American Cabinet Cards: New Style Cards

American boy tunic popularity

Figure 1.--Here we see a family cabinet card portrait in 1912. By this time, cabinet cards were declining in populrity. The card measures 7.5" x 9.5", larger than the classic 19th century cabinet card. It is dated Janury 2, 1912 and includes cousins as well as siblings. The families are Knock, Kruse, and Smit, all German sounding names. Note all the boys are wearing tunic suits, a very popular fashion at the time. The child at right we believe is a boy. The names are written at the bottom of the card, but are difficult to read. We have figured out some of them.Click on the image if you would like to help decipher the names. The boys look to be about 3-5 years old. The two girls are older and wear dresses. We see small cabinet cards in the 1900s, but by the 1910s we see mostly these larger cards.

Cabinet cards were very standard in the 19th century (1860s-90s). This meant both the size and format. Suddenly this changed. We do not know why this change took place or who was responsible. For reasons we do not fully understand, about the turn-of-the 20th century we see r)adical changes in the mounts and formats used for these cards. We suspect it was an effort to compete wih the Kodak Browie and the explosion of mateur snapshits, nost of which were no mounted. Sizes become much more varied. We see both smaller and larger cards. Some of these new formats began to appear in the late-1890s, but they were most pronounced in the 1900s. We see small cream cards with patterned paper. Very small prints were popular in these new cars, sonetimes with oval formatting. We also see larger cards with large prints. Gray green was popular for the mounts. We see many new sizes and mount styles (1900s-10s). Cabinet cards continued to be popular in the 1900s, but we begin to see other formats, postcard back prints and studio portraits offered in paper frames. As result, by the 1910s we see far fewer cabinet cards. The ones we do see tend to be larger and we no longer see cards with very small images. We also begin to see silver nitrate prints rather than just albumen prints, but we are not yet knowledge about this.

Small Numbers (1890s)

Photography in the 1890s was still dominated by studio photography. And we promrily see the claaic cabinet card mounts that first ppeared in the 1860s. These were 4 by 6 inch cards with the studio ans city information at the bottom. A new style mount appeared at the trn of the century with manu different sizes and styles. While the change occurred rather suddenly at the turn-of-the cenyry, but we do see some in the 1890s, mostly the later-90s. We have not yet found examples from the 1880s and almost all the examples we have found come from the late 90s. We discussed this with apominent internet photo dealer. He insisted that were numerous examples, we think because he wanted 19th cetry dates to improve his sales. Our experience is that the change did not magically occur on Januaey 1, 1900, but te the number of 1890s examples are was rather limited. This of course is a little difficult to assess because so many of the cards are not dated.

Sudden Change (1900-05)

Cabinet cards were very basically standard in the 19th century (1860s-90s). This meant both the size and format. The sizes were the same largely like CDVs, clients liked to collect this in ready made albums which required standard sizes. The colors were more varied, although there are decadal patterns. Suddenly at the turn of the century this changed. We do not know why this change took place or who was responsible or why it took place so suddenly at the turn-of-the century. For reasons we do not fully understand, about the turn-of-the 20th century we see radical changes in the mounts and formats used for these cards. We suspect it was an effort to compete wih the Kodak Browie and the explosion of mateur snapshits, nost of which were no mounted. We do see some hints if the new style in the 1890s. A portrait of a smartly dressed New York boy is a good example in 1896, but most of the new styles we have found took place just at the turn-of-the 20th century or right after it. While we do not see the new styles to any extent until the turn-of-the century, we do continue to see the classuc style mount for a few years, especially 1900-05. After that we mostly see the nwew styles.

Mounts

We see all kinds of changes in cabinet cards at the turn-of-the 20th century. We see new sizes ans shapes. This was not unknow with the kassic mounts, but was rather rate. After the turn-of-rge centyry e see large numbers of cards dine in new shpsa and sizes. We see different colors being used for the new style mounts. We don't see the colors like blue, black, burgundy, and white as we see in the 19th century. White and ivory cabinets cards were very common in the 1890s. But at the turn of the 20th century we see destinctive new colors. They seem duller colors and fewer options. Cream. browm, and greyish shades of olive seem particularly common after the turn of the 20th century. Brown was also popular. The question of mountstyles for the new generation of a cabinet cards is a very complicated ond, principally because there were so many different styles. We have no idea why the mouints were so uniform before the turnn of the century and son varied afterwards. One possibility was the appearance of snapshots and postcard-backed photographs. As a result of these nbew types, the standardized slot albums for CDVs and cabinet cards were no longer so popular. The change did not occur precisely on Janyary 1, 1900, but the change was remarably sudden and ocurred around the tirn-of-the century. We see some of the new styles in the late-1890s and some old styles in the early-1900s, but for the most part the transition was remarkably sudden at the turn-of-the century. Just why this change occured so suddenly and was so remarkably wide sporead we do not know.

Prints

Not only were the mouts different sizes and shapes, but so were the actual photographic image pasted on the card. Mostly the prints dominate the cards, but not nearly as much as in the 19th century.

Shapes

The prints were done in duffereht shapes. We note a new style mount with a an oval window imge, Illinois boy Dayton Sizer we believe in 1904.

Sizes

Print sizes of the new cabinet cards just like the mount sizes also varied with the turn of the 20th century. We see smaller and larger prints as well as some the old sizes seen uin the 189th century. Very small prints were popular in these new cards. We suddently see pribts smaller than the ones once with CDVs. We have no idea why small sizes suddently became so popular. Duribng the late-19th century, most people wanted larger sized prints. Sometimes we see these with oval formatting. Here sizes varied quite a bit. In some cases we see very small images on large cards. We also see larger prints than were common in the 19th century. We saw some large prints in the 19th century, but they were not very common. We no longer see such stadardized print sizes with the turn-of-th century. We see many more small prinrs. We see more large prnts as ell, but they were not as common as the small sized prints. We are just beginning our assessment here.

Backs

It was very common for both CDvs and cabinet cards to have studio advertising on the back. The traditional-styled mounts often ciontinued to have the printed backs, but not the new-styled cards. Not all had these printed backs, but many did. After the turn-of-the centuy these printed backs become much less common.

Popularity


Chronology

Cabinet cards continued to be popular in the 1900s. We have found many large numbers of 1900s cabinet cards. The cabinent card was no longer the only important format. In the 1890s, ny our calculations over 90 oercent of the photographic record was cabinet cards. This was no longer the case after the turn-of-the century at least by 1904. It was then that we begin to see post-card back images. We see post-card back portraits as well as other formats, postcard back prints and studio portraits offered in paper frames. As result, by the 1910s we see far fewer cabinet cards. And we see fewer types of the new tyles. In particular we see fewer small and square format cards as well as fewe narrow cards with small images. Photograph in America was so expansive that we have found quite a number, but as a percentage of the overall photographic record it was much smaller. We see color and rule frames being used in more striking ways. The 1912 card here is a good example (figure 1). The ones we do see tend to be larger and we no longer see cards with very small images. Some are very ornate. We also see cabinet cards in the 1920s, but relatively few. They were becoming much less common as a percentage of the overall photographic record or even studio photogrphic record. Quite a number of the ones we have found are school portraits, presumably because studios were contracted to take the portraits. .

Process

We also begin to see silver nitrate prints rather than just albumen prints, but we are not yet knowledge about this.








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Created: 11:17 PM 6/14/2012
Last updated: 11:22 AM 1/24/2018