A Treatise on Heliochromy:
Or, The Production of Pictures, by Means of Light,
in Natural Colors.
Embracing a Full, Plain, and Unreserved
Description of the Process Known as the
Hillotype, Including the Author's Newly
Discovered Collodio-chrome, Or Natural Colors on Collodionized Glass
By Levi L. Hill
Publisher: Robinson & Caswell, NY, 1856
Transcribed by Vernon Aldrich from a copy of the original book located at the State Library at Albany
This transcription was made possible by the generous financial support of Sylvia Magin
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF THE AUTHOR
I was born in the village of Athens, Greene Co., New York, February 26, 1816. My father, Lee Lawrence Hill, was a Commissary in the Army of 1812-13, and was brought home wounded by three bullets, two of which he carried in his flesh till he died. In the month of July, 1828, he was murdered by the hands of three young men, as we of the family are well satisfied, for the gratification of a family spite, growing out of some legal difficulties. Thus, at the age of twelve years, I was left under the care of my mother, and few lads were ever as well cared for as I was by her. Wisely, piously, and assiduously, did she fulfil her mission towards a large family of children.
At the age of thirteen years, I was placed an apprentice at printing, in the office of the Hudson Gazette, to which city our family had removed previous to my father’s death. There, under the kind care of Hiram Wilbur, Esq., I soon became an expert typo, and in his amiable family was, I dare say, as happy as Ben. Franklin in the palmiest days of his minority. After remaining with Mr. Wilbur about two years, I became clerk in a store, but after a few months returned to typography, in the office of the Rural Repository. While in the store, I fell acquainted with James McNaughton, Esq., a Scotch artist of no small distinction. From him I learned the first rudiments of drawing and painting—miniature painting, particularly. I remember, distinctly, that on seeing him at work on a miniature of one of my sisters, I felt that I could willingly part with my left hand, if by so doing my right hand could be trained to the beautiful art. Mr. McNaughton afterwards removed to the city of New York, and after the lapse of a few months I followed him thither, with a view of placing myself under his care and tuition. Being a stranger in the great metropolis, I searched for my friend in vain for many days. The most I could learn about him was that he had been very sick with inflammatory rheumatism, and was reduced to great poverty. One day in my rambles in Broadway, I was pushing my inquiries among the artists, and in the studio of a miniature painter my eye rested upon one of McNaughton’s off-hand sketches, upon the merits of which the artist and some friends were expatiating in terms of high compliment. From them I learned that the object of my search was in the hospital, sick with the small-pox. My dread of this horrible disease was intense; but having been vaccinated, I repaired at once to the hospital. After pressing my suit for some time, I was admitted to his room. He knew me at once, and exclaimed—“Gracious God! My dear boy, what brought you here!” “To see you, and try to comfort you,” was my reply. “Bless God,” said he, “out of all my acquaintances this side of the great ocean, I have one friend.” He then told me that he was going to die, and directed me where to find a miniature of himself, his easel, his paints, his brushes, all which he gave me as his last legacy. I visited him several times after this, gave him twenty dollars in money (nearly all I had), and when I called the last time, I learned that he was dead and buried. Were it possible to recall our friends from the dead, James McNaughton, the friend of my early days, the man who first developed in my soul a passion for delineation in color, would be one of the first I should summon.
Soon after this, our family having removed to the village of Kingston, I entered the office of the Ulster Plebian, where I remained over a year. The family of the amiable editor, John Tappan, Esq., were a second Wilbur family to me, and I shall never forget their old-fashioned Dutch intelligence and kindness. During my stay with Mr. Tappan I occupied most of my leisure hours in study. The method I pursued was somewhat novel, and exceedingly profitable to me. Whatever subjects of interest I put in type through the day, I investigated at night. Thus, my daily toils formed a portion of my studies. For example—did I “set up” an anecdote of Franklin?—I read his life that night; an article on the “Variations of the Compass?”—that night I turned navigator; was the subject Murder—Matrimony—Potatoes—Zoology—Sugar Candy—Mexico—Tecumseh—Conchology—Peaches—Political Economy—Prussian Blue—Sealing-Wax—I swallowed my supper, and made for the Encyclopaedia.
To tell the whole truth, I had, at this time, an associate of rather dissipated habits. He was possessed of a most brilliant intellect, and might have been a star in our nation; but he died of the delirium tremens. The talents of this young man (who shall be nameless here) were of an extraordinary character. He would frequently, after a hard day’s work, write a “Tale” for some Magazine, which would be thankfully accepted, and he would then go to bed drunk, in sight of the morning star, work ten hours next day, and write a poem at night. A poem which he wrote, under the title of “The Carriers’ Address,” was pronounced by good judges, equal to Byron’s best. It was composed of some two hundred lines, and I am witness to the fact, that he composed it within the space of four hours, for I put it into type. Twenty years have passed since my acquaintance with this young man, and I shall never cease to regret that, for a short time, I was too much influenced by the bad part of his example.
Soon after these events, I became associated with a circle of young men and women who were in the habit of attending Baptist prayer meetings. I had about this time frequented the Methodist church, where I was much interested, and somewhat impressed, by the preaching of the Rev. Mr. Foss, a minister of fervent piety and peculiar eloquence. Now a powerful revival commenced among my young friends, and I was induced, by their urgent entreaties, to go and see what the Lord was doing. The meetings were held at private houses, and at the very first I attended I felt that God was in the place. My companions, it seemed to me, were of the elect, and the Lord was now separating them unto himself, while I was to be left behind. Conviction for sin rolled upon my mind like a mighty wave, but I could see no hope. Despair—withering, blighting despair—seized my inmost soul, and I felt myself sinking to the deeps of hell. Long years ago I had promised my Maker to seek his face—but I had broken my vows; and now a voice seemed to say: “He is joined to his idols; let him alone.” Once, in particular, while I resided in the city of Hudson, I was brought very low, and the Lord heard my cry. It was on the Sabbath day, and, contrary to the express injunction of my mother, I was skating on the frozen river, and was plunged into an air-hole. I suffered all the pangs of drowning, but was rescued; and after two hours’ diligent effort, by the hands of strangers, I was restored. While in the water, I felt as any sinner would be likely to feel under similar circumstances. I vowed most earnestly, that if the Lord would deliver me I would serve him all the days of my life. This I vow had broken, and now, after the lapse of years, it weighed heavy upon my soul. For four days and nights I could neither eat nor sleep—pleasure lost its charms and the world its beauty, and wherever I went creation itself seemed frowning and howling upon the reprobate. But the Spirit of God did not leave me; I was sweetly led out of this “iron cage of despair” into a “large place.” Young converts and aged saints took my be the hand and led me to Jesus; and I saw the loving Lamb of God by the eye of faith, and he did not frown, but accepted the “weapons of my rebellion,” and filled my soul with “peace in believing, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Blessed and adored be his holy name!—that “glad hour” was to me the beginning of “joys that cannot be expressed.” It may seem odd to some of my brother daguerreotypists, that I should tell my experience in a book on Heliochromy; but this simple tale will hurt nobody, while the record of it, in this very volume, relieves my own conscience. I am an imperfect man; but God only knows how utterly unendurable my late labors and trials would have been, had I not felt that I had a God to go to.
