With his full head of gray hair, lightly lined face, and stern countenance, Conrad Heyer, a New Englander who sat for a daguerreotype portrait in 1852, doesn’t look much different from other grim-faced individuals who had their pictures snapped in the mid-19th century.
But it’s Conrad’s age—not his looks—that makes this picture so special. At 103, Heyer is thought to have been the earliest-born person ever photographed.
When he sat down for this portrait in 1852, Heyer had lived a long, full life. As a young man, he fought in the Revolutionary War and crossed the Delaware River with George Washington. After the fighting ended, Heyer purchased a farm in Maine. He lived out the remainder of his days singing in his church choir and sitting in his favorite rocking chair; at the age of 101, a local newspaper described him as “brisk as a man of 60.”
By the time the daguerreotype was invented in 1839, Heyer was already an old man who had also lived to see the arrival of the steam-powered boat and the first electric streetcars. He died in 1856 at the age of 107, having witnessed both the birth of a nation and the birth of modern photography.
[h/t Futility Closet]