Author Topic: CARTES DE VISITE AND CABINET CARDS  (Read 23781 times)

Offline RobinClay

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« on: Friday 15 January 10 14:30 GMT (UK) »
Toni Booth, Collections Manager at the
National Media Museum
Tel +44 (0) 1274 203369
Fax +44 (0) 1274 772325

was kind enough to send me this:-

General Information
With few exceptions, most professional portrait photographers of the 1850's took either Daguerreotypes or, after 1854, ambrotypes.  With both processes each picture was unique and multiple copies could only be made with difficulty, if at all.  People wanting larger portraits or more than one copy could have whole plate prints made from wet collodion negatives, but there was little demand for these except in the most fashionable studios because they were expensive (£2-4 depending on the size and whether it was hand coloured or not).

Realising that a market existed for a process which could produce a large number of prints very cheaply, the Parisian photographer, Andre Adolphe Disderi, devised a way of reducing costs by taking several portraits on one photographic plate.  This required the use of a special camera and many different types were developed.  Some had several lenses, which could be uncovered either individually, or all at the same time to give (usually) 4 or 8 photographs on the same plate.  Others had a mechanism for moving the photographic plate so that each image was recorded on a different area. 

Because several exposures were made on each plate a number of positive prints could be made at the same time.  The negative could be reprinted many times to produce the number of copies required by the sitter. The resulting photographs were mounted onto card.  They were called cartes de visite because they were about the size of a visiting card.

The carte de visite was introduced to England in 1857.  In May 1860, J E Mayall took carte portraits of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children.  These were published later that year and the popularity of carte portraits soared.  People began to collect portraits of their family, friends and celebrities and mounting them in photograph albums.  Celebrity cartes were sold at stationer's shops in the same way that picture postcards are today.  They cost from 1/- (5p) to 1/6d (7.5p) depending on the fame and popularity of the sitter.

Each decade of the carte, and later the larger version called a cabinet card, had its own characteristic studio accessories:

1860's   - balustrade, column and curtain
1870's   - rustic bridge and stile
1880's   - hammock, swing and railway carriage
1890's   - palm trees, cockatoos (usually stuffed specimens) and bicycles
1900's   - the motor car

When the carte de visite lost its novelty, the larger cabinet portrait was introduced (c. 1866).  Produced by the same method as the carte its larger size showed greater detail in the features of the sitter.  It remained popular until c.1914.

Researching:-   CLAY       THORNEWILL         POWELL         SOAMES

Offline JDJames89

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« Reply #1 on: Thursday 22 December 11 05:17 GMT (UK) »
What wonderful information RobinClay! Thanks for sharing this. Iíve been pasting together notes and tips as I come across them about dating photographs from books, articles, and of course the posts on this forum. Iím really excited to add this information to my notes. Iím particularly happy to see references to the props in the background of photos as Iíve found disappointingly few references to this elsewhere.  The prices are also very interesting. I thought I might add a few bits of information from my own notes that were relevant to this post:

Cartes de visite - Were patented in 1854 but arenít supposed to have become popular until about 1860. They then remained popular until about 1900, though the cabinet cardís rise in popularity eclipsed the carte de visites during the 1880s. By 1876, the ratio of cabinet cards to cartes de visites was about one to three. By 1880, it was one to one. By 1890, cabinet cards outnumbered cartes de visites nine to one. Cartes de visite did survive into the 1920s but were rarely seen after 1905.

Cabinet Cards Ė Scenic and landscape photography was introduced in 1862. Portraits were introduced in 1866. Strangely enough, however, cabinet cards before 1873 are supposed to be ďsurprisingly scarceĒ. They survived into the early 1900s, dying out around 1910 or so.

CDVs mounted before 1870 are said to have thinner cardstock than those after 1870 when cardboard was introduced. This can be measured with a caliper or, more easily for the average Joe, comparing the photos thickness to sheets of 20 pound bond paper (the kind used in most copy machines or printers):

Six or fewer sheets: 1858-1869
Seven or eight sheets: 1869-1887
Nine or more sheets: 1890-1900

This isnít supposed to be applicable to cabinet cards. Iím not sure why not.

Also helpful in dating mounted photographs in relation with thickness is the color of the cardstock as certain colors were common to certain time periods.

White: common from 1858-1869, 1871-1874
Gray: common from 1861-1866, 1872-1880
Tan: common from 1861-1866
Yellow (not to be confused with aged/yellowed white cardstock): common from
Chocolate brown: common from 1877-1887
Black: common from 1877-1887
Pale colors such as green, blue, etc.: common from 1873-1900

The edges of the cardstock can also be helpful:

Straight, square cut edges: pre 1871
Round corners: after 1871
Beveled edges: 1875-1900
Notches edges: 1894-1900
Gilt edges: after 1870

As can the back of the mounts:

1860s: Usually just a logo, stamp, seal or cartouche.
1870s: A bit more detailed. Usually a logo, seal, cartouche, etc., name of the
photographer and address. Also light scrollwork isnít uncommon.
1880s: Same information as the 1870s, though now often includes ornate script,
flourishes, scrollwork, and artwork. Often quite elaborate.
1890s: Followed the pattern of the 1880s. Very ornate and often includes large,
intricate scenes or artwork to advertize the photographer.

Please remember this is all approximate. Dating any photograph takes a lot of detective work, but I thought Iíd share too. I would love to hear any other tips or things other people might have to add.

Offline paradise2431

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« Reply #2 on: Monday 30 April 12 12:03 BST (UK) »
Does all this information you have kindly put on here compare here in Australia I have a lot of card photos and I have not a clue when they where made in what years.
Cheers Robyn
Goldsmith, Albert J Hailsham Sussex Eng
Stevens, Family Cirencester Eng
Hand, Family Monaghan Ire
Hand John Kempsey NSW Aus
Graham Isabella, Riverstone NSW Aus
Graham Family Momeen Donegal†
Lowry Donegal Ire
Hansen Karl, Norway Riverstone NSW Aus
Olsen Merte Norway
Conwell Amy, NSW Aus
Kenny, Family Tomgarney Co Clare Ire
Power, Matthew Waterford Ire
Davison, James Ire
Lovelock, James Convict Whiltshire Eng
Spokes John Convict Port Mac
Adams Robert NSW
Galloway Alexander NSW