The Shelby Museum Of History
 
 
 
 
 


 
Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre invented the daguerreotype process in France and made the
process public at a meeting of the French Academy of Sciences in Paris. However, due to the
long exposure time (three to fifteen minutes) it was not often used (at that time) for portrait use.
A daguerreotype is produced on a sheet of copper which has an applied silvered coating
that has been polished to a mirror-like consistency. The plate is then sensitized by a
vapor of iodine, exposed in the camera, and developed with mercury vapor.
(The photographer's life was understandably shorter than the average.)
 
The exposure sensitivity was improved in the mid 1840s using chlorine or bromine fumes in
addition to the iodine vapor (exposure time was reduced to less than a minute) which
allowed the use in portrait taking. Daguerreotypes are quite delicate and for this reason
were protected by a layer of glass and enclosed in a folding case which when closed
protected them.
 
Additional copies of daguerreotypes could only be achieved by rephotographing the
original photo.Copies could also be produced by heliotype, lithography or engraving.
 
When viewed, the daguerreotype was a bit difficult to "see". The viewing angle was quite
critical and when viewed to either side the image "disappeared" and was replaced
by reflections from the shiny mirror surface. When aligned properly the image
could be sharp and exhibit great detail.
 
 
 
Daguerreotype courtesy of local collector - c. 1855
 
Size: Sixth plate 2-3/4" x 3-1/4"
 

The earliest daguerreotype cameras were often only made by reading-glass opticians or highly skilled
instrument makers. Occasionally the early photographers devised their own cameras. Exposures were
made by removing a lens cap on the front of the box shaped camera and manually counting
the minutes and seconds.
 
Daguerreotypes were replaced by ambrotypes and then later by tintypes and albumen prints.
 
 
 
Daguerreotype Plate Sizes:
Whole plate 6-1/2" x 8-1/2"
Half plate 4-1/4" x 5-1/2"
Quarter plate 3-1/4" x 4-1/4"
Sixth plate 2-3/4" x 3-1/4"
Ninth plate 2" x 2-1/2"
Sixteenth plate 1-3/8" x 1-5/8"
 
                       
 
 

 
Shelby Pioneer Newspaper - May, 1859
 
 
 
Frederick Scott Archer, in association with Peter Fry, invented the ambrotype process in the 1850s.
In 1854 it was patented by James Ambrose Cutting. The original Archer - Fry process was a negative
process and Cutting's process used a positive, This process was much cheaper than the daguerreotype
process invented by Louis Daguerre.
 
The ambrotype process uses a wet plate collodion process to create a positive photographic image
on a sheet of glass. The glass plate is coated with an iodized collodion material and the plate
is then sensitized in a bath of silver nitrate and placed in the camera to be exposed. A developer
is then used to produce the image and the resulting plate is then placed on a dark background,
where it will appear to look like a positive.
 
 
The ambrotype process was quite popular through the Civil War. It didn't have many of the
undesirable qualities of the daguerreotypes. The image could be viewed from a wide angle
without "disappearing" in a mirrory, illusive background that was typical of the daguerreotype photo.
 
 
 
 Ambrotype courtesy private collectorcaption

 

 

 Ambrotype - photo c. 1862 

 Size : Ninth plate 2" x 2-1/2"

Case closed
 
 
Ambrotypes also were supplied to the customer in an enclosed case very much like the earlier daguerreotypes
for similar reasons. Ambrotypes decreased in popularity when tintypes and albumen prints became available.
 
 
 
Ambrotype Plate Sizes:
Whole plate 6-1/2" x 8-1/2"
Half plate 4-1/4" x 5-1/2"
Quarter plate 3-1/4" x 4-1/4"
Sixth plate 2-3/4" x 3-1/4"
Ninth plate 2" x 2-1/2"
Sixteenth plate 1-3/8" x 1-5/8"
 
 
 

 
Tintype photos (also ferrotype) were produced with the image on a metal surface, rather than on
glass or paper. The tintype process was an improvement of the ambrotype. It was invented
and patented by Prof. Hamilton Smith of Ohio in 1856.
 
As mentioned above, ambrotype images were negatives on glass and viewed against a black surface.
Tintypes were negatives on iron that was precoated with black lacquer or enamel paint. The
major attraction of the tintype was the fact that it was much cheaper to produce than an ambrotype,
and was more durable.
 
Tintypes would be exposed with the previously sensitized collodion on the wet metal, and would
then be immediately developed. The production time was much faster than the previous
daguerreotype or ambrotype processes and therefore could be available soon after the photos were taken.
 
 

Cased  Tintype - photo c. 1862
 
Size : Sixth plate - 2-3/4" x 3-1/4"
 
 
 
Private collection

 Tintypes - photos c. 1867

 Size: Sixth plate 2-1/2" x 3"
Backs
 
 
 
Due to the simplicity, this process enabled many "new" photographers to set up studios and supply
pictures that were fast, much less expensive, and most times of lesser quality. In later years, some
cameras were equipped with multiple lens in a manner to expose a number of areas on the
tinplate thereby creating many identical images. The "Gem" size (see below) was often used on
personal calling cards that were quite popular at the time.
 