Having united with the Baptist Church in Kingston, I found myself most pleasantly employed in publishing the glad news of salvation to all I met. In the conference meetings especially, I was at home; and I can truly say that those were the happiest days of my life. A few months after my union with the church, I was licensed to preach the gospel, and I at once repaired to the Literary and Theological Seminary (now Madison University) at Hamilton, Madison Co., N. Y. to study for the work. There I remained between four and five years; and then, with a view of raising funds to support myself in theological studies two years longer, I went to work at my trade in the city of New York, where I remained about one year. The star of Horace Greely was then rising in brilliancy, and I for a short time immortalized some of his editorials for the “New Yorker.” My acquaintance with him was not intimate, but I formed a profound estimate of his genius and amiability. I also worked on the “Courier and Inquirer,” and other morning papers, where I formed the abominable habit of keeping late hours; and to this day, my time for getting sleepy is between 11 o’clock P.M. and 1 o’clock A.M. While at Hamilton I supported myself mainly by my earnings during the vacations. I received some assistance, however, from members of the Kingston Church, among whom I may mention Daniel L. Wells, Reuben Nichols, John Newhouse, and Harvey Otis—men who have “purchased to themselves a good degree” by their long years of devotion to the Christian cause. I was also aided by the Baptist Church at Sing Sing, which I supplied for several Sabbaths. With these limited resources, I was compelled to live very economically. For nearly two years I united with my room-mate in keeping bachelors’ hall. The average cost of this enterprise was three shillings per week each. Still, our fortunate acquaintance with several good housewives in the village added not a little to our stock of eatables, and we would occasionally vary the bill of fare from the waters of a crystal lake in the neighborhood. All told, our fare was good enough for students, and I have no doubt that if all mankind were to live as we did then, dyspepsia and hypochondria would be unknown.
While I was at work in New York I received a visit from a committee of the Baptist Church in New Baltimore, inviting me to become their pastor. I had been gradually reasoning myself into the belief that, the best way to study theology is for a man to take his Bible, and a few good books, and to preach as fast as he learns, and I at once accepted their call. This was in the old Merchants’ Exchange, alongside of the statue of Alexander Hamilton, who, as I told the brethren, was good enough witness to our contract. The next Sabbath found me at my post, where I was welcomed by a large congregation. After remaining with that church a few months, I was ordained to the work of the ministry, by an Ecclesiastical Council, composed of delegates from several neighboring churches.
Some time previous to these events, I had visited my old friend, Rev. Isaac Moore, at Westkill. He gave out an appointment for me to preach in the evening. While discoursing on things devine, my eyes involuntarily rested on a bright-eyed mountain girl, just in front of the pulpit. From the first glance it seemed to me that I could preach better when I was looking that way. To tell the honest truth, I fell in love with this girl, and the next day I casually saw her again at her father’s house, which only strengthened the sacred passion. Here was “love at first sight,” in good earnest. I had seen, and been acquainted with many scores of beautiful young women, but never till then had I felt that peculiar and happy pang which Cupid gives, when he sends his arrow through and through the heart. After this I visited Westkill quite frequently. I became quite suddenly, but no less permanently, a complete enthusiast in my admiration of mountain scenery, and an ardent disciple of the renowned Isaac Walton (who treats so handsomely on trout-fishing), and a great lover of evening visits, particularly at the house of Philo Bushnell, Esq., who was father of the young lady referred to—Miss Emeline Bushnell.
I have always tried hard to be a practical man, and to avoid the adoption of visionary and useless theories and sentimentalities. The idea of loving a lady without marrying her, I, at the above period especially, regarded as a piece of great nonsense. Therefore, being most pleasantly situated at New Baltimore—enjoying the favor of the people—having a model boarding-place—and so snugly ensconced in a neat little sanctum, where I sometimes got lonely—I “popped the question,” and, on the 10th of April, 1836, married the “mountain girl.” Since then, I have often heard it from her own lips that Cupid paid her a visit simultaneously with his capers with me. However this may be, I have never regretted my choice, and I am not joking when I recommend this method of getting a wife. The plan adopted by many young men, of searching, and scrutinizing, and courting, and considering, among all the girls in the nation, with a direct view of ascertaining if they can possibly love this, that, or the other one, is most unnatural—for true, and pure, and real “matches” are “made in heaven;” and were I a young lady, and had a thousand hearts to give, not one of them should go to the young gallant who required six months to determine whether he loved me. In one word, matrimony should be an affair of the affections; not a mathematical problem, and much less a matter of dollars and cents. The man who dodges the spirit and design of this holy alliance, by marrying for money, is a wretch, who deserves to be miserable the rest of his days.
Well, blessed with the smiles and counsels of my young bride, I was very happy at New Baltimore. After remaining there a few months longer, I felt it my duty to accept a call from the church at Westkill. Here I continued, as pastor for nine years, during which time I experienced much of the “Sunny Side,” as well as the “Shady Side,” of that relation. My preaching was direct and plain, and designed to cut its way with conscience. Ever since I have been disabled from preaching, it has been a great consolation to me to reflect that I never “sewed pillows to arm-holes,” or “handled the word of God deceitfully.” I literally “cried aloud, and spared not,’ as many can testify, and as my poor throat has been testifying for the last seven years. Had I been as moderate as many of our sleepy sing-songs of the present day, I might have been doing out the Gospel to this day—or I might have been accursed in an early grave, for my indolence, and for my solemn mockeries of the awful themes—I really do not know which. How a man with vital piety at heart, and a commission from the Great I AM in his hands, and the awful realities of Sin, Death, Hell, Heaven, and a Judgment Day for his themes, and a concourse of eternity-bound immortals before him, can say over the Gospel, as a dull boy would say a lesson, is a problem which some of our doctors of divinity would do well to solve.
During my labors in Westkill, the church enjoyed several mighty outpourings of the Holy Spirit. Connected with these, and with my pastorate in general, were many incidents of an interesting character. Most of them I will pass over; the few more particularly connected with the leading events of my history, I may be pardoned for recording.
My salary was very small, never exceeding three hundred dollars; and “donation visits” were not at first in vogue, in this then hot-bed of antinomianism—an ism, which, of all others, is perhaps least inclined to liberality. This led me to labour with my own hands’—no great condescension, verily, in a minister of the gospel, seeing Paul did the same. I procured printing materials, a good supply of type, and an old “Ramage Press,” and commenced the publication of a little semi-monthly, called the “Christian Repository.” I obtained a fair circulation, and realized about $500 profit during its one-year life. Then I abandoned the first publication ever issued among the Catskill Mountains, and sent forth the first number of the “Baptist Library,” a reprint of standard Baptist works, such as those of Bunyan, Keath, Carson, Hall, and Fuller. This idea met with universal sympathy throughout our churches. The first men in the denomination gave me their influence, and at the end of one year I had seven thousand subscribers at $1.50 each. My labors between its semi-monthly issues, were about as follows:--
Composition of 16 large pages of type, in which I was aided by wife.
Press-work every fortnight of 7,000 sheets.
Folding, pressing, covering, and mailing 7,000 periodicals every fortnight.
Keeping the books.
Preaching from four to eight sermons.
Attending weddings, funerals, &c.
