19th Century Post-mortem photography and memento mori To grasp the relationship between photography and death a poem from Root's Daguerrean Gallery in New York in 1853 sums it up in a way that is a little difficult for our more cynical times.
The Christian Parlor Magazine, Volume 10, 1853, p.379.
Root's Daguerrean Gallery.— He succeeds admirably in taking the likenesses of children. And what mother would not love to preserve the infant features of her children to look upon in after years, especially should they be taken away by death. We have rarely seen a more beautiful illustration of this than in the following:
Sweet child, that angel face must fade,
As years shall come and go.
For time doth ever mar the fair
And bright of all below.
But thy fond mother's jealous care
Hath robbed the yawning tomb,
And by the might of art, hath fixed
For e'er thy youthful bloom.
Within her sacred shrine there hangs
In all its infant grace,
On Root's unequaled, perfect plate,
Her darling's glorious face.
Then, mother of the blooming child,
Trust not the fleeting hours,
But, as this mother did by hers,
Do thou at once by yours.
Then, should the sudden dart of death
Your loved one call away,
You'd bless the hint by which you had
The picture done to day,
By Root, 363 Broadway.