|The Parkers, 1840-1845|
There are two really famous John Parkers in American history -- neither is involved with the oldest photos of humans in Ohio. Capt. John Parker led the American militiamen on Lexington Green in April 1775 against the British. His famous words before the shooting started: "Stand your ground, don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here." Parker died of tuberculosis before the Revolutionary War concluded. The other famous Parker is John P. Parker, an abolitionist who lived in Ripley, Ohio near Cincinnati. His father was a free white man; his mother was a slave. By the 1840s he owned a foundry and became active in the Underground Railroad. He would cross the Ohio River into Kentucky and lead runaways slaves to freedom in Ohio -- some would escape to Canada and start new lives. As for Persis Parker -- the woman in the photo -- all we know is that it was not an unusual name for a female in the early 19th Century. Persis as a name for a woman seems to be taken from Persia, the ancient name for Iran.
There are at least a half-dozen daguerreotypes in the state collection that are dated between 1845 and 1850. Louis Daguerre, a Frenchman, invented the process that involved exposing chemically treated metal plates to capture an image. It was wildly popular. NPR's Krulwich now says the earlier photo could be from 1838 in Paris, where a man seems to be getting his shoes shined on a street corner.