*** photography print type : cabinet card country trends America United states chronology








Photographic Cabinet Cards: United States--Chronology


Figure 1.-- This cabinet card portrait was taken in Massachusettes during 1894. It is the classic style format with the studio and location at the bottom. There were some distinctive 1890s elements such as the Fauntleroy suit and wicker furniture, usually brown or other color. This would help date ther portrit if it had not been dated. After the turn of the century, the Funtleroy suits declined rapidly in poularity and we often see white wicker. Other destinctive features include the embossed printing which w do not see in the 1880s, but was also common in the 1900s. We see, however, fewer of these classic format cards in the 1900s. Also notice the simple backdrop. The studio information is hard to read, but is something like Caldwelle Kent in Brockton.

Albumen CDVs appeared in France during the late-1850s, but did not appear in large numbers until the end of the decade. We begin to see them in America during the early-1860s. They were the principal photographic portrait format during the 60s continued to be made throughout the rest of the 19th century, at least in Europe. The pattern in America is somewhat different. The first cabinet card appeared in America (1866) and rapidly began to replace the CDV. The only difference was that the cabinet card mount and attached photograph was larger. As cabinet cards also used the albumen process, it was very easy for studios to also offer cabinet cards. It was just a matter of a different mount and photograph size. In just a few years the cabinet card became the dominant photographic format in merica. American consumers liked the larger size. The additional cost was minimal. While we still see quite a number of CDVs in the early-70s, the great bulk of the portaits taken in America during the 1870s-1890s were cabinet cards. CDVs continued to be very common in Europe, but much less so in America. Mount styles and studio settings varied by decade. Clothing styles can also help date the cards. The mounts through the 1890s were a classic style. Colored mounts were popular in the 1880s. The 1890s cards were often whiting colors like ivory or cream. We alo see embossed studio information. We continue to see cabinet cards after the turn-of-the-20th centuey, butvthe classic style mounts disappear and we see more varuiety in both mounts and settings. The photo-bacck format appears in the 1900s, both for studios and the new snap shots. We see faewer cabinet cards in the 1900s, although it was still a popular format. And by the 1910s we begin to see far fewer cabinrt cards. The cabinrt card was no longer an important format by the 1920s.

The 1850s

The albumen process was the first commercial photographic process using negatives. It was first used to produce Carte-de-visites (CDVs), so called because they were used as calling cards. They appeared in France during the late-1850s, but did not appear in large numbers until the end of the decade. Many earlynphotographers used the same convention, a draped table with the subject sitting along side. Some photographers used the same format for early CDVs, but soon developed destinxctive

The 1860s

We begin to see albumen CDVs in America during the early-1860s. They were the principal photographic portrait format during the 60s and continued to be made throughout the rest of the 19th century, at least in Europe. The pattern in America is somewhat different. The first cabinet card appeared in America (1866) and rapidly began to replace the CDV. The only difference was that the cabinet card mount and attached photograph was larger. As cabinet cards also used the albumen process, it was very easy for studios to also offer cabinet cards. It was just a matter of a different mount and photograph size. Frim the begginning a classic style was used for cabinet cards. Like CDVs, sizes were standard so they would fit into specially made slotted albums. Like the CDVs,, most of the early cabinet cards were indoor settings.

The 1870s

In just a few years the cabinet card became the dominant photographic format in America. This was the case in the 1870s, especially by mid-decade. American consumers liked the larger size. The additional cost was minimal. While we still see quite a number of CDVs in the early-70s, the great bulk of the portaits taken in America during the 1870s-1890s were cabinet cards. CDVs continued to be very common in Europe, but much less so in America. We have no idea why this difference developed between America and many European countries. And we are not yet sure about differences among the various European countries. We also see quite a number of tin-types in the 70s. Mount styles and studio settings varied by decade. We mote a lot of dark-colored mounts, but there were light-colored mounts as well. Most cabinet cards had a studio logo at the botton left and the city and state at the botoom right. These were what we call classic late-19th century cabinet vards. We note a lot of out door settings in the portraits, including classical-looking pedestals and walls, often with mock folliage. Clothing styles can also help date the cards.

The 1880s

Colored mounts were popular in the 1880s.

