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Robert VANCE

Baring, Maine, United States of America 1825 – New York City, New York, United States of America 1876

  • 1846 Boston 1847-50 travelled in Chile 1850 Peru, Panama, Mexico 1850-63 San Francisco & Calif. gold fields 1862-65 Nevada 1865 New York

Portrait of a miner George Tom, San Francisco with accompanying gold pan and nuggets and letter 1855 Place made: San Francisco, California, United States of America
Creation Notes: accompanying letter is dated 1855
Materials & Technique: photographs, 1/6 plate daguerreotype case Support: a-d daguerreotype 3 x 2.5 in, tin pan, gold nuggets, ms letter on paper

Primary Insc: The daguerreotype is in original case with the imprint of 'Vance, San Francisco' on the velvet mat of the book form leather covered wooden case.
Secondary Insc: The gold mining pan is tin and has a primitive label which reads "George Tom" in period hand writing.
Dimensions: plate 6.9 h x 8.2 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2006
Accession No: NGA 2006.753.1-4

Dressed in his best suit, George Tom had his portrait made by the best photographer available and sent it to his brother back in Indiana. The reality of life on the goldfields is hinted at in the letter that accompanied the daguerreotype: ‘I am still mining. I have bought another claim. I am not doing much now. California in general is a pretty hard country. You can make money and spend it just as fast’. After running a studio in South America, Vance opened for business in San Francisco in late 1850 where he made over 300 daguerreotypes, a remarkable feat.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra