It’s important to remember daguerreotypes are reversed. Before comparing this gentleman to any family photographs, it’s necessary to flip the image to see his natural appearance. Faces can look quite different when reversed.
Blyth doesn’t think this man is his great uncle Henry Blyth, born in 1831, but the evidence suggests it could be. Here is the quartet of facts I’ve considered.
1) This man appears to be in his 20s and the clothing (wide cravat, slicked back hair and long sideburns) suggests the photo was taken in the 1850s. This man is the right age to be Blyth.
2) The equipment on the table identifies this man as a surveyor. As far as I can tell, the device is a Wye level, used for long- distance surveying. I found a similar-looking piece on Larry and Carol Meeker’s Web site Antiques of a Mechanical Nature. Blyth was a surveyor in New York State before leaving home at 22 for Chile. He returned home with a beard in 1858 and posed for a portrait with his family; a few years later, he was in the card photograph (below). If the daguerreotype is Blyth, it was taken before his travels in 1853—a date that fits the clothing clues.
3) Even though Blyth’s hairline is receding in this known picture, you can see the similarities between him and the unidentified portrait. Besides a similar hairline, their face shapes are close. It’s not outside the realm of possibility to conclude Blyth posed for the daguerreotype before traveling to South America. This card photo shows he aged a bit from his frontier experience, but it’s likely both pictures depict the same man.
4) One other feature in the daguerreotype suggests it could show Blyth: the cross. According to Charles Blyth, members of the family often posed wearing a cross.
I think the evidence strongly suggests this unidentified picture is Henry Blyth—the tools identify his trade, his age is right, facial similiarities suggest a relationship and then there’s the cross and the fact the image was found with family artifacts. I think it’s Blyth, but I’m not sure I’ve convinced the owner.
Got an opinion? Sound off in the Comments section! Let’s create a dialogue.