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Miners are seen in daguerreotypes with their basic tools

The earliest form of photography offers an extraordinary glimpse into the Gold Rush and shows how the period has shaped the American West.

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These early photographs, called daguerreotypes, were made by exposing silver-plated copper plates to mercury vapor. Some of the magicians were developed in studios near Sacramento and San Francisco before daguerreotypists started taking photos outside and capturing the miners at work.

Although it started as projects for the opportunists to send back to loved ones after following the first cries of gold in Sutter Mill in 1848, it unintentionally revealed much more, says a new exhibition and book.

Miners are seen in daguerreotypes with their basic tools

George W. Northrup, a soldier and gold miner, is in Minnesota with his mining tools and a bag of gold.

George W. Northrup, a soldier and gold miner, is in Minnesota with his mining tools and a bag of gold.

Miners are seen in daguerreotypes with their basic tools. George W. Northrup, a soldier and gold miner, is in Minnesota with his mining tools and a bag of gold (right)

& # 39; California daguerreotypists essentially documented new territory: both the physical landscape and the unprecedented mix of races and nationalities in the region were unknown & # 39 ;, says the curator of a new exhibition

& # 39; California daguerreotypists essentially documented new territory: both the physical landscape and the unprecedented mix of races and nationalities in the region were unknown & # 39 ;, says the curator of a new exhibition

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& # 39; California daguerreotypists essentially documented new territory: both the physical landscape and the unprecedented mix of races and nationalities in the region were unknown & # 39 ;, says the curator of a new exhibition

Golden Prospects exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas looks at the Gold Rush through the eyes of the earliest photographers - daguerreotypists. Pictured is a portrait of a miner from 1852

Golden Prospects exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas looks at the Gold Rush through the eyes of the earliest photographers - daguerreotypists. Pictured is a portrait of a miner from 1852

Bond & Mollyneaux shopping and facilities circa 1851

Bond & Mollyneaux shopping and facilities circa 1851

Golden Prospects exhibition at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas looks at the Gold Rush through the eyes of the earliest photographers – daguerreotypists. Left, portrait of a miner around 1852. Right, Bond & Mollyneaux groceries and facilities around 1851

& # 39; The gold rush in California has uncovered many complicated issues that are still relevant today, including immigration policy, water rights and ecologically destructive mining practices & # 39 ;, said Jane Aspinwall, Associate Curator, Photography of Golden Prospects: California Gold Rush Daguerreotypes at Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas.

& # 39; California daguerreotypists essentially documented new territory: both the physical landscape and the unprecedented mix of races and nationalities in the region were unknown. & # 39;

The exhibition, which opened on September 6, contains 90 daguerreotypes.

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In addition to the images made through the process invented by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre in 1839, the exhibition shows ambrotypes (made with a similar process).

A portrait by James M. Ford

A portrait by James M. Ford

A portrait by George H. Johnson

A portrait by George H. Johnson

A portrait of a miner by George H. Johnson is pictured on the right and a portrait of James M. Ford is on the left

It was the first broadly important event in American history that was thoroughly documented by photography and 90 daguerreotypes and ambrotypes in the exhibition until January 26, 2020

It was the first broadly important event in American history that was thoroughly documented by photography and 90 daguerreotypes and ambrotypes in the exhibition until January 26, 2020

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It was the first broadly important event in American history that was thoroughly documented by photography and 90 daguerreotypes and ambrotypes in the exhibition until January 26, 2020

Portrait of a gold miner from California 1850

Portrait of a gold miner from California 1850

Two miners in California melted gold around 1855

Two miners in California melted gold around 1855

Portrait of a gold miner from California 1850 (left). Two miners in California melt gold around 1855 (right) in images in a new exhibition

In 1851, an image of an unknown maker gifted by the Hall Family Foundation would show people outside the Bond & Mollyneaux messages and facilities.

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Another image shows & # 39; gold diggers with lock & # 39; in a shot made in 1852.

The images are small with the largest size only 6 ½ x 8 ½ inches.

The exhibition contains work by famous photographers Robert Vance, George Johnson and the brothers Jacob and William Shew.

A change in the gold mining process from basic techniques with shovels and pans to hydraulic mining, led to diverting rivers, felled trees and introduced mercury into local waterways. Depicted are miners on camp and river divergent mining in California

A change in the gold mining process from basic techniques with shovels and pans to hydraulic mining, led to diverting rivers, felled trees and introduced mercury into local waterways. Depicted are miners on camp and river divergent mining in California

A change in the gold mining process from basic techniques with shovels and pans to hydraulic mining, led to diverting rivers, felled trees and introduced mercury into local waterways. Depicted are miners on camp and river divergent mining in California

This silver print by photographer Carleton Watkins shows The Bullion Mine, Virginia City, Nevada
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This silver print by photographer Carleton Watkins shows The Bullion Mine, Virginia City, Nevada

This silver print by photographer Carleton Watkins shows The Bullion Mine, Virginia City, Nevada

& # 39; The California Gold Rush was the first broadly important event in American history that was extensively documented by photography & # 39 ;, said Julián Zugazagoitia, Menefee D. and Mary Louise Blackwell CEO & Director of the Nelson-Atkins.

& # 39; This revealing exhibition uses Nelson-Atkins' deep collection of American daguerreotypes and provides an insightful view of this historic event through the eyes of the earliest photographers. & # 39;

Golden Prospects: California Gold Rush Daguerreotypes at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and free and runs until January 26, 2020.

A half-board daguerreotype by Robert H. Vance shows the view of Sacramento Street in San Francisco, California in one of the earliest forms of photography

A half-board daguerreotype by Robert H. Vance shows the view of Sacramento Street in San Francisco, California in one of the earliest forms of photography

A half-board daguerreotype by Robert H. Vance shows the view of Sacramento Street in San Francisco, California in one of the earliest forms of photography

Daguerreian Gallery, George H. Johnson, Sacramento, California, is depicted on the silver-plated copper plates

Daguerreian Gallery, George H. Johnson, Sacramento, California, is depicted on the silver-plated copper plates

Daguerreian Gallery, George H. Johnson, Sacramento, California, is depicted on the silver-plated copper plates

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