis Jacque Daguerre

Louis Jacque Daguerre (French): November 18, 1787 – July 10, 1851
Location: 7th Street, between F and G Street, NW, on the east-side of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery
Cost: $7,500, was raised by popular subscription
Sculptor: J. Scott Hartley, New York City
Unveiled: August 16, 1890
Re-dedicated: 1982

A statue for Louis Jacque Daguerre, for whom the daguerreotype is named, was first proposed in January 1890 by the Photographer Association of America. The Association requested the memorial be erected in the National Museum of the Smithsonian Institute and permission was given by then Smithsonian Secretary Samuel P. Langley.

The sculpture was unveiled in August 1890 at the eleventh annual convention of the Photographers’ Association of America, during their meeting in Washington, D.C.  The sculpture was placed in the rotunda of the National Museum (today called the Arts and Industries Building).

The sculpture is made of granite and bronze and shows “Fame”, crowning the head of Daguerre with a laurel wreath. There is a globe, symbolizing the universality of photography, of polished bronze encircled with a laurel wreath. Above the globe and laurel wreath is the head of Daguerre in bronze relief. On one side of the pedestal is the inscription:

“Photography, the electric telegraph and the steam engine are the three great discoveries of the age. No five centuries in human progress can show such strides as these.”

At the time of the unveiling, the sculpture and the sculptor had not been fully paid for. The Photographers’ Association and the Daguerre memorial fund eventually came up with the monies needed by collecting subscriptions.

In 1897 changes were made at the National Museum for the creation of more gallery space, and the Daguerre memorial was moved to the grounds outside the museum. Eventually, in 1969, with the construction of the Hirshhorn Building, the Daguerre statue was placed in storage.

In honor of the 150th anniversary of photography the Daguerre statue was relocated and rededicated at the plaza between the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American Art on Seventh Street NW between F and G streets.


A Statue to Daguerre, The Washington Post, January 23, 1890

In Honor of Daguerre, The Washington Post, August 16, 1890

Site for Daguerre’s Statue, The Washington Post, May 25, 1897