Trivium Art HistoryEarly Photography

Abolitionist Button

Abolitionist Button, 1850 — Early Photography
1.6 cm

Abolitionist Button is an Early Photography, Daguerréotype, Gold Photographic Print created in 1850. It lives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The image is available via Institutional Open Content, and tagged Jewelry.

In the early days of the “art of photography” in this country, jewelers and photographer often worked together, either sharing studio space or trading or selling one another supplies and silver. It was not uncommon for a jeweler to apply his skill in one line of work, to another.

Daguerreotypes began to be used as a component of jewelry by the 1850s. The development of microphotography meant one could have brooches, pins, bracelets, and even buttons made with a small daguerreotyped image inserted. Illustrated above is a beautiful daguerreotype of two hands, one black, one white, possibly posed on a Bible. This daguerreotype pin was used as a symbol of the Abolition Movement and it is possibly the earliest political button to utilize photography. It was probably made to raise money for the abolitionist cause and it may have been sold at an antislavery lecture or fair. You can see (below) that the pin was made to attach to a piece of clothing.

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