William Shew was a prominent American photographer in the 19th century. He made a name for himself as a Daguerrotype portrait artist in the United States. He maintained a mobile studio in a wagon that he called his "Daguerrotype Saloon."
Shew was born near Watertown, New York on 23 March 1820. He studied daguerrotype photography with Samuel F. B. Morse, as did his brothers Truman, Jacob, and Myron. All four of the Shew brothers worked for photographer John Plumbe, who opened studios in various cities; William Shew worked in Plumbe's Boston studio from 1841 to 1844 before setting up his own daguerreian case manufacturing business, William Shew and Company, and pursuing studio work in partnership with daguerreotypist Marsena Cannon. In this period, Shew was a member of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.
In 1851, Shew followed his brother Jacob to California and set up a studio in San Francisco; he became well known for his portrait work. He was recruited by John Wesley Jones to take daguerreotypes of California for Jones's planned Great Pantoscope of California, the Rocky Mountains, Salt Lake City, Nebraska and Kansas.