Photo of the Week: Mexican-American War

The U.S. declared war on Mexico on this day in 1847 after Mexico refused to recognize Texas's independence and subsequent annexation into the United States. Not only did this war finally win US control of Texas, it also resulted in the US purchase of most of the southwest (comprising five present-day states and parts of 4 others) for a mere $18 million.

The Mexican-American War was the first to be documented by the new medium of photography, as the process was perfected in France only a few years before and introduced in the US in the early 1840s. In the early 1980s, the Carter acquired a group of Mexican War daguerreotypes, which were subsequently the subject of a major exhibition called Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848.

According to the exhibition catalogue, these rare works are made more special because "daguerreotypes were made on the spot,”¦each image was exposed in the camera and developed as a unique positive. Thus every daguerreotype plate, while in the camera, was in close proximity to the subject recorded on its surface. When we hold a daguerreotype of Mexican War troops in our hand, we hold a piece of silver-plated copper that was actually on the same street as those soldiers 140 [sic] years ago." Even though I see and handle 19th century photographs all the time, that idea gives me chills.

For photo of the week, here are some of my favorite Mexican War daguerreotypes.

Artist unknown, Col. Hamtramck, Virginia Volunteers, daguerreotype, ca. 1847

Artist unknown, Mexican Family, daguerreotype, ca. 1847

Artist unknown, [Street scene in Durango, Mexico], daguerreotype, ca. 1847

Artist unknown, [Parroquia de Santiago, Saltillo, Mexico], daguerreotype, ca. 1847

Artist unknown, Burial Place of Son of Henry Clay in Mexico, daguerreotype, 1847


I am interested in buying uniformed Mexican American War Daguerreotype(s).

I am interested in buying uniformed Mexican American War daguerreotype(s).



Amazing daguerreotypes !
Time capsules of another era.
I hope that someday we can see some of the daguerreotypes taken in Monterrey, months before the battle of Buena Vista.
Thanks for sharing the images !

These photographs were part of my personal collection and were found in my former wife's grandmother's barn in West Hartford Ct. after her death. I new I had something special as soon as I touched them. Im glad they found their way into this collection, so the world could share their historic value.

I am writing two scholarly papers for publication in advanced Military History Journals. I am in need of images showing Mexican American War sailors ( NOT soldiers ) either studio images or images taken on board ship , especially if the latter shows men clustered around canon OR holding FIREARMS .

So Far , I have located only ONE ( 1 ) , image , that of a sailor taken in 1847 at the Gosport (Norfolk ) Navy Yard.

If anyone has images of the type I need , I would ask that they share them by emailing them to me. If used in my paper , I will certainly give credit to the source , unless especially requested that I not do so. Many , many Thanks in advance .H C Fronc MD

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