All told, this was rather hard work, and required full sixteen hours per day. This course made the first inroad on my constitution, and I now regret it most bitterly. I soon found it necessary to enlarge my facilities, when I formed a co-partnership with my brother, R. H. Hill, and we removed our quarters to the delightful village of Prattsville. The Hon. Zadock Pratt, founder of that fine village (justly pronounced the “gem of the mountains”)—a gentleman well known and highly esteemed throughout the country—became our generous patron, and afforded us the large monied facilities required by our enlarging our operations, in the addition of some twelve workmen, a well appointed stereotype foundry, and an extensive book and stationery store. He also furnished us a large building for our business, and each of us a good house for our families. At the close of the business there—about three years in all—he utterly refused to take any rent. It is not a little to his credit that just such instances of liberality were ever common to him. I remained in Prattsville only about a year, having sold out to my brother, who continued the business some two years after I left. On leaving there, I was resolved to bid adieu to the mountains, and with this view visited Danbury, Conn., Stamford, Conn., and some churches in New Jersey, and returned home to consider and decide on the merits of these several locations. The Westkill church urged me to return, and I did so. After three or four years the famous anti-rent troubles commenced. In this section several clergymen lectured for, and otherwise encouraged the Calico Indians. I was accused of being an “up-renter,” and was threatened with a “donation” suit of “tar and feathers.” One day a gang of some eighty of these rowdies passed my house, and while I stood in the door they pointed their muskets at me, but did not fire. Perhaps they were in jest; but even such an outrage no friend of good order would be found guilty of. A sermon in which I plainly exposed the rottenness of the whole system of disguise, and the hypocrisy of those professors of religion who countenanced the practice, gave great offence to a few in the church; and being determined not to stay in a church where even a few wished me gone, I left, and settled in the Baptist church in the thriving village of Saugerties, on the banks of the Hudson river. There I remained two years and a half, and I must say in justice to the church and the people generally, that my situation was exceedingly pleasant. Indeed I felt as if I could stay in that community “all the days of my life.” Alas! It was otherwise ordered. I was severly attacked with the scourge of the ministry, bronchitis. At one period of the disease I entirely lost my voice, and such was the aggravated character of the complaint, that skilful physicians pronounced me on the very brink of the consumptive’s grave. By the blessing of God, in the free use of “Jayne’s Expectorant,” I almost entirely recovered, and again entered the pulpit. A few sermons were sufficient to bring back the malady in a chronic form, and from this I have never entirely recovered. The large quantities of iodine and bromine, especially the latter, which I was led to use in the practice of daguerreotype, and in manufacturing chemicals, have tended greatly to modify the disease, and to render life endurable. Bromine, deadly poison as it is, inhaled by the lunges, in a state of moderate dilution with atmospheric air, appears to act as a tremendous irritant, and for several hours, and even days, the pulmonary subject will feel much worse; but these symptoms are sure to be followed by a very decided improvement. A continuous exposure, however, to even a very weak atmosphere of this poison, is extremely debilitating and injurious. Three years ago the present winter, I had a violent return of my complaint; and about that time I had occasion to make a large quantity of bromide of lime. At several different times I inhaled it largely, which caused a very great aggravation of the cough, sore throat, expectoration, stricture, &c., but in a few days the volatile poison left the system, and with it went all the principal symptoms of the disease, and I felt nearly well for several months. A good way to use this potent medicine, is to place one drop of pure bromine in a three-gallon jug, and after suffering it to remain corked tight for an hour, in a warm room, to carefully inhale from the mouth of the jug, till you feel a decided action of it through the throat and lungs, and then to breathe freely out-door air, the colder the better. The latter direction may seem singular and dangerous, but it is not. No danger of “taking cold” need be apprehended. The lungs are not then in a condition for it. They are under a ten-fold excitement, in the effort to throw off the poison, and will, therefore, resist the cold air, while the latter will at once dilute the gas.
To return to the thread of my narrative. After becoming satisfied that my disease was of a character to forbid my regular exercise of the ministry, I at once turned my attention to daguerreotyping. From Daguerre’s first published account of this wonderful art, I became enamored with it; and I well remember my emotions on seeing some of the first daguerreotypes made in New York by Prof. Morse (the immortal inventor of the magnetic telegraph), Prof. Wolcott, Mr. Van Loon, and others. I paid one of these gentlemen (Mr. Van Loon, I think) $10 for two medium daguerreotypes of myself and wife. My own, having been kept from strong light, remains on the plate, but in a miserable state of decay; the other has long since entirely disappeared.
My first lessons in daguerreotype were from a friend, who was a novice in the art. Of course I did not succeed. I then repaired to Meade & Brothers’ Gallery, in Albany, where I gathered the main principles of the business. Afterwards I spent some time with R. E. Churchill, Esq., in Broadway, New York, much to my improvement. In those days instructions were very imperfectly given; many of the best artists, in fact, found it hard work to keep their own equilibrium, so little was understood of the true principles of the art. After all these valuable aids, I was still in a most woeful “fog.” My lights had “the blues,” and the face of beauty would come out black as charcoal; and that, too, after a sitting of fifteen minutes. Indeed, I thought myself fortunate to make a white man look a few degrees lighter than Jim Crow. To those who have passed these troubles (and who of the old daguerreotypists have not?), I need not describe their vexations and horrors. The pecuniary embarrassment, likewise, to those who depend on the business for th support of their families, as I did, is no small item. Many—yes, the great majority—who took instructions in those days, were willfully misled, and not only cheated out of their money, but sent out among strangers without the ability to earn their bread. Let me say here, that certain parties who have been most forward in denouncing me as a cheat, like themselves, were among the notorious in those naughty times, when cider was sold for “quick stuff,” red chalk for colcothar, Indian meal for chloride of gold, and plumbago for iodine. I have the documents to prove this assertion, and I can bring dozens of men who will swear, on the Holy Book, that, in their opinion, the mercenary traducers referred to are among the meanest and most contemptible villains on the footstool. Not a few of these rare spirits I could point out by name, and prove their rascality to their teeth; but I will let these remarks suffice, promising, if they ever renew their base attacks, to bring to light some things which will not be very pleasing.
In the course of my struggles to gain a mastery of the art, I was one day visited by Mr. Francis Norwood, of Schoharie Co. It was very uncommon in those times to meet with an operator at all communicative; every man had some great secret, and that was locked up in his own narrow bosom, and the key hid away. You could scarcely visit a daguerreotype room, but you would see on the door of the operating department—“No Admittance,” “Positively no Admittance,” “Strictly Private,” “Peremptorily no Admittance,” &c. If you desired a piece of information—a recipe for making or mixing “chloride of gold” for example, from $5 to $50 was the price, the seller reserving the trifling privilege of giving you the wrong recipe if he saw fit. I once sent for $5 worth of chloride of gold to a very popular house in Broadway, with a respectful request for information how to mix it. The gold (and plenty of nice yellow corn, ground fine) arrived, and with it a message—“Ask Mr. Hill if he thinks I am a d----d fool?” This creature is still on Broadway; but people have found him out, and the glory of his once gorgeous daguerrian palace has departed. I am glad that a race of men have take his place.
Mr. Norwood was of a different stamp. He carried the “key of knowledge” in a loose hand; and he cheerfully “put me on the track.” I learned from him, in twenty minutes, that which enabled me to produce very good pictures with some certainty. As a result, I profited to the amount of about four hundred dollars in Saugerties alone, in the space of three or four months. This enabled me to pay all my little debts, contracted while “groping in the dark,” and to return to my home in Westkill with a few spare dollars.
