Abelard Guthrie Daguerreotype Conservation Project

Preserving the history of Wyandotte County and its early settlers

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Daguerreotype History

Developed in France in 1839 by Louis Daguerre, the daguerreotype was the first commercially successful photographic medium. To create the image, a daguerreotypist would polish a sheet of silver-plated copper to a mirror finish, treat it with fumes that made its surface light sensitive, then expose it in a camera for a few seconds for brightly sunlit subjects or several minutes in low light. The resulting latent image was developed by fuming it with mercury vapor; removing its sensitivity to light by liquid chemical treatment. It was then rinsed and dried before sealing the fragile plate behind glass in a protective enclosure. The image is on a mirror-like silver surface, and appears either positive or negative, depending on the viewing angle. The darkest areas of the image are simply bare silver; lighter areas have a microscopically fine light-scattering texture. The surface is very delicate, and even the lightest wiping can permanently damage it.

By 1860, daguerreotypes had been largely replaced by less expensive and simpler photographic processes, such as ambrotypes, tintypes, and albumen prints.
Learn more about daguerreotypes here:

Conservation Process

The Guthrie daguerreotype was treated by Heugh-Edmonson conservation in Kansas City, Missouri. The silver plate was cleaned by washing it in ammoniated de-ionized water followed by an electrocleaning treatment. This process removed as much of the heavy tarnish films as possible. The cleaned plate was rinsed with de-ionized water and dried with rinses of isopropyl alcohol, acetone, and hot air. The cleaned plate was then sealed in a new protective package with an acrylic cover glass and polyester backing. The new airtight package will prevent further tarnishing of the image and protect it for years to come. Learn more about photo conservation.

Abelard Guthrie Biography

Abelard Guthrie was an early Wyandotte County settler and a founder of the township of Quindaro, Kansas. Born in Ohio, Guthrie was adopted into the Wyandot tribe when he married Nancy Quindaro Brown, daughter of Chief Adam Brown, Jr. He was given the name Tah-keh’-yoh-shrah’-tseh, which means “the man with two brains”. Early in his career, Guthrie worked as clerk for the Agent for the Ohio Indians and helped negotiate the treaty ceding Wyandotte lands in Ohio to the United States government. The Wyandots were removed to Kansas in July of 1843 and Guthrie followed them in 1844.

As pressure built to open the territory for settlement, Guthrie was named as delegate to Congress at a Wyandot Council House meeting. In 1852 he went to Washington, but was refused recognition. Southern politicians feared additional anti-slavery representation and Guthrie was an early free-state advocate. With Charles Robinson, he established the free-state town on the Missouri River, "Quindaro," named for his wife, on land purchased from her tribesmen. They selected a site for the town six miles above the mouth of the Kansas River and the settlement grew quickly. By August 1857, there were 600 residents and 100 buildings including several hotels and a number of churches under construction.

At its peak, Quindaro boasted a population of 1,000 with doctors, lawyers, mechanics, and a newspaper. In 1858, the Legislature granted a charter to Charles Robinson and others to operate a ferry across the river from Quindaro and two years later Guthrie and others received a renewal of the charter. However, the Panic of 1857 brought development to a halt. Guthrie, who had become a wealthy man, was suddenly unable to pay his bills. The Kansas Land Trust, a Boston company formed in 1856 to invest in Kansas land had bought extensively around Quindaro and promised its local agent, Charles Robinson, a share of its profits. In 1857, the Land Trust sold a large amount of land to Robinson, who gave his note, co-signed by Guthrie. By 1860, Robinson had paid nothing, leaving Guthrie heavily in debt.

Quindaro struggled to survive during the Civil War, and in 1862 the state legislature of Kansas repealed the act which had incorporated it. After the demise of the town, Guthrie continued to live nearby, at odds with the Wyandot tribe and with those who he thought had cheated him when Quindaro collapsed. His father in law had always disapproved of his marriage to Nancy and Guthrie had angered many Wyandots in his financial dealings on their behalf. Guthrie died of heart failure in Washington, D. C. in 1873 and was buried at the Congressional Cemetery.

History of Quindaro

Quindaro was an abolitionist town on the border between the slave state of Missouri and Free State settlers in Territorial Kansas. By its existence, Quindaro undermined the attempted blockade of the Missouri River by proslavery advocates against additional Free State supporters flowing into Kansas. Quindaro was located on the lands of the Wyandot Tribe, which was forced to move to Kansas Territory in 1844 on the heel of the Trail of Tears. The Wyandot had been sympathetic to abolitionism and active in the Underground Railroad in their native Ohio. When they arrived in Kansas Territory, their tribal council immediately instituted anti-slavery laws, the first such laws in Kansas Territory.

Ten years after the Wyandot’s arrival in the territory, the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act authorized popular elections for citizens of the territory to determine whether it would enter the union as a free or slave state. Missouri forces and their southern sympathizers began a series of intimidations of free-state supporters in the territory and in 1856 created a blockade of anti-slavery settlers both on the Missouri River and on overland routes into the territory. It became clear to Free State leaders such as Charles Robinson, the future first Governor of Kansas, that something must be done to ensure that other Free State settlers could arrive in the territory. Robinson collaborated with Wyandot Indian Agent Abelard Guthrie to get a 406-acre town site on Wyandot Land near the Missouri River.

Guthrie’s Wyandot Native wife, Quindaro Nancy Brown, was instrumental in convincing her tribe to sell land for the town site and in appreciation town leaders named their community “Quindaro” when it was founded in 1857. Quindaro prospered mainly because it became the single well-known destination for Free State settlers bound for Kansas Territory. As Robinson put it “the whole free-state world seemed bound for Quindaro” which provided food, shelter, and supplies for settlers from Northern states.

The town's newspaper, the Quindaro Chindowan, became one of the territory's most prominent free labor/free state proponents. A town minister, Rev. Eben Blatchly, campaigned for black education at Quindaro, while Clarina Nichols, a prominent town resident and abolitionist, led the successful campaign to allow women to vote in school board elections in Kansas in 1861 even as she allowed her home to be one of several stations on the Quindaro underground railroad.

In 1858 Quindaro’s population peaked at 1,200 residents but by 1860 had plummeted to 629. The decline in population was due to men enlisting in the Union army and the fact that Quindaro was no longer the only Free State port, as other Missouri River towns opened to Free State sympathizers. Finally in 1862, having alienated most potential trading partners in Missouri, being situated on less than desirable bluff slopes, the town lost its charter and bid for the county seat. After the Civil War, Quindaro evolved into a neighborhood, which became a thriving community within Kansas City, Kansas fostering educational and medical institutions such as Western University and Douglas Hospital, dedicated to the development of the black American.
-Steve Collins, Kansas City Community College
Collins, S. (2018, October 18). Quindaro, Kansas Territory (1857-1862). Retrieved from www.blackpast.org

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