United States Photographic Industry


Figure 1.--This Daguerreotype portrait shows an unidentified American boy, probably in the late-1840s or early-50s. The straw hat here may be a dating clue. We invite readers to comment on our dating of the Dags posted on the site. The Daguerreotype was developed in France, but very rapidly spread to America where studios paid no royalties to Daguerre. By the time this portait was made, there were more studios in America than all of Europe. Most American Dags were made as cased portraits. This for some reason was rather rare in Europe.

The early research on photography was done in Europe. Americans while they did not participate in the initial research, took to the European developments and the potential for a new industry with a vengence. And Americans also began doing their own research. Processes developed in Europe appeared in America within months. The first commercial process was the Daguerreotypr (1839). Almost immediately Daguerreotype studios appeared in America and by the mid-1840s there were more studios in America than all of Europe combined. Developers in Europe were able with varying degress of success to enforce patents. American photographers, however, paid no attention to patents in the early stages of the industry. And European inventors were unable to enforece their pantents in the United States. We note large numbers of cased Dags in America from the 1840s and 50s. We find far fewer dags, especially cased Dags and Ambros, in Europe, even France where the process was developed. We are not sure just why this is. It may reflected a greater reluctance of European dealers, including France, to sell their items over the internet rather than an actual differerence in the number of portraits made. But we think there were probably far more Dags made in America. An American Reverend Hill claims to have create the first color process (about 1850s). New processes appeared in the 1850s. The tintype was also developed in France. Prof. Hamilton L. Smith in America developed the tintype or ferrotype process (1856). He patented the process. The Ambroitype became very popular and was less expensive than the Daguerrotype. The albumen process used for CDVs and cabinets cards was also developed in Europe and quickly adopted in America. The cabonet card appeared only a few years after the CDV (1866). And unlike Europe quickly became the starfd type of studio portrait. The tintype was an almost instant process, ideal for both small-scale local and itinerant street photographers. The Several inventors made important contributions. It was the Americam George Eastman that created the first user frindly camera for anateurs--the Kodak Brownie. The resulting snapshot revolutiinized photography. Many early photographs, both studio portasits and snapshots were done with psotcard backs. Color processes were developed in the inter-War era. Germany was a leader in color photography, in part because of the country's large chemical industry. German industry was, however, destroyed in World War II and Kodak energed as a world leader in photography after the War, dominating the market for many years. It was only well after World War II that color photograohy became standard.

Chronology

The early research on photography was done in Europe. Americans while they did not participate in the initial research, took to the European developments and the potential for a new industry with a vengence. And Americans also began doing their own research. Processes developed in Europe appeared in America within months. The first commercial process was the Daguerreotypr (1839). Almost immediately Daguerreotype studios appeared in America and by the mid-1840s there were more studios in America than all of Europe combined. Developers in Europe were able with varying degress of success to enforce patents. American photographers, however, paid no attention to patents in the early stages of the industry. And European inventors were unable to enforece their pantents in the United States. We note large numbers of cased Dags in America from the 1840s and 50s. We find far fewer dags, especially cased Dags and Ambros, in Europe, even France where the process was developed. We are not sure just why this is. It may reflected a greater reluctance of European dealers, including France, to sell their items over the internet rather than an actual differerence in the number of portraits made. But we think there were probably far more Dags made in America. An American Reverend Hill claims to have create the first color process (about 1850s). New processes appeared in the 1850s. The tintype was also developed in France. Prof. Hamilton L. Smith in America developed the tintype or ferrotype process (1856). He patented the process. The Ambroitype became very popukar ad was less expensive than the Daguerrotype. The albumen process used for CDVs and cabinets cards was also developed in Europe and quickly adopted in America. The cabinet card appeared only a few years after the CDV (1866). And unlike Europe quickly became the standard type of studio portrait. The tintype was an almost instant process, ideal for both small-scale local and itinerant street photographers. The Several inventors made important contributions. It was the Americam George Eastman that created the first user frindly camera for anateurs--the Kodak Brownie. The resulting snapshot revolutiinized photography. Many early photyographs, both stufio portraits and snapshots were done with psotcard backs. Color processes were developed in the inter-War era. Germany was a leader in color photography, in part because of the country's large chemical industry. German industry was, however, destroyed in World War II and Kodak energed as a world leader in photography after the War, dominating the market for many years. It was only well after World War II that color photography became standard.