Soon after this, accompanied by my wife and boy, I commenced as travelling daguerreotypist. I went first of all to the flourishing town of North East, Dutchess Co., where I spent a winter very pleasantly in the house of the Rev. H. L. Gross. While there, I made and sold some two hundred pictures. On my return home, I operated for a short time in my native village, Athens. A month or two afterwards I returned to Athens, and had all I could do there for several weeks. Then I went down the river to Poughkeepsie, and thence to Dover Plains, Dutchess Co., where I was fortunate in forming an extensive acquaintance with the most excellent people, and in making and selling nearly three hundred pictures. While there, I enjoyed a visit with Durand, the artist. I naturally supposed that the man who produced the fine painting of Dover Plains, could show me how to color a daguerreotype. But he laughed at the idea, remarking, “reproduce, by means of light, the beautiful colored image on the ground glass of your camera, and you will be ahead of all the painters.” This remark was, perhaps, what first suggested to me the idea of making an effort towards that grand object.
From Dover Plains I went to the pleasant village of Amenia, in the same county, and there, also, I succeeded admirably for a couple of months. I became acquainted while there with the professors in the Methodist Seminary—especially Professors Hazen and Winchell. With them I had many pleasant interviews, the conversation generally turning on the Philosophy of the Daguerreotype. In this they were well versed; but the practical part they could not master. The camera, &c., belonging to their Philosophical Department I purchased at a low price, and paid in light and shadow.
In the month of November I returned to North East, where I designed to spend the winter; but, in the midst of a most successful career, we were unexpectedly called home by the dangerous illness of a dear sister. We arrived at Oakhill, opposite Catskill, on our way homeward, after dark the first day. The river had just closed, but the crossing not being safe, we went up to Hudson, and crossed there, piloted by two little boys, and arrived at Catskill at midnight. The next morning, at daybreak, we were on our way to the mountains. It was one of the coldest days I ever knew, and in crossing the mountain, just below the “Mountain House,” the wind blew a perfect hurricane. The air was literally filled with snow, leaves, limbs of trees, and an occasional sprinkling of rails and boards from the fences, and several times we heard the crash of tall maples and hemlocks, as they yielded to the fury of the gale. Majesty rode on the blast that day. I name this incident, because it formed a sort of era in my life, and to show what woman can endure, when on a mission of affection. Several times we were plunged into deep snow drifts, when my wife, our little boy, and myself had to release the prancing and infuriated steeds, right up the sleigh, or tumble it over a stone wall, and play vigilance committee over the stupid acts of an affrighted negro driver.
Arrived safely home, we found our young friend, to all appearance, in the last agonies of a complication of diseases, of which Scrofula was chief. She had been given up by several physicians, and had been lying for some days in a comatose state. We were aware that she had taken the usual remedies of the Allopathic school, and having reached the end of their medical education, it was considered that any new prescription, not exactly conforming to these principles, would kill her at once. However we, in theory and practice, were Thompsonians—the mention of which fact here needs no apology—for the theory of Dr. Samuel Thompson never has, and never can be refuted, though the course of some of his followers has been utterly absurd. Accordingly, by consent of the entire family, we made a trial of botanic remedies. Small does of Thompson’s Third Preparation, to get up the “internal heat,” and nauseate the stomach, were often repeated, aided by a careful and persevering use of the vapor bath. The effect was almost magical. Signs of life began to appear, and ere long she was in great pain. As soon as we thought it safe we gave, to relieve these pains, the same medicine, in emetic doses. Nature, thus aided, gained strength to renew the conflict with disease; and the advantage was followed up by a continued use of the same medicine, in connexion with vegetable alternatives, till the patient recovered. She is still living in the enjoyment of fair health.
I have said that the journey through the hurricane was a sort of era in my life. How and why I so regard it I will now state. Had we been one day later our friend, I doubt not, would have died, and we would have returned to our migrations. As it was, duty retained me at home, and having no regular employment I began experimenting for the natural colors. These experiments I have continued till very recently—a period of over five years—and had it not been for the heroic fortitude of a woman, in braving the storm, the following pages would never have seen the light.
I will not omit, in this place, the mention of some unpleasant circumstances which happened about this time. The then Pastor of the Westkill church had been guilty of most shamefully slandering one of the most amiable young ladies in the place. Unfortunately for me he had made me a witness to the fact, and though I deemed it prudent to conceal my knowledge of his character, supposing that there was no other proof, the whole thing leaked out, and it was proved against him by the most irrefragable testimony. He was tried by a council of delegates from ten or twelve neighboring churches, excluded from the church, and silenced from preaching by the unanimous finding of the council. During the progress of the matter this man tried hard to injure me, and to effect his purpose set on foot a shameful lie. This I at once traced out, and in few days caused to be read in public two libels, signed by the parties implicated; and thus the matter ended until some of my spiteful nature color friends repeated the story. These friends, made malicious by their failure to browbeat me into a compliance with their wishes in regard to my discovery, had the pleasure, for a short time, of being believed. Several, to my knowledge, on visiting Westkill and making the most diligent inquiry, both here and on the road, were quite thunderstruck to find that not even a shadow of suspicion existed against me. This is the first time I ever named the subject in print and I do it now as a matter of history, without feeling any interest in the matter, or any special concern about the opinions of the very kind friends referred to.
When I commenced working for the colors I had a little, and but a little, faith. As I progressed I noticed things that greatly increased my confidence in the practicability of what I regarded as the true chromatic theory. Not that I produced any colors, but I found that ordinary Daguerreotyping and Calotyping, with slight variations, were capable of giving very great diversity of tone; and I found, also, that other agents besides the usual ones would give singular and sometimes beautiful results. This led me on from day to day, and gave me great encouragement to believe that I would one day find an opening that would lead me into the Land of the Beautiful. The great difficulty was to find a clue to some mode of operating direct for the colors. This secured, the next difficulty was in procuring suitable chemicals. I found, on personal inquiry at the best Laboratories in the United States, that many of my supplies would have to come from Europe. Then I began to open my eyes to the fact that experimenting was very costly,* [footnote: *To this date I have spent over ten thousand dollars in these experiments.] and that my means would soon be gone.
At this time no book on the Daguerreotype Art had ever been published in this country, and I had long been collecting materials for such a work. I had paid out several hundred dollars for recipes, &c., and at length, with fear and trembling, I issued proposals for my “Treatise on Daguerreotype.” The circular was inadvertently dated the First of April, and I soon had several letters inquiring if I meant to April-fool the fraternity. One of these letters was from a distinguished operator in Philadelphia, with whom I have since had many a laugh over the subject. He could not believe that a proposal to publish a Book on Daguerreotype could be less than an April-fooling. Imperfect as my first work certainly was, it met with a ready sale at $5 per copy, and it was thought quite cheap enough at that price, inasmuch as it contained, in addition to a full system of operating, many recipes which had frequently sold for from $10 to $50 each, and much other valuable information. I realized a few hundred dollars profits from the sale of this work, which made me feel quite rich, and enabled me to push my experiments.
