In April 2013, ethnologist Samuel Villela Flores presented his investigation about Acapulco during the seminar “De la Villa de Acapulco al Acapulco del Jet set. 160 años de fotografía en el Puerto” that took place at the Coordinación Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City.
In his findings Villela states that Acapulco has been photographed since the mid XIX century by daguerreotypists and travelers. The first known daguerreotypes of Acapulco were made by Robert H. Vance circa 1850.
Two of these daguerreotypes (‘Panoramic View of Acapulco, from a hill back of the city, showing the City, Fort, Harbor, with the Steamers, Panama and Sea Bird, and others, lying at anchor’ and ‘Acapulco, from the Bay, show a front view of the city and mountains in the back ground.’) were exhibited in “Views in California” a show presented at No. 349 Broadway, (opposite the Carleton House,) in New York, in October of 1851. However, neither are known to have survived this legendary exhibition.
Additionally, we were not able to find any material of Acapulco in the XIX century in the catalogue of the Fototeca Nacional (INAH) nor in the photography collection of the Fundación Televisa, which leads us to believe these might be some of the earliest surviving images of Acapulco.
Nevertheless, Acapulco was in the mid 19th century a harbor of great strategic value, and was therefore visited regularly by European and American vessels. Photographs of Acapulco in the 1850’s should not be so uncommon… Quite a mystery here…
According to the captions on several images, the names of the vessels that appear on the photographs are “Duguay-Trouin,” “Clio” or “Clyo,” and “Bouyonnaise.”
Based on the history of the Duguay-Trouin and the Bouyonnaise, along with an article from the NYTimes dated 1862 that puts the three vessels in that area, we were able to establish that these photographs were taken between 1861 and 1862.
Do you know of any other photographs of Acapulco taken earlier than 1860 that have survived?
Remember: we accept contributions in Spanish, English or French!
Robert H. Vance, Catalogue of Daguerreotype Panoramic Views in California (New York: Baker, Godwin & Company, 1851.