Daguerreotype of Henry and Lucretia Clay

Daguerreotype of Henry Clay and Lucretia Clay

Portrait of Henry Clay and Lucretia Clay, 1849. Daguerreotype.

On April 11, 1849, this daguerreotype portrait of Henry Clay and Lucretia Clay was created to commemorate their 50th wedding anniversary.

Henry Clay married Lucretia Hart (1781-1864) in 1799, and they had eleven children. Their six daughters died at young ages. Their sons Thomas (1803-1871), Henry Jr. (1811-1847), and James Brown (1817-1864) were politicians. Henry Jr. died in the Mexican-American War. Their eldest son, Theodore (1802-1870), spent most of his life at the Kentucky Lunatic Asylum. Their youngest son, John (1821-1887), was a racehorse breeder.

The process by which this image was made is credited to Louis Daguerre (hence the name daguerreotype). It was revolutionary because it fixed a positive still image to a plate. While originally taking a long exposure time of several hours, subsequent experiments allowed for shorter exposure times and an easier means of creating photographic portraits, such as the one seen here. However, because of the chemicals and plates used in their creation, daguerreotypes are fragile objects.

For more information on the daguerreotype, click here.