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Dear Mr. Flynn,
Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!
We searched online and could not find a source that provides an immediate answer to your question. We did find an article in The Photographic Times: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine Devoted to the Interests of Artistic and Scientific Photography, Volume 33. Photographic Times Publishing Assn., 1901 that provides some information about the first photographed registered for copyright by the Library of Congress. However, it states that they could not discover the title and date of the first photograph ever copyrighted in the United States, because it is “hidden” in the records of numerous courts. It is possible that since 1901, someone else has undertaken the task of researching court records to identify the first copyright of a photograph, in which case the research results may have been published in an academic journal.
If you desire to research the court records yourself, you should know that Records of District Courts of the United States are found in Record Group 21 (RG 21). We conducted an Advanced Search of our National Archives Catalog for RG 21 series relating to copyright and found numerous record series, file units and item. It appears that the records most likely to contain the type of information that you are searching for go by a variety of titles depending on the originating court, such a “Copyrighted Materials,” “Record of Copyright,” “Copyright Record Books,” “Copyright Account Books,” “Copyright Registers,” “Copyright Dockets,” etc. Unfortunately, there is no single index or register that lists all the copyright registrations for the entire nation during the time period you are interested in. Instead you would need to research each series individually.
As you state in your post, the majority of these records in the National Archives and Record Administration’s regional facilities. For a list of our research facilities with links to additional information about each one, you can also visit this page. You can also contact each of the regions directly if you wish to make further inquiries about researching their holdings.
An additional option would be contacting the U.S. Copyright Office and asking if they have any reference material that might be pertinent to your research.
We hope this information is helpful. Best of luck with your research!
Thanks for your response, I have contacted each of the archives, seeking information, will probably visit the College Park and Phila archives to see what I could find. No one seems to know the answer, will have to dig further.I wrote to the copyright office, they were of no help
I also wrote many of the photographic museums around the world, and also many of the web sites that state that they are photographic and historical related. A few provided some good insight.
No one has seems to have information on this, will let you know what I findThanks for the link to the article
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This page will tell you which locations holds the records of the various federal courts. The RG 21 records in our College Park location are some special media and electronic records. If you wish to look at D.C. District Court records related to copyright registration you should instead contact National Archives at Washington, DC - Textual Reference (RDT1). Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The remainder of the records for federal courts in Mid-Atlantic states (Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia) are at the National Archives in Philadelphia.
While this doesn't pertain specifically to photographs, a member of the National Archives General Counsel staff pointed us to this page which lists the locations of "Pre-1870 copyright records that never made it to the Library of Congress, many of which were assumed lost." :http://law.gwu.libguides.com/c.php?g=645626&p=4525426