Daguerreotype of Mexican War General and 12th President of the United States
Library of Congress (no known restrictions)
Fourth Grade-Eighth Grade
Art, Education, History, Mexican War, Military and Wartime History, Social Studies
This lesson will take 30-45 minutes to complete.
Up to 36
National Standards: Gr K-4 Social Studies: U.S. History 2, 3 Gr 5-12 Social Studies: World History Eras 4 & 7 Gr K-4 Fine Arts: Visual Arts 4 Gr 5-8 Fine Arts: Visual Arts 4
Photography, Daguerreotype, visual arts
Modern photography did not exist during the U.S.-Mexican War. Instead, soldier’s kept photos of loved ones on daguerreotypes (də-ˈge-rē-ō-ˌtīp), an early form of photography made on a silver-coated plate. Daguerreotypes were often kept in highly decorated cases. In this lesson, students engage in an interactive activity about daguerreotypes. First, they discuss the difference between modern photography and daguerreotypes. Then, they create their own daguerreotype case.
In this lesson, students engage in an interactive activity about daguerreotypes. First, they discuss the difference between modern photography and daguerreotypes. Then, they create their own daguerreotype case.
You will need the following materials to make the daguerreotype cases: Ruler, Scissors, Construction paper, Glue or tape, Crayons, markers, or colored pencils.
The 1-minute, 30 second video segment "Daguerreotypes" can be used to accompany this lesson plan. The video clip can be downloaded from our For Kids page.
"Daguerreotypes" can be modified for Elementary and Middle School students. Before starting, review and print out the PDFs in the Materials section.
Materials for this lesson plan include the PDF Make Your Own Daguerreotype Case. (PDF 157 KB)
Tell students that there are many different times to take pictures. Ask them when they take pictures (e.g., birthdays, something funny happened, see something beautiful). List responses on the board.
Ask students when they have had their picture taken by a photographer (e.g., class pictures, team pictures). List responses on the board.
Ask students what the difference is when your friends or family takes a picture of you versus when a photographer takes your picture. List responses on the board.
Be sure to include:
Have to pose for a photographer vs. snapping a spontaneous picture
Takes longer to have a picture taken by a photographer
Often wear certain clothes (e.g., team uniform, dress clothes, dance outfits)
Define daguerreotype (an early photograph produced on a metal plate; named for the French inventor L. J. M. Daguerre) or have students look up the definition.
Tell students that after the Battle of Palo Alto US troops occupied the Mexican City of Matamoros. Many U.S. and Mexican entrepreneurs set up shop and sold goods and services to the soldiers. One man, Joseph R. Palmer, was a daguerreian who traveled with Taylor's Army and set up a shop in Matamoros.
Tell students that taking a daguerreotype often took over five minutes. Challenge your students to sit still for one minute. After one minute, tell students them to imagine having to sit still for four more minutes while their picture is being taken.
Ask students why the soldiers had their photos taken. List responses.
Ask students ways we take and share photos today. List responses.
Have students 1) Bring in a photo or 2) Draw a picture to put in the daguerreotype case.
Hand out and review the student worksheet Make Your Own Daguerreotype Case.
Have students make a daguerreotype case. Have students present their daguerreotype cases to the class and tell the class if s/he were a soldier what daguerreotype s/he would carry.
Assess student performance in two key areas:
Participation in group discussion
Group discussion: Offers information which directly relates and builds on the topic.
Daguerreotype Case: Case complete with decorations. Obvious effort to create a good case.
Group discussion: Offers information which directly relates to the topic.
Daguerreotype Case: Case complete with some decorations. Effort to create a good case.
Group discussion: Offers very little information of which some relates to the topic.
Daguerreotype Case: Case not complete. No decorations. No effort to create a good case.
Write a paragraph that compares/contrasts the differences between daguerreotypes and modern photography.
Create an ad for a daguerreotype saloon.
Create a bulletin board display of the daguerreotype cases.
The accompanying video clip to this lesson plan can be downloaded from our For Kids page. Click on "Daguerreotypes."