In the meantime I took daguerreotypes for all who called, and occasionally had a pupil. My price for teaching a pupil was $50, which some persons, who never do it for less, have charged upon me as a piece of extortion. The truth is just this: I always spent from one to two months with a pupil, and carefully taught him every branch of the art; and I have never yet had one leave my rooms who was not qualified to make money out of the business. All of them, as far as I know, have done well; and many of them are now among the best and most successful operators in the country. Not one of them ever grumbled at my treatment, and all of them are, to this day, among my warmest friends. These remarks I design to apply to all the pupils I ever had, and the reader may judge from them how far I am guilty of depredating upon their credulity. I would not refer to this subject, were it not that many unkind insinuations have been thrown out concerning it, as if it was a great privilege for me to labor like a slave in teaching my scholars, for the very purpose of purchasing the boon of working for that which could but benefit the whole fraternity. Every dollar ever received from pupils, books, the sale of chemicals, &c., has been spent, long since, in the pursuit of my experiments. Any persons who may feel sufficient interest in my private affairs (for such they certainly are) will be referred to my many former pupils by name, to many persons of distinction who are acquainted with my affairs, and to any of my neighbors within ten or twenty miles of my house.
I would state, further, that I have published, besides the present volume, four works on Photography:
1. My original Treatise on Daguerreotype.
2. A revised and enlarged edition of the same.
3. A Treatise on the “Magic buff,” &c.
4. “Photographic Researches and Manipulations.
The “Treatise on the Magic Buff” was a pamphlet merely, and sold for five dollars to all who saw fit to buy it. This speculation brought down upon me a tirade of abuse in a certain city paper, written by a man who has since not hesitated to attack one of the most venerable institutions in our country—the Franklin Institute.
At the time I projected that pamphlet “Magic Buffs” were selling for twenty dollars per pair. They were simply two pieces of buckskin tacked to pine sticks, one strip of the buckskin having a little grease spread over its surface. As respectable parties as the Scovill Manufacturing Co., W. & W. H. Lewis, J. Gurney, and others, were in the speculation; and there was no unfairness in it—for, by the use of these Buffs the Daguerreotype plate was quickened one half, thus enabling operators to take children and other difficult subjects with great facility. I purchased three sets of the Buffs, and there being no patent on them, I had wit enough to analyse one of them. Those who sold the pieces of leather and the pine sticks for twenty dollars did not give the secret. My logic was as follows: Two pine sticks covered with buckskin strips, one of them greased, are worth twenty dollars—therefore, the grand modus of preparing the said buckskin, &c., is worth five dollars. My subscribers, as far as I know, agreed with me that I hit logic’s nail on the head that time. I had the lion’s share of the profits—some $500—and the gratification also of somewhat out-generaling my New York friends fairly, handsomely, and in a nice business way. The information becoming general, buckskin fell in price, and Dr. Cyrus (the reputed inventor) was relieved of all danger of being burned for witchcraft. So much for the famous “Magic Buff.”
My other publications (a thousand thanks to the great mass of my brother artists) went off at a profit, especially the “Photographic Researches,” which sold freely throughout the United States, in the Canadas, and to some extent in Europe. I wrote the book as over-work, at midnight hours—at a time, too, when my mind was on the pinnacle of excitement about the natural colors. At midnight hours also I wrote and mailed my Prospectus; and having thus, by my own efforts, secured the kind patronage of the fraternity, I think I was, and am, justly entitled to commendation instead of blame, especially as I spent all the money in pursuit of the grandest theme of Photography, and especially as I can show one thousand letters from actual subscribers, expressing their high appreciation of the work. A few weeks ago I sold, for a liberal price, the copy-right of this work to one of the first stock dealers in the country—Myron Shew, Esq., of Philadelphia.
My reader is now made aware of pretty much the whole story concerning the manner in which I have sustained my family, and my experiments for the last five years. I would add, however, that I have realized moderate profits from the sale of Daguerreotype and Calotype chemicals of my own make, and Daguerreotype stock. After earning and spending over ten thousand dollars, and at the end of five years of the severest toils, brain-racking investigations, and bitter trials, I find myself a few hundred dollars worse than a poor man. I am aware that the impression is abroad that I have amassed an immense fortune. One writer has taken pains to figure up my gains, and he made out about forty thousand dollars. But the whole truth is given in the foregoing statements, with the exception of the fact that the very house I live in, and of which I hold a deed has been under mortgage for three years past. The money for which the mortgage was given was, every dollar of it, expended on my experiments. My neighbors are perfectly familiar with these facts, and I consider them as a full vindication against all insinuations to the contrary.
IN the midst of toils of which the foregoing chapter gives but a meagre account, I pursued my grand theme—my one thought, so to speak—and never, for a wakeful hour, whatever else might be on my hands, did I cease to think into it. It was like studying arithmetic on a battle field—like balancing on the tight-rope in a tornado—like anything but the usual method of scientific pursuit. Say it was like Thomas Scott, writing a commentary, with a cross baby on his knee. That will do—tolerable figure of the plight I was in.
At first I was alone—all alone—a sort of human owl, grubbing about, with great blurry eyes, after a glow-worm. My acquaintances—my best friends—brothers, sisters, wife—all laughed at me. To them, doubtless, I seemed like one fishing for pearls in a thunder cloud. My scheme was ranked with “perpetual motion” hunting. In one word, I was a visionary, a builder of air-castles. This, as you may readily imagine, was not very encouraging. I referred them to facts, phenomena, chromatic theory, and the like; but it was of no use, like the rest of mankind they had set the thing down among the impossibilities. I should tell a lie to say that this conduct on their part did not mortify my pride exceedingly. However, I will give them all credit of having refrained from harshness. It was a sort of stationary theme in the family for cracking jokes over. I would try to smile and laugh in a natural way—but I was like the frogs in the fable—the boys’ fun in stoning them, was their agony.
This utter unbelief in the possibility of solving the great problem, was not confined to my family. It was, as far as men thought on the subject, a well-settled public sentiment. I do not think I could have found a man or woman who would have ventured five dollars on my success. The scientific minds of this country and Europe, with a few brilliant exceptions, even went so far as to take it for granted that photography and the natural colors were separated by an impassable gulf. The old philosophers had never had their giant minds enlisted in the subject. Hence I had no help from the books.
Another great impediment was my lack of chemical knowledge. True, I had read the science in school, and I could recite its outlines; but I have never studied it. To study chemistry in the true sense, is to practice it. In my attempts to make my own chemicals, I found myself woefully deficient. In following the plainest formulas I frequently failed. Of apparatus I had none. Even now, after years of practice, I have very little in this line but what I have made myself. They answer my purpose. My methods of forming and compounding are mostly my own. The formulas in this work are not all given in true chemical technicality; but I have tried hard to be plain and correct.
After a few months my wife became a convert to my views, and entered heartily into my spirit and plans. We worked with untiring perseverance. Every variety of experiment that our anxious thoughts suggested, was tried in every form, and repeated, over and over again, until we were satisfied that it did not contain our sought-for gem. Knowing as I now do, the almost impossibility of avoiding, in such a research, certain absurd acts, and queer juxtapositions, I am yet amused in looking back at some of our experiments. True, we had a sort of system, and usually confined ourselves to one head of the series at a time. Under the head of Mordants,” for example, we one day applied alum water to a plate, and then coated it in the usual way with iodine, thinking that in some way the alumina, which has a great affinity to coloring matter, might lay hold of the colored rays. This was absurd enough, truly; but, as it cost but little time, there was no harm done, and it led in the end to the employment of aluminate of silver, as you will see further on. Indeed, out of the many thousand experiments I have tried, I do not remember a single one from which I derived no benefit.
