The four brothers, after being trained, first traveled in upstate New York doing their own daguerrotype photography. Eventually they settled in different east coast cities and ran photography studios for John Plumbe Jr. Truman ran a studio on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia.
“[Daguerreotype] creates a silver image on a silver surface using some of the more dangerous chemicals like mercury and iodide, and that’s why a lot of early photographers, especially daguerreotypists, didn’t lead the longest lives.” – Arthur Kaplan of the Getty Conservation Institute.
Truman Shew became very ill. His brother, Joel, was a doctor in New York City and tried to cure him, but to no avail. Truman died in 1848 at the age of 31. He was buried next to his maternal grandparents in the Fish House cemetery next to the Presbyterian church where his grandfather had been a deacon. Myron and Jacob bought Truman’s Philadelphia studio, but a year after Truman’s death, Jacob joined the gold rush of 1849 and went to California. William and Myron headed to California a short time later. All three brothers continued in the photography business but it was William who became well known. William died in 1903 and unfortunately most of his work was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. Some of his works can still be found in history books and also in the Smithsonian.
The above information on Truman Shew is also found in the bios of the cemetery residents on a different page on this website. I have just started this project of learning everything that I can about the people who are buried in the cemetery by the Presbyterian Church here in the hamlet of Fish House. Fish House was first settled in 1762 and it slowly grew into a beautiful little town that included humble people making a living here as well as wealthy people who were summer residents. What has surprised me in my research are the connections to the "big" names in history. Truman Shew, was trained by Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph. Truman then worked for John Plumbe Jr. who is the photographer that took the very first photo of the White House. Truman's brother, William, became a noted photographer and some of his photos are in the Smithsonian. Truman's mother, Elizabeth Beecher, was related to Harriet Beecher Stowe. So how is it that residents in such a little town, such as Fish House,
intersected with famous people in our American history?
Plumb took several photographs of government buildings that year. But the photographs were lost until 1972 when they were discovered in a flea market in Alameda, California , The six daguerreotypes were cleaned up and are now at the Library of Congress.