New American Cabinet Cards: Mount Styles (1898-20)

boy dress

Figure 1.--This cabinet card portrait of Ruchard Lancaster Witzleben was taken in 1899. These new style cabinet card mounts were mostly seen in the 1900s, but we see a few before the turn-of-th century.

The chronological trend of cabinet cards can be easily followed as the photographic record is so extensive. The only roblem is that most are undated. Througout the late-19th century we see cabinet cards with mostly the same size,shape and mount styles. This chnaged as the turn-of-the century. We mostly notice these new style cabinet cards in the 1900s. They were not totally a style popular in the 1900s, but this was definitely the most common decade. We notice a few in the 1890s. 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 one unidentified card from 1898. They were done in a great variety of shaps anbd sizes. Some were smaller than traditinal cabnet cards and a few were larger. There were alkso fifferent shapes, such as shapes. A good example is a portrait of Richard Lancaster Witzleben in 1899 (figure 1). 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. The great majority of these new style cards date to the 1900s. This is when we see most of these new-style cabinet card mounts. They appear in large numbers and in a variety of styles. We also see postcard back prints in addition to cabinet cards. We also see some n the 1910s, but far fewer. Cabinet cards become very rare after World War I in the 1920s. Here we see mostly postcard back prints and unattached prints with paper frames.

The 1890s

The chronological trend of cabinet cards can be easily followed as the photographic record is so extensive. The only roblem 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 1890s. 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 one unidentified card from 1898. 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 (figure 1). 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.

The 1900s

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, bny 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. We mostly notice these new style cabinet cards in the 1900s. It did not all occur precisely in 1900 but the transition was bery striking. Sudenly there was a variety of new styles in large numbers. There was no a style only popular in the 1900s, but this was definitely the most common decade. The great majority of these new style cards date to the 1900s. Unfortunately most are undated, but the clothing styles depicted help to approximtely date the portraits to the 1900s. This is when we see most of these new-style cabinet card mounts. They appear in large numbers and in a variety of styles. Unlike previous decades, cabinet cards were no longer the overwealmingly dominant studio portrait format. We also see postcard back prints in addition to cabinet cards. Unfortunately, unlike traditional cabint cards, both the new style cabinet cards and the postcard back portrait do nos how the studio or city. The variety of shaps and sizes suggest that albums desigbed to hold standardized sizes were no longer very popular. We still see some albumen prints, but during the decade we see a shift to silver-nitrate prints.

The 1910s

We also see some of the new style mounts in the 1910s, but far fewer. As result of the different formats becoming popular, 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. Most of the prints are silver-nitrate rather tham ambumen. We rarely see elabirate back printig like the classic style mounts.

The 1920s

Cabinet cards become very rare after World War I in the 1920s. Here we see mostly postcard back prints and unattached prints with paper frames. 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. The mounts are often drab colors. Some are ornate. Others just have impressed framing.







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Created: 9:13 PM 10/12/2013
Last updated: 1:00 PM 9/19/2017