Apr 13, 2023 - Sale 2633

Sale 2633 - Lot 24

Price Realized: $ 1,062
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 1,000 - $ 1,500
(AMERICAN REVOLUTION--VETERANS.) Portrait of Conrad Heyer, renowned as "the earliest-born American to ever be photographed." Second-generation daguerreotype portrait, 3 x 2 1/2 inches, in original case; light surface spotting to image; late 19th century inscription inside case, along with a circa 1883 newspaper clipping mentioning Heyer. Np place, [1852]

Additional Details

Conrad Heyer (1749-1856) served in the Continental Army during the Revolution, and lived long enough to be photographed in 1852. He is often cited as the earliest-born American to have his photograph taken, although a handful of other contestants have emerged for that crown.

Heyer was the first European-American born in Waldoboro, a German-American settlement on the Maine coast. In December 1775 he enlisted for a term of one year in the 25th Continental Regiment under Colonel William Bond. The regiment marched to New York in April, then went north to reinforce the invasion of Canada, and fought at Saratoga. They disbanded on their return south in December 1776. Heyer spent the remainder of his long life in Waldoboro. His 1819 pension application notes just this one year of military service. By the 1840s he was renowned for his continued vigor and clear memories of the war years. He was often said to have served in Washington's Life Guard at the legendary crossing of the Delaware, which cannot be confirmed by contemporary records. Both claims are repeated in the 19th-century inscription inside this case.

Offered here is a second-generation daguerreotype of the best-known image of Heyer. The original elaborate case frame can be seen inside the image. A daguerreotype of this portrait is held by the Maine Historical Society, but in a different case than the one photographed here.

See Colin Schultz, "Conrad Heyer, a Revolutionary War Veteran, Was the Earliest-Born American to Ever Be Photographed," in the Smithsonian Magazine, 11 November 2013; Don Hagist, "Conrad Heyer Did Not Cross the Delaware," Journal of the American Revolution, 18 February 2016.