My wife’s devotion to the pursuit lasted several months. Many of her ideas and manipulations were excellent—such as only woman could originate. Household duties called her away from the work, and I afterwards enjoyed her aid only occasionally. Her exertions in this work, and exposure to noxious chemicals, I fear had a share in hastening the development of her present hereditary disease. At the time of this writing, she lies low under the hand of that fell destroyer—consumption. My own health has suffered greatly, form the ardor of my labors, and from the many deadly poisons which have been, as it were, my playthings for years. Such inhalants as prussic acid, phosphorus, sulphuretted hydrogen, cyanogen, nitrous oxide, chlorine, bromine, red hot arsenic, antimony, &c., are not exactly suited to the frail net-work of human lungs. Once in particular, after the continued use of hydrofluoric acid, I had a severe attack of hemorrhage of the lungs, and was very singularly handled. I have also had many hair-breadth escapes from explosions. Having occasion one day to prepare some fulminate of silver, an explosion took place which shook the whole premises, and though I was within five feet of the vile stuff, not a hair of my head was injured. At another time I was knocked over, as if with a club, by the fumes of prussic acid, which I was heroically heating on a plate, with, as I thought, requisite precautions. More than once I have been etherealized, iodized, bromidized, oxydized, chloroformed, and, in various ways, transformed from the natural to a most unnatural state. These injuries were most of them temporary; worse ones have arisen from continued exposure to volatile poisons, lack of out-door exercise, late hours, over exertion of the physical and mental powers, and a tremendous and lengthened excitement of the mind. May future experimenters who read these lines take warning from my example. Let me say to those who galvanize their plates, beware of your cyanide of silver—its fume contains a poison subtle as, and almost identical with, that of the rattle-snake. Keep it in a distant corner, and give it ventilation. When not in use, let it be well covered. Beware, also, of your bromine—the very rottenness of death is in it. Ventilate your mercury—its fume is loaded with rheumatism, sciatica, lumbago, tooth-ache, neuralgia, and decrepitude. Beware of air-tight rooms, close confinement, standing, sitting, stooping too much, reading too much, too much eating, too little sleep, too much abstraction of mind, and too much of any bad habit whatever, Let King Philip’s motto be posted on all your employments—“Remember thou art mortal.” Lost health is not easily regained. Receive this friendly admonition from one who knows, by bitter experience, the fruits of violating the laws of physiology and hygiene.
It was in the spring of 1847 that I commenced these experiments. For three entire years I obtained no really encouraging result. True, I occasionally saw some remarkable change in the tone of ordinary daguerreotype and calotype pictures, as I varied these processes—some striking freak in the chemical or actinic action—for example, the red figures in a dress or building, or tints of green in a landscape dimly showing themselves. The same phenomenon was early noticed by Daguerrre, and has been frequently observed by others. Sometimes I would obtain an iridescent play of colors, such as we see in thin plates of mica, mother-of-pearl, the soap-bubble, &c.; but these I knew were due to a cause foreign to that I was striving to bring into action that is, they were not the result of actinic power.
My first really good result was obtained in 1850. It was a copy of a large colored lithograph of the village of Prattsville. Never, before or since, did I experience such overpowering mental excitement as when I saw this result. Wearied and worn with the toils of three long years, I was, as it were, suddenly ushered into a place of repose and beauty. My brain reeled and staggered under the mighty fact that I had reached the goal of my hopes, and I shouted, like a Methodist—Eureka! Eureka! It seemed to me that the house was too small to hold my suddenly expanded thoughts, and I made my way to a clump of “willows,” near a running brook, where, Ophelia-like, I soliloquized all manner of sentimentalism, and employed myself for an hour or two, in the important business of picking up, and tossing about the pebbles on the water’s edge. To my entranced gaze, every stone, and leaf, and even each of my hands, had a heliochrome upon it. Indeed, I was, for the only time in my life, on the verge of insanity. Suddenly, the thought struck me that I must make a desperate effort to remember how I had secured that picture. Having used no definite proportions in my compounds, I found it necessary to make a desperate effort to remember the quantities of each material employed, by calling up to my mind, by a sort of mnemonics, the form and bulk of the articles. I accordingly locked myself in my room, and went to work deliberating to construct a formula. In the nature of the case this effort was the keystone of my future success.
I succeeded in producing a second picture in natural colors. To me, and to my wife, this was a thrilling event. Then it was that we signed and made oath to a pledge, which afterwards gave me much trouble. This pledge was designed for our own security, and its binding obligation formed the reason for my refusal to show my pictures, “except for security or protection.” This refusal led many to suspect that the whole thing was a pretence; but never in my life have I acted more conscientiously than I did in religiously adhering to this pledge.
Having made so great a discovery, was it not natural, and reasonable, and proper, for me to announce it? For so doing I have been severely censured; inasmuch as the excitement which followed greatly injured the daguerreotype business—a result I had little dreamed of. In making that announcement I did no more than to act out of the natural impulsiveness of my own nature. Its effect I did not foresee. This effect was most unexpected to me. None will deny that it exceeded any parallel case in this country. The news spread like wild-fire. Every newspaper in the land contained glowing accounts of the matter—everybody talked about it—and the Daguerreotype business received a mighty blow. No person ever regretted this more than I have; but it was not wrong in me, under the circumstances, to make that announcement. The Editors of our own Photographic Journals, who first announced (all very right), and then, in a way of provoking, unfair, and long-spun controversy, denounced my discovery, and most unrighteously, and with a sort of “border-ruffian” spirit, abused and vilified me, are the men who inflicted the “unkindest cut of all” on the bleeding body of Daguerreanism. To them the Press at large naturally looked for information, and their editorials, for and against, were eagerly copied. Justice to myself compelled me to counteract their unmanly scandals, by means of “certificates” from men of note to whom I exhibited the proofs of my own integrity. Is a man blameworthy for defending himself from the attacks of scribbling, literary bloodhounds? If so, then have I offended.
I, of all others, have been the greatest sufferer from that announcement. One result was the reception of over eight thousand letters. No small affliction for a man employed. Another result was a “great multitude” of visitors, and not a few “visitations.” No less an affliction was the officious intermeddling of a certain class of sharpers and speculators, who left no effort untried to get me involved in their expert clutches. Some of the, when at length they found out I was not quite a fool, fell back on the tricks of old traitor Judas, and circulated all manner of lies, to my hurt.
The “Committee” of the miserable apology for a “New York State Daguerrean Association,” who visited me during this stage of the proceedings, well illustrated, in their course, the character of that justice which I received. The hole history of this “Infernal Committee” affair may be told in a few words. It is this:--Three men—D. D. T. Davy, “Phot.” Of Utica, Clark of New York, and Tomlinson of Troy—came to my house, under orders from the mighty compact referred to—the “N. Y. State Daguerrean Association”—whose mandate issued from a meeting of said august body, in a Daguerrean Gallery in New York, which meeting was composed of a tremendous gather of no less than seven members—yea, verily, and no more than seven. This “Committee” (in justice to Tomlinson and Clark, I would say) was made up, de facto, of the notorious Davy. He was chief speaker—the two others being evidently ashamed of their connexion with so mean and dastardly a spirit as that exhibited by their chairman. This Davy, after a liberal effusion of flattery, and after a kind reception from me, proceeded to threaten me with exposure as a humbug, and more than intimated that a banditti of ruffians, like himself, would visit this quiet valley with the laudable purpose of breaking into my laboratory. Surely, no two threats could be more contradictory. One supposed I had no pictures, and the other implied that I held the key to a gem worthy of the arts and efforts of freebooters. I could have had the chivalrous “Phot.” arrested for threatening my life; but I thought the best thing I could do for my neighbors was to let him vamoose the valley as quickly as possible.
