James Presley Ball, Sr., who captured the image of this unknown young woman, was one of the most celebrated African American photographers of the 1800s. He opened a number of photography studios, the most successful being “Ball’s Great Daguerrean Gallery of the West” located in Cincinnati, Ohio. His customers ranged from African American slaves to elite white society, including opera singer Jenny Lind and Queen Victoria.

But Ball was much more than just a photographer. As an avid and outspoken abolitionist, Ball employed his artistic skills in the movement to end slavery. In the 1850s, he used the latest technology to build a moving panorama that depicted the horrific living conditions of enslaved laborers in the South. This “Mammoth Pictorial Tour” traveled throughout the urban North, inspiring visitors to take action against the gross injustice of slavery.


  • Title: Portrait of a Young Woman
  • Creator: J. P. Ball
  • Date Created: 1850's
  • Physical Dimensions: w16.2 x h9.2 x d1 cm (case, open)
  • Type: Photograph
  • External Link: MFAH
  • Medium: Daguerreotype
  • Credit Line: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Sonia and Kaye Marvins Portrait Collection, museum purchase funded by Sonia and Kaye Marvins

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