Southworth & Hawes Photography

Southworth & Hawes

American (1811-1894) (1808-1901)

 SOUTHWORTH & HAWES, Crayon Portrait of a Woman , ca. 1850s, daguerreotype with hand tinting, 1/6 plate

SOUTHWORTH & HAWES, Crayon Portrait of a Woman , ca. 1850s, daguerreotype with hand tinting, 1/6 plate

Biography | Bibliography

Southworth & Hawes was an early photographic firm in Boston, 1843-1863. Its partners, Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes, have been hailed as the first great American masters of photography, whose work elevated photographic portraits to the level of fine art. Their images are prominent in every major book and collection of early American photography.

Southworth & Hawes worked almost exclusively in the daguerreotype process. Working with large 8×6-inch plate sizes, their images are brilliant, mirror-like, and finely-detailed. Writing in the Photographic and Fine Art Journal, August 1855, the contemporary Philadelphia daguerreotypist Marcus A. Root paid them this praise: “Their style, indeed, is peculiar to themselves; presenting beautiful effects of light and shade, and giving depth and roundness together with a wonderful softness or mellowness. These traits have achieved for them a high reputation with all true artists and connoisseurs.” He further noted that the firm had devoted their time chiefly to daguerreotypes, with little attention to photography on paper.

During their 20 years of collaboration, Southworth & Hawes catered to Boston society and the famous. Their advertisements drew a distinction between the appropriate styles for personal versus public portraiture. “A likeness for an intimate acquaintance or one’s own family should be marked by that amiability and cheerfulness, so appropriate to the social circle and the home fireside. Those for the public, of official dignitaries and celebrated characters admit of more firmness, sternness and soberness.”

Among their sitters were Louisa May Alcott, Lyman Beecher, Benjamin Butler, William Ellery Channing, Rufus Choate, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Charlotte Cushman, R. H. Dana, Dorothea Dix, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edward Everett, William Lloyd Garrison, Grace Greenwood, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sam Houston, Thomas Starr King, Louis Kossuth, Jenny Lind, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Horace Mann, Donald McKay, Lola Montez, George Peabody, William H. Prescott, Lemuel Shaw, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Sumner, Daniel Webster, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Robert C. Winthrop.

Hawes lived until 1901, continuing to operate a studio and carefully protecting its sizeable archive. The archives were finally dispersed during the Great Depression. Most made their way into three museums (George Eastman House, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), while only a comparatively few have ever been privately held. However, on April 27, 1999, a previously-unknown hoard of 240 Southworth & Hawes daguerreotypes appeared at Sotheby’s auction from the estate of David Feigenbaum. The total sales price realized was $3.3 million dollars.


Johan Swinnen and Luc Deneulin, The weight of photography, Brussels : Academic and Scientific Publishers, ca. 2010.

Grant B. Romer and Brian Walli, Young America : the daguerreotypes of Southworth & Hawes, New York : International Center of Photography ; Rochester, N.Y. : George Eastman House ; Gottingen : Steidl, ca. 2005.

Robert A. Sobieszek and Odette M. Appel, The daguerreotypes of Southworth & Hawes, New York : Dover Publications, 1980.

Robert A. Sobieszek and Odette M. Appel, The spirit of fact : the daguerreotypes of Southworth & Hawes, 1843-1862, Boston : D. R. Godine, ca. 1976.