I candidly confess that I was afraid of the threatened attack. Davy’s whole manner was that of a desperado, and his subsequent history proves that my estimate of this character proves correct. He has since been adjudged by a court of Arbitration, guilty of perjury and arson, in the matter of the burning of his Daguerrean Rooms.
I have ever been a man of peace—but I felt that a deep and deadly malice lurked in the dark bosoms of the Davy party, and I accordingly prepared for war. My first step was to procure a Revolver; secondly, Col. Pratt sent me one of his watch-dogs; and thirdly, my neighbors organized what I have called the “Westkill Police.” The latter consisted of neighboring farmers, and others, who held themselves ready, at a moment’s warning, to come to the rescue. The understanding was, that in case of an attack we were to sound a “watchman’s rattle,” which was kindly furnished me by a Philadelphia friend. All told, we had quite a formidable arrangement, and the Bully Davy and his cowardly satellites would have acquired some experience in the “least refrangible” of the “natural colors,” had they ventured an attempt at executing their threat. In other words—the dog would have inserted his ivory daggers into their veins, the revolver would have enlarged the openings, and our mountain boys would have well acted their part in the play of “catching a Tartar.” The threat made by Davy had produced a feeling of indignation throughout this whole community; and I say, in all seriousness, that it is well that the redoubtable “Phot” chose the “better part of valor.”
One dark night we were alarmed by the terrific barking of the faithful dog. I immediately arose from bed, and after listening for a few moments at one of the doors, I became satisfied that the enemy was around. There was a tramping, and strange crawling noise, and a sort of harsh, grazing sound, as if hoarse voices were plotting for a deed “without a name.” I felt sure that the villains were about commencing their work, and such was my indignation that I forgot all about the “rattle,” and the thought of summoning the “Police” did not enter my mind. The dog put in his high notes, after a fashion I had never heard in dog before. I was well paid for my fright and excitement by what I learned that night of the nature of the canine race. Such yelping, barking, and howling, such tiger fierceness, and savage ferocity, and such an uncontrollable anxiety to get at his prey, was surely never surpassed by dog before. As the noise out of doors did not abate, notwithstanding the terrors of that dog’s voice, I really began to have quite an exalted idea of “Phot’s” bravery.
Gentle reader, have patience, and I will tell you the sequel. I am aware that in reading stories of great battles, the reader is naturally anxious to come to that point where the bugle sounds the charge, and he can hear the booming thunder of the cannon, and the crash of arms, and see the tide of battle set in and decide the contest. Therefore, to keep you no longer from this thrilling point in my story, I will state the interesting fact, that, with no other soldier but the dog, I opened the door, and rushed upon the enemy—when, lo and behold, instead of meeting the chivalrous “Phot” and his ruffian army—instead of having a chance to display our valor, and to spit out the fire of our patriot souls—we encountered our old cow—which discovery the dog and I both made at once. It is quite unnecessary for me to waste words in informing the reader that I felt “sold,” and that the dog returned to his station with his tail pointed downwards towards the Chinese Empire.
Lightly as I have treated this item in my history, I assure the reader that I was seriously afflicted by this shameful affair. It formed one link in a chain of annoyances—not a very short chain, either. One of the keenest inflictions a sensitive nature can endure, is to feel that a complication of cruel and unjust proceedings are gathering, like storm-clouds, around our pathway. This, I could easily show, was my situation; but I will draw a curtain on the dark scene, and let my enemies, and their nefarious ideas of right and wrong, sink into the broad immensity of contempt where all such things go. Amid all these trials I had a large circle of friends. My neighbors were very kind to me, and the number of warm friends I found in the photographic circle would have to be counted by hundreds and thousands. Among the latter class, who were early by my side, and who have stood by me through “evil and good report,” I will mention Marcus A. Root, Esq., and Wm. M. Marshall, Esq., Philadelphia, C. C. Harrison, optician, New York, and Prof. S. F. B. Morse, inventory of the magnetic telegraph. From these gentlemen, who have been familiar with my experiments, I have received invaluable counsel and encouragement. Their names, with those of many others, are graven upon my heart’s best affections.
During my long years of incarceration within the walls of my laboratory I have brought out several other inventions. Among the number I will name the following:
1. A GLASS SILVERING PROCESS.
This is now in the hands of the “American Glass Silvering Co.,” New York. It is a process for depositing pure silver on glass, and is justly ranked among the gems of art. This invention I sold for the inappropriate sum of $5,000. It is worth today, $500,000. The adaptation of India rubber cloth to this process, for the purpose of holding the glass articles to be silvered, was its salvation. My $5,000, inadequate as it was, turned on a piece of Vulcanized Rubber. Without this, the process could not be used for unequal or large surfaces. Among the applications of the process, the fabrication of Camera Reflectors is not the least. No other reflector half as good as these was ever made.
II. THE PANTOTYPE;
A method of securing a universal focus. By its means a portrait can be taken with a landscape background, and groups of any number may be produced with perfect sharpness. I have greatly simplified the process, of late, entirely dispensing with the use of the expensive concave mirror.
III. A BEAUTIFUL METHOD OF MAKING DAGUERREOTYPE PLATES.
I silver a plate glass, by means of the process above named, and thicken this by precipitating copper upon it by the electrotype, and then detach the plate from the glass. The process is simple and certain, and the plates of very superior quality.
IV. THE CHROMATINT.
This is a method of coloring Engravings and Photographs. The effect is magnificent, and any person of common skill can work the process. The engraving is rendered transparent by means of a varnish, made by dissolving Gum Damar in turpentine. It is then colored in oil on its back by a system of daubing. The effect on the face of the picture is really beautiful. The varnish is easily made, by dissolving 1lb. of Gum Damar in one quart of Spirits of Turpentine, by the aid of heat. A little Camphor Gum added to it renders it less liable to crack. It is first rubbed into the back of the picture, and then floated on its face until the paper is rendered transparent. The colors used are the common oil colors.
V. THE ALCOHOL PROCESS.
By means of which I procure alcohol direct from its gaseous elements. The cost of manufacture will not exceed ten cents per gallon. I shall bring this discovery before the public at an early day.
VI. A NEW LIGHT—
Far exceeding in brilliancy the ordinary gas-light—perfectly safe and simple, and cheaper than tallow candles. This is my latest invention, and I am now busy in preparing it for public inspection and sale. All who have seen it agree that it will supersede the ordinary gas-light at once, and that no other plan for a “Portable Light” will at all compare with it. The light is perfectly white, from its base up, emits no smell or smoke, is soft and pleasing to the eye, and yields much more light than any other device. The trouble of keeping it in working order is no more per day than that of trimming one oil lamp. It entirely does away with all the terrors of camphene, vaporized hydro-carbons, and “noisome” odor of the ordinary gas-light, with the impositions and cheats of gas companies, and is beautifully adapted to family use, hotels, factories, churches, street lights, stores, shops, &c. &c.
