Distortion in data selection can be purposeful when the practice is deemed “cherry-picking,” or distortion can come from well-meaning but misguided attempts at objectivity. Of the various cognitive forms of bias, apophenia (the human tendency to perceive meaningful patterns within random data) is both the most euphonious and most ubiquitous in both history and medicine. A medical mentor was heard to mutter when a colleague supported his own strong opinion by citing his long experience: “You have repeatedly made the same mistake for 40 years and now dignify it as experience.”
Of the 51 images returned from a search for the word “Grice” in the LOC Daguerreotype Collection, 27 depict an adult male either alone (21) or with a woman(6). This small sample size of 27 presents both some protections from the pitfalls of apophenia and some susceptibilities.
The Grice 27 images seem to have been made with the same technique, probably with the same camera/lens and very similar if not a single “batch” of plates. Lighting was ambient indoors and thus variable depending on weather, time of day, etc. Lenses (originally mirrors) needed to have wide apertures which limited the depth of field that was in focus and introduced distortions.
Fifteen of the 27 images were made on 82 x 70 mm (sixth plate format), silvered copper. However, two images (#1524 & 1382) were 140 x 104 mm (half plate format). Three images were in quarter plate format. Six images were 65 x 50 mm (ninth plate format). The larger plates produced better images.
Bromide vapors were introduced that increased light sensitivity and reduced exposure time. Lenses also improved. So, the task of matching the ~1844 identity of a subject based on images gathered a decade or more later is confounded by differing perspectives/poses, improvements in technique, and the aging of the subjects.
Orson Hyde (1807-1878) was 37 years old in 1844 which seems consistent with his appearance in Daguerreotype #1381. A much heavier Orson Hyde is depicted in the image on the right.
Some will quickly point to the absence of the chin cleft in the gaunt youthful picture. However, Orson had been seriously ill for much of 1839 with “fever and ague” – i.e., malaria, which was endemic in the swamps of Nauvoo. He was emaciated and unable to travel. Howard Barron included a sketch of Hyde dated ca1839 on page 20 of his 1977 biography. He credited Prof. Lamar C. Berrett as the source of the illustrations.
Thus far in this series identities have been proposed for the following Grice Daguerreotypes:
- #1336 Unitarian Minister Augustus Conant and Betsy Kelsey Conant [Unidentified man and woman, seated, facing front] | Library of Congress (loc.gov) https://www.loc.gov/item/2004664531/
- #1346 Unitarian Minister Arthur Buckminster Fuller [Unidentified man, three-quarters length portrait] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
- #1352 Second Scribe Oliver Cowdery [Unidentified man with beard, half-length portrait, facing front] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
- #1516 Mormon member of the Quorum of Twelve Charles Coulson Rich [Unidentified man with beard, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
- #1501 Morman member of the Quorum of Twelve Wilford Woodruff [Unidentified man, half-length portrait, facing front] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
- #1353 First Scribe Martin Harris [Unidentified man, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing slightly right] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
- #1368 Prophet, First President of LDS Joseph Smith, Jr., and Emma Hale Smith [Unidentified man and woman, three-quarters length portrait, seated] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
- #1381 Mormon member First Quorum of Twelve Orson Hyde [Unidentified man, half-length portrait, facing front] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
- #1518 Morman Member First Quorum of Twelve Orson Pratt [Unidentified man, half-length portrait, facing front] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
- #1520 Second President of LDS Brigham Young [Unidentified young man, half-length portrait, facing front] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
 RBN, Jr., M.D., personal communication. The informant based his statement upon Hippocrates’ dictum: “Life is short and Art long; the crisis fleeting; experience perilous, and decision difficult.”