Photographs: Albums, Cases, Frames, and Mounts


Figure 1.--Here we see an example of the basic paper frames that were often used for tin-types. Unfortunately they rarely had the name of the photographer and location like more expensive studios that did CDVs and cabinent cards. These tun-type portaits were often done inexpesively at seaside boardwalks and other tourist venues. They were also done at carnivals, and state fairs.

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. Gradually less expensive tin-type and negative processes were developed. This created prints in large numbers. Encasing them was no longer a reasonable solution and they 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. 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 mounts of various designs. All of these dipperent approaches and the styling associated with them can be used to help date photographs.

Cases

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. Daguerreotypes and ambrotypes came in these cases. The finished Daguerreotype image was sealed in glass to protect the plate from both atmospheric and physical damage. The mounting varied from country to country. The common practice in the United states was tp mount the Daguerreotype in small hinged cases. The cases were normally made of wood with artistically crafted leather or paper coverings. A good example of a Daguerrotype mounting is a portrait of Eddie Lincoln We also find tin-types in these cases, although inexpensive mounts that looked liked these cases were developed for tin-types because people came to think that was how photographs should be presented. Our interest in these cases is that they can be useful in dating the portraits. This is particularly important because so few dags and ambros are dated. There are several elements of the case which can be used in dating the cases, including the case, the decorative plate, and the covering ocer the actual plate.

Mounts

Many 19th century portraits were mounted and these mounts provide a lot of useful information. The early photographic portraits were relatively expensive. Gradually less expensive tin-type and negative processes were developed. The albumen process made it possible to print on paper from negatives, meaning multiple copies were possible. This created prints in large numbers. The CDV appeared in the late 1850s and the cabinent cards in the mid-1860s. Encasing them was no longer a reasonable solution and they were not as prone to damage. Rather prints were mounted on carboard. These mounts came in many colors and print types. HBC has developed information on both CDV mounts and Cabinent card mounts. These mounts often had information about the studio and where it was located. This helps to indicate the country as well as where in the country. The stle of the mounts often can be used to estimate the date of the portrait. Also helpful here are the prize awards which were often dated. The mounts were primarily a 19th century phenomenon. They dusappeared very quickly after the turn of the 20th century.

Albums

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. The family photograph album, in propsperous families several alnums, was one of the most prized possessions of any Victorian family by the 1860s. The earlies photographic albums probably date to the early 1860s with the development of CDVs. Early portraits such as Daguerreotype were kept in individual cases. Tin types were difficult to save in albums. Surviving albumns are wonderful historical documents. The multiple images provide important details about how one or related families dealt with clothing styles, age appropriate clothing, cultural trends such as breeching, and hair styling. Affluent families might have albums with beaitifully tooled ldather covers. Some might even have artistic script inside. Often there were metal claps to keep the allbum closed. Some even locked with a key. I'm not sure why that was seen as necessary. Less afflurnt families of course would have much more modest albums. Many family also had scrap books or "scraps" where other items including some photographs might be lovingly saved.

Wall Frames

Negatives also enabled photographic studios to print enlargements that could be framed for wall displays. We are not sure just when the first walll frame appeared, but we see them in the 1860s. A reader tells us that there were Daguerreotype and Ambrotype wall hangings. We don't think that they were very common. Daguerrotypes theoretically could be framed, but large format Dags would have been very expensive and we have not yet found examples. Small Dags would not have made very satisfactory wall hangings as you would need to be very close to see the image. Negative-basef CDVs were primarily displayed in albums. With the creation of the cabinet card (1866) we begin to have images big enough to frame. And just propping them up in cabinets was not a very successful way of sisplaying them. We note an early tin-tyype portrait of Detroit brothers that was framed for a wall hanging, probably in the late-1860s. It was still quite small. The development of negative based photography provided a sustem in which photographs could be emlarged for good sized wall hangings.

Paper Frames

The first paper frames we note were tin types. Tin types often came in inexpensive paper frames. We believe these inexpensive paper frames appeared in the 1860s, but thuis needs to be confirmed. Throughout the 1860s-90s CDVs and caninent cards were the dominant format. We only note the paper fram used with tin-types. There seems to be a very destinctive shift made at the tutn of the 20th century, although this transition mzay have varied from country to country. After the turn of the 20th century, at least in America, cardboard mounts gave way to paper mounts of various designs. These were not the cheap paper frames used for tin-types, but rather often artistically done frames with heavt paper and embossing or fancy print. Some had the photographer indicated, others were blanl. All of these dipperent approaches and the styling associated with them can be used to help date photographs.

Table/Desk Frames

Paper frames were initially bot designed to be stood up on desks and tables. Thet were designed tob be stored away and brought out to be shown. Some might have been placed in albums, but mosly they were put away in drawers or other storage areas and brouht out to show visitors. Eventually stand up paper frames were developed, but before this we see a variety of wooden and metal srand up frames. This allowed favorite portraits ro be put on display. Unlike the paper frames, these wood and metal frames may have been purchased in stors and not obtained through the photographic studio. Generally we see formal portraits in these frames at least before World War II, but eventually we begin to see family snapshots.






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Created: 1:08 AM 12/28/2006
Last updated: 12:55 AM 6/10/2010