French photographer Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre invented the first commercial photographic process known as the Daguerreotype, in 1839. The process involved a plate of polished copper with a coating of light sensitive silver-halide. Once exposed, the latent image on the copper plate was developed using open flame and liquid Mercury. Daguerre published a precise description of this process titled, Histoire ET description du procede nomme le Daguerreotype, allowing anyone who purchased the booklet to make their own daguerreotypes.
American Photographers such as Mathew Brady marveled at this process, with its ability to capture a "truthful likeness." Brady, a famous American daguerreotype photographer created a gallery of images, ranging from presidents to the common man. This remarkable series of early presidential and first ladies photographic portraits reproduced on this page are public domain images from a daguerreotype collection in the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.