On this day in 1849, local portrait painter and daguerreotypist William Valentine died in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Valentine introduced the daguerreotype process to Halifax thus having the distinction as Nova Scotia’s first photographer, one of the first in Canada and the first to have a permanent photography studio in British North America.
Valentine was born in 1798 and was baptised on 8 April 1798 in St. Nicholas’ Church, Whitehaven, England. He arrived in Halifax in 1818 and immediately started his career as a painter. He eventually partnered with his cousin James Bell under the business name Bell & Valentine. In 1824, he struck out alone and in May 1827, he moved to a studio on the corner of Marchington’s Lane and Barrington Street. Valentine travelled throughout Atlantic Canada offering his services as a portrait painter. He has earned the distinction as one of, if not the best, portrait artists of the 1830s and 1840s.
One of Valentine’s patrons was Joseph Howe. Howe commissioned a portrait of his father, John Howe, which currently hangs in Evergreen House. Valentine completed portraits for more than one hundred of Nova Scotia’s leading merchants and professionals.
Valentine introduced the daguerreotype process to Halifax around 1842. He is said to have learned the process “at the very fountain-head in Paris”, which likely means Daguerre himself. Valentine’s earliest advertisement for daguerreotyping appeared in the Saint John Morning News on November 15, 1841. On January 1, 1842, he announced in the Halifax Times that he was “prepared to execute Daguerreotype likenesses in a beautiful style” with the aid of a “first-rate apparatus” from the United States.
The cover image is a daguerreotype believed to be made by Valentine of Nancy Prescott Fairbanks. In February 1848, Valentine’s studio was heavily destroyed by fire. Which means, unfortunately we do not have a record of all of Valentine’s works.
William Valentine died on December 26, 1849 and is buried in Camp Hill Cemetery in Halifax, NS.