I now return to a subject of most painful interest to my feelings—viz. the sickness and death of the companion of my youth. For two entire years she writhed under the agonies of that terrific malady—the consumption. In the circular I promised to give a “peculiar method of treatment by which her life was greatly prolonged,” and, I may add, her pathway to the cold grave greatly smoothed, and freed from the pangs and horrors of that thorny way. The method consisted of four parts. 1. The warm bath, as often as every other day, and sponging off with cold alcohol, and friction with a crash towel. 2. A drink of tea of black alder bark, yellow dock, prince’s pine, the twigs of white pine, burdock root and sarsaparilla. These articles were infused in warm, not hot water—the tea strained and cooled—and used constantly, without any other drink. 3. Inhalants—not Hunter’s iodide of ethyle (this she tried to her sorrow), but tepid infusions of herbs and roots. In the selection of the articles I was guided by her symptoms. If her cough was dry I used hoarhound, boneset, lobelia, liquorice, Iceland moss, and other expectorants and demulcents. If there was too free expectoration, I used elecampane, red raspberry leaves, witch hazel bark, bayberry bark, and other astringents. For anodyne effect, I used poppies, wild lettuce, valerian, &c. 4. Particular attention was paid to the extremities. If they became cold I used bottles of hot water, applied to the feet, hands, and spine. By keeping the bottles on that portion of the spine opposite the distress in the lungs, I generally succeeded in producing a lull of the pain, and great relief to the constricted state of the chest, which was an invariable attendant of cold extremities.
The relief afforded by these simple means was an astonishment to neighbors and physicians who were familiar with the case. I will further remark, that these, or any other means, are useless unless persevered in. Being simple and harmless in themselves, they may be freely and continuously applied without the slightest harm. If these statements shall lead to the use of this simple plan, by even one poor consumptive, I shall be amply repaid for the risk I run of being charged with a palpable digression.
Alas! Alas! After all my pains, and my two years’ hard toil, by night and by day, I was doomed to see the final triumph of the relentless malady. My agony, and that of my children, in that hour when remedies lost their virtue, when the yearnings of natural affection became vain, and when the pallor of death overspread those loved features, I will not attempt to depict. Neither will I refer to the gloom, and loneliness, and withering blight of every earthly joy, which followed this affliction. Those only who experience, can realize the feelings of a family thus bereaved!
The following notice of this sad event appeared in the New York Chronicle. It was written by her pastor and mine, Rev. A. E. Clark.
“Emeline B. Hill. Died, at Westkill, Greene Co., New York, March 23, Mrs. Emeline B. Hill, the beloved wife of Rev. L. L. Hill, aged thirty-eight years.
“At an early period of her life, Sister Hill became the subject of soul-saving religious impressions, put on Christ by immersion, and became attached to the Baptist Church, of which she remained a member, till summoned to join the triumphant ranks of the general assembly and church of the first-born before the throne.
“Her last sickness was severe and protracted. For many months she was pining and wasting away, and all the streams of vitality within her gradually failing, under the relentless influence of deadly consumption, in its worst, its most inveterate form. When she became fully conscious of her situation, and felt herself within the grasp of a disease which would never relax its hold upon her frame till it had brought her to the house appointed for all the living, she bowed in submission to the will of heaven, commended her family to the care of a covenant-keeping God, and calmly and peacefully awaited the final issue, assured that death would be her eternal gain, and that when absent from the body she should be present with the Lord. When the hour of her departure arrived, she was fully prepared to welcome the King of Terrors with a smile; and with the unclouded eye of faith could see the pearly gates unfolded, and the heavenly charioteers who waited to waft her emancipated spirit to its home in the skies. Resting with the implicit confidence upon the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and upon the promises of the gospel, death, to her, was bereft of its sting, and her end unalloyed peace.
“It must be gratifying to all connected with our departed sister, to know that everything that human and Christian affection could do to alleviate her sufferings, soothe her mind, and soften her dying pillow, was cheerfully and assiduously done. Our bereaved brother, moved by the promptings of warm affection and deep sympathy towards a suffering and dying wife, suspended experiments which possessed an interest of the deepest intensity to his mind, arising from the discoveries which he had made, and the pursuit of which had almost become an indispensable necessity of his nature, and for long months of deep anxiety devoted himself unremittingly as a minster to her wants and wishes. A large circle of relatives and friends also stood ready at all times, by offices of kindness, to give practical and palpable evidence of the sympathies of their hearts.
“The Baptist Church in Westkill mourn another sad breach made in their ranks; but rejoice in the confidence that their loss has added to the number of those who compose the family above.”
The wearisome months that followed this heavy blow, I will pass over in silence. Suffice it to say, that after a period of suffering which pen cannot describe, I resolved on availing myself of the beneficent provisions of nature, as an antidote to my griefs. God himself had said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” My eminently social nature required a place to repose itself—my affections needed a “place of habitation”—and I committed the crime of a second marriage. On the 28th of November, 1855, I married Miss Ellen Webber, daughter of Henry Webber, Esq., Greeneville, Greene Co., New York. Had I not thought her to be “the fairest among women,” as King Solomon expresses it, I would have looked farther. To reveal the whole truth—I adopted the old-fashioned plan of marrying for love, and not for policy, and I acted on the awful assumption, that I had a perfect right to marry whom and when I pleased, albeit the officious intermeddling and “match-making” propensities of my acquaintances. “This was the head and front of my offending.” But for this, my unparalleled impudence, I have been subjected to a “course of treatment” quite sufficient to medicate any one mind with a full knowledge of “human nature in its blackest apparel.”
I used to think I understood human nature; but I was quite mistaken. I never graduated in the science until the past winter. Now I have my diploma, and though I would not be egotistical, I will say, that I consider myself fully qualified to diagnose a Judas neighbor, a hypocritical friend, a gossiping, gabbling circle of mischief-making women, and the charms of that state of society in which large numbers are skilled in the highly respectable art of attending to everybody’s business but their own, and woefully deficient in that occupation whose poetry is—
“Trouble your head with your own affairs.”
Nothing is more provoking than to be made the subject of unfounded gossip, unless it is to witness the perfidy and hollow-heartedness of those we have regarded as confidential friends, in becoming one of the parties to scandal; for it is an old and true saying—“It takes two to make a slander: one to tell it, and one to listen to it.” These things are still more aggravating when they exist in those who are indebted to us for important services. And when, after the tattling race-course has had its run, to have those self-same traitors come marching around, for a renewal of intercourse, with the lie on their lips that they meant no harm, is rather too much for a man who knows what truth, decency, law, and gospel are. I have had some “unlooked for” experience in these things; but thank God, I have been blessed with the counsels and smiles of one who is to me as a “guardian angel,” and I have been kept from resentment when I had it in my power to punish severely.
On the whole, I can say with another, “Why should a living man complain?” Notwithstanding the ills of this world, I love to live in it. It is a place of beauty; it is filled with delights; it has ten thousand sources of enjoyment; and none of them, perhaps, aside from religion itself, are superior to those joys which grow on the tree of science. And now, after nine years devoted application to the pursuit of “hidden things,” I cannot say that I look back on my course with a single regret, except what arises from my own deficiencies.
Kind reader—may you and I be found filling our stations and improving our talents for the good of our race; may it be said of us that we lived in the world without hurting it; and when death shall summon us to eternal scenes, may we have an abiding hope in the Redeemer of sinners, and go to dwell in the “house not made with hands,” eternal in the heavens.
L. L. Hill.
Westkill, Green Co., New York, June 15, 1856.
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