1841 - Richard Beard opened Britain’s first commercial photographic portrait studio

Less than two years after the introduction of the daguerreotype process in France, Richard Beard (1801 – 1885), a coal merchant and entrepreneur, had purchased the licence to use the daguerreotype process and opened his first photographic studio. It was set up in London’s Royal Polytechnic Institution on Regent Street, in a glasshouse on the roof, in order to provide maximum all-round lighting required for adequate daguerreotype exposures.
Beard was the owner of this and other studios, but was not himself the photographer. Among the ‘operators’ to work at his studios was the Belfast engraver Francis Stewart Beatty who worked there for less than a year from October 1841.
There were huge profits from Beard’s studios in London and Liverpool and from the sale of licences to take daguerreotypes, but Beard was ruined by his many legal actions against rivals, and went bankrupt in 1850.

The cartoon of Beard’s Polytechnic Studio is by George Cruikshank, published in George Cruikshank’s Omnibus (London: Tilt and Bogue, 1842)

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