Daguerreotypes were invented by Louis Daguerre in 1839. They were the earliest
type of photograph commercially available to the public. Daguerreotype images
usually exhibit fine detail associated with a small aperture camera lens and high
resolution, long exposure film. They were most popular during the late 1840s to
early 1850s, and rarely produced after 1860. Photographs dating from the Civil War
are often mislabeled as Daguerreotypes, but by that time, they had been replaced
by the less expensive ambrotypes and tintypes.
Ambrotypes were introduced by Frederick Scott Archer in 1851 and reached their
peak popularity between 1855 and 1860. They died out after the introduction of the
carte de visite (CdV) in the early 1860s. Ambrotypes became popular because they
were cheaper and were more convenient to produce than Daguerreotypes, requiring
shorter exposure times. The glass substrate of the ambrotype was also less easily
damaged than the thin copper plate of the Daguerreotype.
Tintypes became popular during the Civil War because it was possible for
soldiers to send them to their families through the mail. They were less
likely to break than the glass plates of ambrotypes or the copper plates of
Daguerreotypes. In addition, up to twelve images could be produced on a
plate in a single exposure with a multiple lens camera. It is said that the
tintype got its name from the tin shears used to cut individual images from
the multiply exposed sheet. Brown or chocolate tintypes were popularized
by the Phenix Co. during the years 1870 through 1885. Another
development was the “rustic” look introduced around 1870 which made
use of painted backgrounds of rural themes. Tintypes were popular until
the late 1880s, when they were superseded by gelatin dry emulsion plates,
although in more rural areas they were produced until much later.
Tintypes experienced a resurgence in popularity in the late 1890s, as a
type of cheap and quick photograph sold at carnivals and boardwalks. The
last tintypes were produced in about 1930. See
The eventual result of being able to print photographs on paper from a
glass negative was the
albumen print. In 1850, two years after the
discovery of albumen as a binding agent for glass negatives,
Blanquart-Ervrard perfected albumen printing paper which offered the
same convenience as salted paper but with much higher resolution and
shorter exposure times. Albumen prints produced on paper still retained
some trace of the surface features, but not to the degree of salt prints,
since the coating filled the space between the fibers on the paper surface.
Although the glossiness of its surface was not initially accepted, the
albumen print became the most popular form of photograph through the
end of the century. The albumen print was much more detailed than the salt
print, but still required a very long exposure time, up to 30 minutes. For
this reason, albumen prints were frequently used for landscapes and
architectural scenes.
The Carte de Visite was introduced in 1854 by Andre Adolphe Disderi (http:
//www.photographymuseum.com/histsw.htm) when he developed a method of
producing eight images on a single 8″ x 10″ glass negative, allowing eight
prints to be produced at one time. Cartes de Visite are albumen prints that are
typically 2 1/8″ x 3 1/2″, mounted on 2 1/2″ x 4″ card stock. Prints can deviate
somewhat from this standard size because each print had to be cut by hand
from the original multiple-image master print. The size of the card stock is
more regular since it was usually bought by the photographer from a
commercial supplier. Upon the introduction of the photo album in about 1860,
the standard size of the CdV was slightly reduced to be compatible with album
pockets. Because the photographer attached a print to the card stock himself,
the image is sometimes crooked with respect to the stock. CdVs were popular
throughout the Civil War because like tintypes, they could be sent through the
mail without being broken. CdVs reached their peak in popularity in 1866, after
which they were gradually replaced by the cabinet card until production died
out in the early 1880s. An excellent guide to dating CdVs can be found at
The cabinet card was introduced as a larger format albumen print by Windsor
& Bridge in   London  in 1863. It became known as a cabinet card because
photographic albums were not large enough to accommodate it, so that it
were usually displayed in cabinets. A standard cabinet card consists of a 4″ x
5 1/2″ image mounted on 4 1/4″ x 6 1/2″ card stock. Because of the larger
size of the cabinet cards, retouching became a necessary part of the
photographic process. Usually a test print was made first to identify changes
and corrections to the negative from which final prints were made. (See O.
Henry Mace, Collector’s Guide to Early Photographs, Krause Publications,
1999, p. 134.) Cabinet cards were popular 1870 - 1890, but by the end of the
century were declining in popularity due to the introduction of the snapshot
(an unmounted paper photograph. See
com/learning/types/cabinet_card/index.php). Cabinet cards continued to be
produced until the early 1920s.
From  August 1, 1864 through August 1, 1866, a special tax was placed on proprietary items to raise Civil
War revenues for the Union Army. Manufacturers of goods such as matches, medicines, perfumes, and
playing cards took advantage of the 5 to 10% discount allowed for producing their own stamps, and
regarded them as an opportunity for advertising. These stamps are found in Scott U.S. Specialized
Catalog and are known as “Private Die Proprietary Stamps”, or “Matches and Medicines”. See
Except for paper-based images, most early photographs were customarily
enclosed in miniature cases. Frequently containing portraits, cases
protected Daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and even tintypes from light,
moisture, pollution, and abrasion; they also allowed the photographs to be
easily and safely carried about. Early cases were constructed of wood with
leather or cloth coverings, metal fasteners, hinges, and fabric interior
linings. The actual photograph, protected by glass and a brass mat, was
snugly inserted into the back portion of the case. Opening the case like a
book gave the viewer a chance to relate intimately to the image, and to its
called-up memory. See
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