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Natural History Art, Insects, Fly Foot, Carl Meinerth, 1870, Antique Print

Carl Meinerth (d. 1892)
Foot of Fly
Newburyport, Massachusetts: c. 1870s
Sepia-toned photomicrograph carte de visite
Titled in front, and initialed “CM” verso, in ink
4 x 2.5 inches
Price on Request

A rare 19th century photomicrograph — a photograph taken through a microscope — of the foot of a fly. It is in the standard size and format of a carte de visite, a type of small photograph mounted on card, more typically containing a portrait, frequently collected in albums. In this case, the subject matter is scientific, with the image printed on the front with the handwritten inscription “Fly Foot,” (probably in the photographer’s hand). The back of the card is preprinted with the photo credits within a gold ruled border. It has blanks for adding the name and maker of the image, filled in by manuscript, in the photographer’s hand, with the title as “Foot of fly”, and the initials CM.

Product Description Continues Below

Description

According to a brief notice in the American Naturalist, in 1872 the photographer, Carl Meinerth, produced such images with the intent of making them available to a broad audience:

It is to be hoped that microscopists, and others interested in scientific progress, will notice and appreciate the effort now being made, by Mr. C. Meinerth of Newburyport, Mass., to supply “in a cheap and convenient form “really good photographic representations of microscopic objects.” Judging from the work already done, Mr. Meinerth’s enterprise will prove both entertaining and instructive to the cultivated public.

Nonetheless, apparently few of Meinerth’s photomicrographs have survived; no other extant examples were located in an extensive online search. Indeed, the only located specific reference to another Meinerth’s photomicrograph — of a strand of cotton fiber — was made in 1874 at a meeting for a cotton textile manufacturers trade association, where Meinerth exhibited his photomicrographs of different cotton fibers and the meeting opened with a lengthy discussion of what the images revealed. One of the members gave this introduction:

…Prof. Cross has kindly consented to exhibit photo-micrographs of the various fibres used in the textile fabrics in our large camera. I have had these impressions taken upon glass slides for this purpose. These slides, as well as the impressions upon paper which will presently be distributed, have been taken by Mr. Carl Meinerth, of Newburyport, to whose zealous skill you will owe the possibility of this method of presenting the subject; his work is equal to any I have ever seen.

Carl Meinerth was a photographer in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and later in Newburyport, Massachusetts. An accomplished pianist and violinist, in 1849 he was giving music lessons and by 1852 also offered drawing lessons. By 1862 he had opened his photography studio in downtown Portsmouth. He took one of the earliest news photographs in the city, when mourners gathered in Market Square after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865. He produced photographs typical of a small town 19th-century studio, of buildings and portraits, but also mastered more specialized techniques. He made numerous stereographic views of Newburyport, New York City and picturesque sites in Europe. Meinerth was also an avid naturalist and taxidermist who photographed scenes of stuffed birds and preserved specimens of insects and marine creatures. He also became known in scientific circles for his photomicrographs — photographs printed from microscope slide images.

Inscription verso: “Name: Foot of fly. From a slide by CM. Photo-Micrographs, From Nature, By Carl Meinerth, Newburyport, Mass. Duplicates sent for 25 cents and Stamp.”

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall toning and light handling. Bottom sliver of CDV card cut, possibly as issued.

References:

“Microscopy: Photomicrographs Popularised.” The American Naturalist. Vol. 6, 1872. p. 318. Online at Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=DW8WAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA318 (6 August 2015).

Robinson, J. Dennis. “A snapshot of early Portsmouth photographers.” 14 January 2014. Seacoastonline.com. http://www.seacoastonline.com/article/20140124/NEWS/140129809 (6 August 2015).

Webber, Samuel, ed. New England Cotton Manufacturers’ Association, Proceedings of the Ninth Annual Meeting, Held at Boston, April 15, 1874. Boston: L.F. Lawrence, 1874. p. 12. https://books.google.com/books?id=Eh5bAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA1-PA106 (7 August 2015).

Additional information

Century

19th Century