A sometime calligrapher and writing teacher, Vermont-born Thomas Easterly learned the daguerreotype process in New York between 1841 and 1844, possibly from Charles and Richard Meade. In 1844 Easterly sailed from New York City to New Orleans, where he made photographs before returning to Vermont the following year. He did not remain for long: by October, he had entered into a daguerreotype studio partnership in Iowa. He and his partner operated as traveling photographers working throughout Iowa and Missouri for several years. Some scholars have credited Easterly with making the first photographs of Plains Indians.
After the dissolution of the partnership, Easterly moved to Saint Louis and took over a studio in 1848. He had a successful career for ten years, but his loyalty to the daguerreotype process after the introduction of the ambrotype, tintype, and paper photograph processes caused his business to falter. By 1860 Easterly had begun to sell farm implements in addition to continuing his daguerreotype practice.