Signature of the contract between Niépce and Daguerre

The partnership contract signed by Nicephore Niépce and Daguerre stipulated : "In the eventuality of one of the partners demise, this one will be replaced in the company for the rest of the ten years that would not be expired, by his natural heir." After the death of Nicephore Niépce, his son Isidore succeeded him in the company.

But Isidore was no Nicephore. He was unable to reproduce his father’s processes. Daguerre made good use of this weakness. He let Isidore add failures upon failures, and secretely he fine tuned a new process that became, a few years later,
the daguerreotype.

Daguerre progressed in a steady manner. In
1835, he got positive images using far shorter exposure times than with heliography or the physautotype. In 1837,he managed to fix these images. Using techniques learnt from Niépce, associated with entirely original ones, Daguerre then possessed a complete process that produced images in a few minutes with the camera obscura ; The heliography and the physautotype are already replaced even before their diffusion.

Daguerre then offered to Isidore the divulgation of the three processes but knowing that only his own could be a commercial success, he imposed that the name of the Niépce-Daguerre company was changed to "Company under the trade mark Daguerre and Isidore Niépce to exploit the discovery invented by Daguerre and the late Nicephore Niépce". So the invention became Daguerre’s with the name Niépce pushed to the gackground.

Arago young

Studying the different means to exploit the inventions (patent, subscription…) Daguerre decided to demonstrate his process to François Dominique Arago, perpetual secretary of the french Sciences Academy. This one was filled with wonder and offered that the french government bought the invention to present it as "a gift to the whole world".

An annual life pension of 4000 francs was alloted to each of the inventors, meaning Isidore Niépce and Daguerre. This one will perceive an extra pension of 2000 francs for his system of moving decor of the Diorama.

Monday August 19th 1839, the Sciences Academy divulged the processes of heliography, of the physautotype and daguerreotype. Arago’s presentation overshadowed the two first ones Niépce ‘s name was hardly mentionned and as soon as forgotten. Only the daguerreotype is presented as having a future.

Annoucement of Daguerre’s invention,
19th August 1839

Within a few weeks, the process was improved and it became possible to do portraits . The craze was indescribable . Dozens of shops opened in Paris where anybody could come to be daguerreotyped . This was called the Daguerreotypomania that spread to the provinces,in Europe and especially in the United-States of America, where Daguerre’s process lasted longer than anywhere else. Daguerre by now is famous the world over.

In the mean time the name of Nicephore Niépce remained unknown. Isidore published, in 1841, a booklet called : History of the discovery improperly misnamed daguerreotype, preceded by a note from its real inventor Joseph-Nicephore Niépce. The inventor’s son vented out all his accumulated rancor against Daguerre and tried to justify his attitude about the successive changes that moved his father to a secundary role in the invention. This was the beginning of a long process that progressively would reinstate Nieépce’s name more and more frequently at the pinnacle of histories upon the invention of photography and at the end be recognized as the inventor ot photography .