Ga-hah-no Caroline Parker daguerreotype gifted to RMSC

COURTESY OF ROCHESTER MUSEUM & SCIENCE CENTER
Stock photo.

The Rochester Museum & Science Center received a rare daguerreotype picturing Ga-hah-no Caroline Parker standing in full regalia, circa 1849, from the late John and Eileen Riedman.

Born into the Parker family at the Tonawanda Seneca community, Ga-hah-no Caroline Parker (Seneca Nation, Wolf Clan) learned to read and write in English, a rare accomplishment for a Native American woman at a time when many white settlers were illiterate. This achievement enabled her to effectively manage the family’s affairs, act as a translator for the Tonawanda chiefs and collaborate with anthropologists — including Lewis Henry Morgan, a founder of American anthropology — to document and preserve Haudenosaunee cultural traditions. Her role in diplomacy later matured alongside her Tuscarora husband, Chief John Mt. Pleasant.

This hand-painted daguerreotype of Parker is a rare photographic image of a Seneca woman from the mid-1800s. It is one of two known photographic portraits of Parker taken during the first half of her life, and one of four known images of her in existence. 

“We are proud to be stewards of this rare historic photo of Caroline Parker, and recognize its importance and the public trust in which we hold our collections at the RMSC,” said Elizabeth Pietrzykowski, assistant director of collections and registrar. 

The Riedman family provided funds that enabled RMSC collections staff to have the hand-colored daguerreotype conserved and digitized. The Ga-hah-no Caroline Parker daguerreotype is on display within the museum’s featured exhibit, “The Changemakers: Rochester Women Who Changed the World.” Once the exhibit closes on May 16, it will be featured in one of the permanent exhibitions.

Visit collections.rmsc.org for information.