The 1890s

The 1890s were one of the more destinctive decades as cincerning boys' clothing. Many boys dressed pinly in the 1890s, but we see large numbers of boys dressing in fabcy outfits. The 1990s ws the peak of the Fauntleroy craze. Some clothing styles like Fauntleroy suit and Fauntleroy styles like large floppy bows and ruffled collars. We nit only see Gauntloy suits, but standard suits wih Fauntleroy items added. Not all boys wore the Fauntleroy outfits or even suits with Fauntleroy touch, but the syle was very popular at the time. Sailor suits were also popular. Knee pants became standard for boys during the decade. They were virtually always worn with long stockings. Cabinet car mounts through the 1890s were almost entirely the classic size and style. Almost all the studio portaits were cabinet cards. We rarely see CDVs. And amateur snapshors were still not very common, although this changed in 1900 with the appearance of the Kodak Brownie. Nor do we see the post-card back photograpgs that also bcame popular after the turn of the century. The 1890s cards were often whitish or off-white colors like ivory or cream. We alo see embossed studio information for the first time. The card here in 1894 is a good example (figure 1). We note whicker furnoture becoming popular during the decade in the studio set ups, especially by mid-decase . This was mostly brown whicker we mostly see the popular white whicker after the turn-of-the 20th century. We see some portraits with simplifid settings using blank backdrops. That was not common in the 80s.

The 1900s

Major changes occurred at the turn-of-the 20th century in American cabinet cards. The mounts suddenly become much more varied. We do not know why these changes occurred so comprehensively at just this time. The changes seem unconnected with any similar changes in Europe. We continue to see cabinet cards after the turn-of-the-20th centuey, but the classic style mounts disappeared after the early-1900s. We see more variety in both mounts and settings as well as the size of the cards. The mounts often has a kind if frame affect. We notice both small and larger sizes. The sizes were quite varied. Colors also changed. We no longer see the deep colors commonly seen in the 1870s-80s, but cream colors or greenish-grey colored mounts. And the studio information presentation changed. We no longer see the information printed on the back of the cards. And the information at the bottom of the front was either absent are much less apparent. In many cases the name of the studio appeared in a small letters, often inprinted, but not the location of the studio. The photo-back format appears in the 1900s, both for studios and the new snap shots. We thus see large numbers of these post-card back photographs beginning about 1903. This development is unconnected with the changes in cabinet cards and are primarily due to the development of the Kodal Brownie making family snapshots so easy to take. Virtually instantaneously this became a major photographic format. We see fewer cabinet cards in the 1900s, although it was still a popular format.

The 1910s

Se begin to see fewer cabinet cards in the 1910s, but they continues to be an important photographic type. There were many other format by the 1910s. We see studio portraits in paper frames, postcard back photographs, and countless snapshots. The mounts are now more decorative than the rather plain cabinet of the 19th century and 1900s decade. This was part of the effort to continue appeal to the client. We see framing emerging as an importat element in the cards. The framing was done in different ways. Embossing was particularly important in the decoration. We also see larger cards than were commonn in the 19th century, another eggort to msjntain populasrity. We see new colors moving away from the cream and olive-grey colors popular in the 1900s decade.

The 1920s

We continue to see cabinrt card in the 1920s, but far fewer. They were no longer the dominant format, but we still see a number of them. Some were done with very destinctive, highly decorated mounts. Brown was a very common color for these mounts. Others were very plain, more like some mounts we see in the very early-20th century. These plainer cards seem to have been most common in school photography. Perhaps the desire for a larger size print was a factor. We note a very plain brown Philadelphia school potrait. It was a cabinet card that had a 10x15.5 in card and a photograph that measured approximately 8x14 in. We do not see the increasigly fancy mounts being used for the larger school portraits.

The 1930s

The last decade in which we see cabinet cards is the 1930s. We do not see many, far fewer than in the 1920s. But we have found a few to archive. We do not have enough examples on which to sketch out trends yet. We note basically plain cards, but with extensive framing lines, including colored lines. A lot of the cabinet cards done in the 30s were school portraits. These could be quite large with 8x10 in photographs. Class or whole school portraits are not of much value unless the portraits are a large size. As far as we can tell, the 1930s was the last decade in which cabinet cards were done. These large cards were commonly plain with less decoration and framing than the smaller sizes. One example we have found is a large card, but with extensive framing.

The 1940s

We have not yet found any cabinet cards from the 1940s.







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Created: 6:03 AM 7/1/2013
Last updated: 1:07 AM 6/28/2024