Texas statesman Sam Houston commissioned this photograph when he was contemplating a run for the presidency of the United States. By placing him next to a column in a relaxed pose, the portrait is carefully crafted to emphasize Houston’s leadership qualities.
The camera´s capacity to document people, places, and events was the primary impetus for early photographers such as the Meade Brothers, who took this rare daguerreotype in 1851. In photography studios of this period, daguerreotype portraits were priced by plate size. This full-plate image is the only known existing full-length portrait of Houston, who stood 6 feet 2 inches tall. As the leader of the Texas Revolution and two-term president of the short-lived Republic of Texas, Houston was a knowledgeable frontiersman and liked to dress the part. However, this portrait shows him in more-conservative attire, probably to garner mass appeal for a presidential run.
The Meade Brothers established one of the most successful photography studios in America, capturing famous subjects including Kit Carson and Commodore Matthew Perry. This portrait was probably taken in the brothers' New York studio the year after its opening, in 1850. Growing competition between portrait studios at the time led them to offer diverse options. Here, a papier-mâché column demonstrates the trend toward incorporating props into portraiture.
This work is rare because it is a full-plate image of a recognized subject by a recognized studio. The lithograph of this photograph enabled the image to appear in publications, but the daguerreotype was long thought to be lost. Discovered in 1990, it was acquired by the MFAH shortly thereafter.