Portrait of Rachel Shackleton. Ambrotype in Union case. Date c1850-60s
The Ambrotype is a positive unique image on glass. The word comes from the Ancient Greek for “immortal” or “impression”). Introduced in the 1850s, like the Daguerrotype it replaced, it is viewed by reflected light.
Shackleton collection, County Kildare. Courtesy: Jonathan Shackleton, County Cavan, Digital reproduction from Ambrotype.
Jonathan Shackleton is the custodian of the Shackleton private family archive. He is a keen family historian and the author of Shackleton: An Irishman in Antarctica (University of Wisconsin Press), about his most famous Kildare-born relation Ernest Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer.
“It is exciting to see such high quality reproductions in exhibition as Quakers did not really approve of family portraits or “likenesses”. My first Shackleton ancestor, Abraham, arrived from Yorkshire eight generations ago. He was a Quaker and set up a school in Ballitore, County Kildare in 1726. Later ancestors became involved in flour milling in Kildare and then in the Lucan area of County Dublin.”
Displayed here are a small selection of digital scans of the early Shackleton ambrotypes. These one-off early photographic images were captured on glass or metal plates. The original size of the ambrotypes (including the gilt surround) is c. 4cm x 6cm. Included in this collection is a daguerreotype of Mary Shackleton (1789 – 1869) of Ballitore, County Kildare. She had this daguerreotype made on 31st May 1851 in New York on the way to visit her niece in Ohio. She sailed on the Lady Franklin ship on which she was the only 1st class passenger amongst 500 emigrant passengers. Her diary recalls the visit: “I got seven daguerreotypes taken of myself – they are well done in my opinion but my friends think not.” Today, just two of the seven daguerrotypes survive.
The family archive of the accomplished photographer Jane Shackleton contains her glass slides and lantern slides with a total of over 1,000 images in the collection. Many of her Irish photographs are reproduced in a book titled Jane W. Shackleton’s Ireland (Collins Press), complied by Chris Corlett with a foreword by Jonathan Shackleton. The Quaker School in Ballitore was founded by Abraham Shackleton (1697–1771) in 1726 and catered for Quakers from many parts of Ireland as well as both Protestant and Catholic local children. The former home of Mary Leadbeater (December 1758 – 27 June 1826), a local diarist, is now a Quaker Museum.