Photographic Types

Photography began with the work of researchers in Europe, pimrily France and Britain. The European developments quickly crossed the Atlantic. The first such proces was the Dagurreotype (1840s). The industry prospered in the rapidly growing American economy where copyright restrictions were earlier than in Europe. New less expensive processes, the Ambro-type ad tintyoe, appeared which reduced the cost opf a photographic portrait (1850s). Dags ad Ambros were made in greater numbers than painted portraits, but the numbers were still limited. It was the albumen process, first with the CDV and later the cabinet card that brought photography to the masses (1860s). A studio portrait could be made inexpensively and copies could be made to send to families and friends. The cabinet card rapidly became popular with clients and came to dominate the American industry, unlike Europe where the CDV remined popular for some time. Major changes in photography occurred after the turn-of-the 20th century (1900s). Kodak introduced the easy to use Brownie camera and the resulting family snapshot took photography out of the studio. We also begin to see other formats like postcards. Most postcard-back prints were several nitrate ptints. In addfution silver nitrate prints replced albumen prints. The albumen priocess was still used in the new century, especially for cbinet cards, but it was very rapidly replaced with the silver nitate process which would dominate photography until color printing became common (1970s).

Cases, Mounts, and Frames

Commercial photography was invented in Europe, but grew much more rapidly in America. The invention and improvement of photography created a problem--what to do with the finished portraits. Early photographs were very expensive and fragile. This meant there was not a very serious problem because there were not very many photographs, but they had to be well protected. Thus the initual system of little cases worked well for both Saguerreotyoes nd Anbrotypes. Early tin-types were also cased, at least in America. These cased images were especially popilar in America. Gradually less expensive tin-type and negative processes were developed. The CDV was the first such formt. Again this occured in Francde, but photography was more extensive in America than Europe. This created prints in large numbers for the first time. Encasing them was no longer a reasonable solution and not necessary as CDVs were not as prone to damage. Rather prints were mounted on carboard. These mounbts came in many colors and print types. Families soon found themselves with piles of photographs. The sollution to photographic clutter was albums in which CDVs and cabinent cards could be collected and brought out for friends and relatives. Cabinet cards proved more popular in America than Europe. Negatives also enabled photographic studios to print enlargements that could be framed for wall displays. Tin types often came in inexpensive paper frames. After the turn of the 20th century, cardboard mounts gave way to paper frames of various designs. Parents could buy more expensive frames, but paper frames were commonly providd bt the studios. All of these different approaches and the styling associated with them can be used to help date photographs.

Postcards

It is interesting to note that America at this time also had a postcard industry. Post cards began to appear in large numbers during the early 1890s. Imports, especilly imports from Germany, were very important in America--at least until World War I (1914-18). Beautifully dressed children, however, were never as popular on American postcards as on English and French postcards. Actually beginning in the 1900s and continuing in the 1920s, Americans could choose to have their photographs developed with a postcard back. This allowed the photos to be mailed to family and relatives like postcards. Large numbers of these cards exist. In France, however, people appeared to have preferred to purchase ready made postcards like this one. A discerning collector can date many post cards even if they have not been postally used.

Color

Color photography was attempted almost as soon as commercial photography first appeared with the Daguerrotype (1839). The first expermimebts began almost immediately (1840s). Much of the ensuing effort at first occurred in Europe. There was, however, one early American experimenter--American Daguerreotypist Levi Hill. The resulting Hillotype like most early processes were complicated and produced results that had some color reproduction, but hardly full color images. Most color photography in the 19th century and early-20th century were tinted black and white images. There were efforts to tint from the very beginning. Studios tunted all the different kinds of photograhs beginning with the Daguerreotype. Real color photogaphy ws based on the three-color method. It is the foundation of virtually all commercial color processes (both chemical and electronic). It was first theorized by Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1855). Maxwell's theory was based on the fact that the human eye produces signals to the brain which are interpreted as color. The signals are produced by the inner surface (retina) produced by millions of cone cells. There are three types. One type is most sensitive to the end of the spectrum (red), another sensitive to the middle (green), and the third is higly sensitive to the beginning of the spectrum (blue). These three tyoes of cone cells are intermingled throughout the retina. It is the brain that that takes these three basic signals are produces the vast array of tints abnd hues which we see as color. Thus greatly simplified the work of experimebts. They only had to worry about three colors--not millions. Even this, however, was a major undertaking. Color photographs soon began to appear, mostly in Europe. The color reproduction was not very effectuve and the processes involved very complicated.

Photoguide

Photographic images are extremely valuable historical information. Drawings, paintings, and written documents can be mistken for a variety of reasons. Photograph are basically definitive statements. They show what boys actually wore rather than an artists intrpretation. There are some limitiations associated with photographs. Chilren could be dressed up in costumes rather than their actual clothing. The vast majority of photographs, however, show boys wearing their actual clothes. The greatest problem, however, is that large numbers of photographs are undated and the individuals not identified. There are, however, ways of assessing these unidentified images. They are not fool proof indicators, but they are helpful in assessing these images.








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Created: 6:06 AM 3/5/2009
Last updated: 9:56 AM 3/17/2017