“The world is not acquainted with us”:
The Amherst College Archives and Special Collections welcomes visitors wishing to view a daguerreotype copy of the image shown during the August, 2012 Emily Dickinson International Society conference and proposed by some participants to be Emily Dickinson and her friend Kate Scott Turner.* The Archives and Special Collections staff saw the original daguerreotype for the first time on July 18, 2007 during a visit and presentation from the owner, a New England collector who purchased the daguerreotype in 1995 and has been researching it ever since. By the time of that 2007 visit, the owner believed he had identified the sitters in the photograph and made the important leap to Kate as the second sitter. Subsequently, the owner tracked down a second photograph (a carte-de-visite) of Kate as a young woman (the photograph is at the New York State Historical Association) and proposed that the daguerreotype of the two women was taken around 1859 during one of Kate's visits to Amherst.
We're glad the image has been released to the public and hope that anyone with information about the photograph will come forward, whether their evidence is favorable or unfavorable to the proposed identification of the image as Emily Dickinson and Kate Scott Turner. Perhaps someone in the Springfield, Massachusetts area, where the daguerreotype was purchased, will remember something about the provenance of the piece and let us know.
If the daguerreotype showed Dickinson, it would change our idea of her, providing a view of the poet as a mature woman showing striking presence, strength, and serenity. She (whoever she is) seems to be the one in charge here, the one who decided that on a certain day in a certain year, she and her friend would have their likenesses preserved. In fact, even if this photograph is not of Dickinson and Turner, it has still been of use in forcing us to imagine Dickinson as an adult, past the age of the ethereal-looking 16-year-old we have known for so many years.
*Catherine Mary Scott, born March 12, 1831 in Cooperstown, New York. Known as "Kate Scott," "Kate Anthon," "Kate Turner," et al. Married (1851) Campbell Ladd Turner (1831-1857) and (1866) John Hone Anthon (1832-1874). Kate spent much of her life abroad and died in England in 1917.
-M.R. Dakin, Sept. 2012