Friday Photo: Feeling Blue

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Today’s photo is one I stumbled upon on the Internet. I wanted to see what photographs of the House were out there, so I went to Flickr and put in “Hammond-Harwood House” as my search term. When the results popped up, this gem was about halfway down the page:

Thanks to the Smithsonian, we have another early photograph of the House, this time in lovely blue tones. The photograph is a form called a cyanotype and dates to 1890. The process for making cyanotypes was developed by Sir John Hershel in 1842, and was one of the earliest forms of photography. According to the Victoria & Albert Museum, to make a cyanotyope “a sheet of paper was brushed with iron salt solutions and dried in the dark. The object to be reproduced – a plant specimen, a drawing or a negative – was then placed on the sheet in direct sunlight. After about 15 minutes a white impression of the subject formed on a blue background. The paper was then washed in water where oxidation produced the brilliant blue – or cyan – that gave the process its name.”

The cyanotype of Hammond-Harwood House was made by Thomas Smillie (1843-1917), who eventually became the head of the Smithsonian’s photography lab. To view the photo online, click here to go to its Flickr page. Or if you want to see the real thing, pay a visit to the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

An additional bit of trivia: the Director of Hammond-Harwood House, Carter Lively, wondered why there were no streetcar tracks in the late 19th and early 20th century photographs of the House. Apparently, streetcar tracks were not installed in Annapolis until 1909. One of the streetcar routes ran down King George Street, next to the Hammond-Harwood House, and the tracks are still there, buried under the modern pavement.

Posted on Apr 29, 2011 in , by Hammond-Harwood House



Hammond-Harwood House

The mission of the Hammond-Harwood House Association is to preserve, for public education and enjoyment, the architecturally significant Hammond-Harwood House museum and its collection of fine and decorative arts.
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