First Photograph of a U.S. Presidential Inauguration

The first photograph of a U.S. presidential inauguration was taken by John Wood on March 4, 1857, when James Buchanan assumed the presidency.  Wood was the first presidential photographer who also documented the construction of the U.S. Capitol from 1856 to 1861.

Wood used the newly-discovered wet-plate collodion method invented by British photographer Frederick Scott Archer.  The process involved coating a glass plate with a mixture of a soluble iodide and a collodion solution.  Although complex and requiring a portable darkroom, the collodion method produced sharper images without lengthy exposure times that also could be more easily duplicated than the then well-used daguerreotype technique.

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