The Toxic Book of Faces

Season 9
Social Media Share Tools
Illustration of an open book with a variety of black silhouettes.

Before the invention of photography, only the rich could afford to have portraits of themselves. But in the early 1800s, a device called the physiognotrace democratized portraiture, making it possible for everyday people to have their images captured in silhouettes. A man named William Bache traveled the United States creating hundreds of silhouette portraits with the aid of the physiognotrace. He left behind a ledger book that gives us a rare glimpse of early America—a ledger book laced with poison.



Smithsonian Links: 

Sign up to unlock the full Sidedoor experience!
Get bonus content, news, and updates in your inbox.

Please enter a valid email address.
Thanks for signing up!
Email powered by Blackbaud