 
 
Private collection
"Gem"
 
 
Some of these photos were supplied in cases similar to those used with daguerreotypes and ambrotypes
and sometimes are mistaken for ambrotypes, however a magnet will soon determine the difference. The
more inexpensive photos were supplied in a paper viewing envelope or on a paper mount.
 
 
 
Private collection
photo c. 1865
 
 
The lower quality of the process usually dictated the use of the smaller size plates (below).
 
 
Tintype Plate Sizes:
Whole plate 6-1/2" x 8-1/2"
Half plate 4-1/4" x 5-1/2"
Quarter plate 3-1/8" x 4-1/8"
Sixth plate 2-1/2" x 3"
Ninth plate 2" x 2-1/2"
Sixteenth plate 1-5/8" x 1"
 
Gem plate ....... 1/2" x 1"
                   
 


 
Albumen prints became the most popular and widely used of any other type of photographic positive
made during the nineteen-hundreds. They were made by first coating thin sheets of paper with egg
whites and salt, then floating them on silver nitrate to sensitize them to light. The actual image is
created by printing under the albumen negative exposed to sunlight. The finished picture is fixed,
washed, (to neutralize it) and attached to a paper mounting. The finished photo likely has a sepia
color and a satiny to glossy surface.
 
Advantages:
 
The negative may be kept and used multiple times.
Images can be printed as many as eight at one time.
The image is on a paper surface which in turn is attached to a heavier durable paper mount.
Information can be printed on the back of the paper mount.
 
This process was invented by Louis Desire Blanquart-Evrard of France in 1850 and the process applied
by Andre Adolphe Eugene Disderito thereby inventing the CDV several years later.
 
 
The Cartes-de-Visite - CDV (Visiting Card) was used during the period 1853/4 to the 1890s.
The CDV mount measures approximately 2 - 1/2 " by 4 - 3/16".
 
 
 
Private collection
photo c. 1861-62
 
 
Many earlier CDV photos use a vignette approach. Only a portion of the photo surface is used with
the subject (usually a solitary individual) centered and looking solemn. A large portion of these
vignettes are cropped to include just the face or head and shoulders.
 
 
 
 
Photo courtesy of the Shelby Museum
photo c. 1863-64
 
 
Note the use of the entire photo surface. The photo production process is the same as used in the
vignette (above); however, this approach generally includes a larger portion of the subject itself and
since the vast majority of photos taken during this period were done under controlled indoor studio
environment, the studio now becomes part of the picture. Chairs and backdrops begin to be chosen
with an eye toward the finished product. These "props" then become a reoccurring portion of
photographs that originate from that particular studio. This is a wonderful means of determining
the origin of a photo that had not been "marked" in some manner by the photographer. By this time,
Mrs. M. Madden had acquired a rather more detailed and elegant means of marking her photos.
 
 
 
 
Photo courtesy of the Shelby Museum
photo c. 1868-72
 
 
Note the evenly rounded corners of the photo mount and the detailed back marking of this Fred. Smith CDV.
The photo process itself has improved, giving greater photo detail , however it is still yielding a sepia toned finish.
 
 
The rapid advance of photo processing techniques, better photo materials and more affordable
cameras for the local photographer, combined with increased competition among photographers,
brought a boom in the popularity of personal photographs. The final product was much improved,
more durable, and priced within the range of a larger portion of the population.
 
This produced the golden period for CDVs and the introduction of the cabinet photo format.
 
 
 

 
The cabinet card format was first used in London, England in 1863 and became popular in the United States
by the early 1870s. The card measures approximately 4 - 1/4 " x 6 - 1/2 " and initially was constructed
using the albumen process. While the CDV was most often used for personal individual photos,
the cabinet card would at first be used for group pictures or scenic outdoor views.
 
Later the cabinet format was used for individual portraits as well as groups. Different processes replaced
the albumen paper process and the resulting differences can be seen in the finished product. Where the
early albumen prints always tended toward sepia tones, the later processes produced crisper detail and
more depth of blacks and brighter whites.
 
 

 

 

Private collection
 
 
The CDV (left) was taken in the late 1870s while the cabinet photo on the right is from the mid 1880s.
Note the advancement on the photo production process. The sepia tones are largely gone in the cabinet photo.
The studio props are much more involved and the photo mount material thicker and of a more durable
construction. The photographer's marking on the front of the photo mount is done in gold and the beveled
edges are gilded as well.
 
 
Private collection
 
 
 
By the early 1880s the cabinet card had all but displaced the CDV. It was the format of choice for wedding
photos for many years. It's natural place was on a cabinet in the sitting room of the newlyweds. Both of these
photos were taken in 1890-1891.
 
 
And of course, vignette portraits of distinction and beauty were recorded as well.
 
 
 
Private collection
 
 
 
 
The cabinet format continued in popularity into the new century and was still being used after WWI.
The introduction of the Kodak Box Brownie camera (in late 1900) was the beginning of the demise
of the cabinet print.
 
 
Advantages:
 
The same as those of the CDV with the additional advantage that the larger size allowed easier
viewing when placed on a stand or cabinet in the home or office.
 
 
 
 
If you have questions or if you would like more information, please contact :
 
The Shelby Museum of History
% Sally Maier
76 Raymond Ave.
Shelby, Ohio 44875
 
Email  Us
 
 

 
 
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