New American Cabinet Cards: Mount Style Chronology--the 1890s

boy dress

Figure 1.--All we know about his cabinet card is that it was taken in 1898. We see a few of these new and varied cabinet cards in the late-1890s, but nost they werea 20th century style.

Photography in the 1890s was still dominated by studio photography. And we continue to see primarily the classic cabinet card mounts that first appeared in the 1860s. These were 4 by 6 inch cards with the studio and city information at the bottom. There were larger photographs, but they werenot verycommon. A new style mount appeared at the turn of the century with many different sizes and styles. We see varied sizes, both smaller and larger and different styles. While the change occurred rather suddenly at the turn-of-the century, 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 a prominent internet photo dealer. He insisted that were numerous examples, we think because he wanted 19th century dates to improve his sales. Our experience is that the change did not magically occur on Januaey 1, 1900, but the 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. The chronological trend of cabinet cards can be easily followed as the photographic record is so extensive. The only problem is that most are undated. Througout the late-19th century we see cabinet cards with mostly the same size,shape and mount styles. This chaged at the turn-of-the century. We notice a few in the late-1890s. We do not notice these new style mounts in the early part of the decade. We see some cards begining to diverge somewhat in the mid-1890s. And we begin to see some of these cards at the end of the decade. We note this unidentified card from 1898 (figure 1). This card was 5 3/8" x 6 1/2 inches, similar in size to the standard 19th century cabinet cards. This is the earliest new style mount we have found so far. There may be earlier examples, but not much earlier as even late-1890s examples are rare. They were done in a great variety of shaps and sizes. Some were smaller than traditional cabnet cards and a few were larger. There were also different shapes, such as squares. A good example is a portrait of Richard Lancaster Witzleben in 1899. It is a cream card with an indented frames and moddeled surface texture. We do not see many before this. But we see large numbers with the turn-of-the-century.

1890s Phoography

Photography in the 1890s was still dominated by studio photography. And we continue to see primarily the classic cabinet card mounts that first appeared in the 1860s. These were 4 by 6 inch cards with the studio and city information at the bottom. There were larger photographs during the classic period (1860s-90s), but they were not very common. We no longer see many CDVs which wre still made in Europe. We ee some family snapshots, taken by keen amateurs, but they were a small part of the photgraphic record of the decade. Wedo not yet se the photo postcards that became so important in the 1900s.

Classic Mounts in the 1890s

We continue to see mostly the classic-style cabinet cards that first appeared in the 1860s. Most have the name of he studio and the city and state information at the bottom or at the side in horizonal format portraits. Almost all were taken in the studio. School photography could be an exception as to sizesand mounts. One trend in the 1890s was that many of the mounts were light colors, usually cream or whitish shade. A huge share of the 1890s photographic record were these classic cards.

Mixed Style Mounts in the 1890s

Most cabinet card mounts were either the old classic style or one of the new styles. We see a few mounts that were a kind of mix, using elements of the old and new mounts. The ones we have noted are the larger sized new style mounts, not the small ones. Actually w were a ittle surprised when we first saw examples. Prhaps we just did not notice them earlier before we began to study the mounts in detail. We have not found very many, even without the dates. The only dated ones we have found are from the second half of the decade. Of course this is basedon a very small number. But given the very small number overall, we believe this is a rough indicator of relative prevalence.

New Style Mounts in the 1890s

A new style mount appeared at the turn of the century with many different sizes and styles. We see varied sizes, both smaller and larger and different styles. While the change occurred rather suddenly at the turn-of-the century, we do see afew examples frome in the 1890s. Thy are a very small proportion of the decade photogrphs, mostly from 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 a prominent internet photo dealer. He insisted that were numerous examples, we think because he wanted 19th century dates to improve his sales. Our experience is that the change did not magically occur on Januaey 1, 1900, but the 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, but the evidence of the dated images found give us a basic reference point. The chronological trend of cabinet cards can be easily followed as the photographic record is so extensive. The only problem is that most are undated. Througout the late-19th century we see cabinet cards with mostly the same size,shape and mount styles. This chaged at the turn-of-the century. We notice a few in the late-1890s. We do not notice these new style mounts in the early part of the decade. We see some cards begining to diverge somewhat in the mid-1890s. And we begin to see some of these cards at the end of the decade. We note this unidentified card from 1898 (figure 1). This card was 5 3/8" x 6 1/2 inches, similar in size to the standard 19th century cabinet cards. This is the earliest new style mount we have found so far. There may be earlier examples, but not much earlier as even late-1890s examples are rare. They were done in a great variety of shaps and sizes. Some were smaller than traditional cabnet cards and some were lrger. Many had much larger margins andcardarea than the clsic style. There were also different shapes, such as squares. A good example is a portrait of Richard Lancaster Witzleben in 1899. It is a cream card with an indented frames and moddeled surface texture. We do not see many before this. But we see large numbers with the turn-of-the-century.







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Created: 1:08 AM 9/8/2014
Last updated: 3:36 AM 3/7/2018