St. Louis Insurance Company

Thanks to Dee Kilgo’s book Likeness and Landscape, Thomas M. Easterly and The Art of the Daguerreotype, we know that St. Louis was a well documented city during the daguerreian era, quite possibly the most photographed in the Midwest.  Easterly’s city scenes are part of a wonderful collection at the Missouri Historical Society.   St. Louis, however, also boasted a large number of other talented daguerreians.  It is our pleasure to offer this stunning quarter-plate daguerreotype, taken by an anonymous daguerreotypist, of the city known as the gateway to the West.  This is the first St. Louis daguerreotype that we have seen available on the market!

Most likely commissioned by the St. Louis Insurance Company, this may likely be the president of the business, George K. McGunnegle, standing proudly in the doorway of his building.  There has been great consideration taken by the photographer to clear the street of any unwanted onlookers or other merchants, possibly at the request of this powerful businessman.  A careful examination of the block reveals the other tenants, among them Prager and Walter, Importers Fancy and Staple Goods and E.W. Clark Brothers, Bankers.  Next door, and just barely visible under the mat is the Arts Exchange.  There are also signs noticeable on the right side of the block, which we have yet to decipher.  During a search of city directories we found the company was listed at various locations during the years.  However, we feel certain that this location is 70 North Main, the S.W. corner of Main and Olive.  The business was located there from 1852 to 1866, and possibly a year or two earlier.  There is also a listing for the Clark Brothers at 72 North Main in a 1854-55 directory so further research should pin down a fairly narrow time period for this daguerreotype.  We will be happy to include the copies of the directories we have obtained along with a copy stock certificate for the company that was sent to us by the Missouri Historical Society.  The illustration at the top of the certificate shows a number of steamboats on fire and/or sinking in the Mississippi River with the city of St. Louis in the background.  One final reference note, this building cannot be still standing today as the location is in the vicinity of the Gateway Arch Riverfront area. 

This striking daguerreotype is in excellent condition with a lovely tonal quality.  It has a wide band of the most beautiful blue perimeter tarnish and there are a few extremely small tarnish spots scattered on the building, mostly on the right side.  It was unsealed when we purchased it with an oval mat and no preserver.  We decided the current presentation was much more dramatic, but we will also include the original mat.  The corners of the plate have an upward bend allowing the mat to float above the image.  The plate has a Chapman hallmark and we have resealed it with a new glass.  It is housed in a full leather case with a floral design on both covers.  Don’t miss this rare opportunity to own a magnificent piece of history!