“Coming events cast their shadows before” —and in consequence we may shortly expect something extraordinary in the art of Da-guerreotyping, after the Report lately presen ted by the Senate Committee on Patents, res pecting the so-called discoveries of Mr. Hill in Heliochrome. It is not our wish, nor in deed have we the slightest inclination to dis parage any discovery in the field ot science— " Honor to whom honor is due " is our motto, and in accordance with it our only desire is to see that honor worthily bestowed. But in the instance just mentioned, there has been exhibited such a tortuous manner of proceed ing that we are uncertain what to believe. It is now two years since the discovery of He liochrome was first announced by Mr. Hill, which created so great a sensation that the subject was the general topic of conversa tion. Indeed, so confident were the public at large as to its immediate adoption ttfat the Daguerreotypists were sensibly injured in their business, from the fact that people re fused to have their portraits taken unless in the natural colors, or deferred a sitting until it was openly practiced. In a short time, how ever, the bubble burst, portraits began again to be taken in the ordinary manner by Da-guerre's process, and nobody was a gainer but one individual, who, on the strength of his re putation as the discoverer of Heliochrome, ob tained a large number of subscribers among Daguerreotype artists for a volume of receipts the value of which was nil, and the cost some dollars. It followed, as a matter of course, that the Daguerreotypists generally were in dignant at such conduct, and those publica tions that endorsed the so-called discovery were held up to contempt for their ill-judged partizanship. It would naturally be supposed that this would be the termination of any such attempts, and that the Hillotype would be buried lor ever in the shades of oblivion. But quite the reverse; Mr. Hill appears never to have given up his cherished scheme of something, and every now and then we are surprised with intelligence not of what he ioes,but of what he can do. It is singular, how-sver, that these accounts are always close af-ier some fresh news of what has been done by others. It was thus that about six months ago Mr. Hill issued a fierce " pronuncia-mento " after the appearance in the public prints of M. Niepce's Memoir to the French Academy; and new, since fresh accounts of what has been done abroad in Europe and at home in America, have been published in our columns, Mr. Hill comes out with a Report of the Senate Committee on Patents, and would compel the world, nolens volens, to acknow ledge his right to the title of discoverer of Heliochrome. To do this will require, how ever, something more than a Senate Report, and we must be convinced by deeds, and not by words, before we can place implicit reli ance upon what has been affirmed. If Mr. Hill has really discovered what he asserts, why is he so backward in making it public ? he knows that it would be for him a source of great pecuniary advantage, and that the Da guerreotypists, as a body, would grant him any terms to bring it into practical operation. Overtures to that effect have been already made by them, and yet are we to believe that Mr. Hill, with such knowledge in his posses sion, would be slow in seizing all the credit and advantage that would inevitably ensue ? Such an idea is preposterous, and the course that he has pursued proves the contrary, for while so reluctant to publish his process, he leaves no stone unturned to obtain a favorable notice from private persons or official bodies. This last step that he has taken is however the most extravagant, and instead of fortifying his claim, renders it weaker in our estimation. Instead of taking the proper steps to substan tiate his claims as an inventor in the Patent Office, he exhibits a few specimens of what he calls sun-coloring, to a committee in no ways suited, either professionally or other wise, to give an opinion upon the subject, and imagines that, by a favorable report, his claim as the discoverer is confirmed. Such however is not the case, and the field is still as open as it ever was to competitors; at presentnobody can claim to be the discoverer, nothing certain has hitherto been obtained either in Europe or America. Attempts have been made in the right direction, and some partial success has been obtained by different individuals—to obtain the colors is one thing, but to fix them, which is the point, is another, and this last de sideratum has not yet been attained by any one either in France or the United States.
This article was originally published with the title "The Hillotype Again" in Scientific American 8, 29, 226 (April 1853)