** photography print type : cabinet card cards








Photographic Print Type: Cabinet Card


Figure 1.--Here we see how the name cabinet card was acquired. The cards were proped up on cabinets and other pieces of furniture like pianos. (Stand up paper frames had not yet been invented.) Charley Halsey is sitting in front of of the family a Victor Chicago pump organ during the early 1900s, probably about 1910. Notice all the cabinet cards. They look to be the new style of cabinet cards that appeared after the turn-of-the 20th century. This and Charley's knicker suits help to date the image. Click on the image for a fuller discussion.

The cabinet card was the most important photographic portrait format of the 19th century. More cabinet card were made than any other type of print. The cabinet card was introduced in 1866 and soon surpassed the smaller CDV format in popularity. Some clients, however, continued to prefer the CDV prints. We are not entirely sure as to why 19th century clients chose one from or the other. A cabinet card is a simple term to describe a print that is mounted upon period card stock. There were various kinds of mounts. At first raw paste board was used. Later cards appeared with a gloss finish. As with CDVs, the card board was used to protect prints which were normally made on very insubstantial paper. The characteristics of the photographic paper changed as improvements were made in the photographic process. The printed cardboard mounts that the image were pasted on were printed with information about the photographer and studio. The colors, script style, and art work used to decorate the mounts varied over time and can also used to help date these cards. There were also change in borders and other aspects of he mounts. Early cards were normally sepia in color, but the colors varied over time and can be useful in dating the cards. Later cards with soft, silverish tones as well as rich blacks. Subsequent cards were Although used for a variety of subjects, this was the most common way to display portraits in the 19th century. the cabinet type was a popular format for 19th-century photographs. It is a photograph mounted on heavy card stock and measures approximately 6 1/2 x 4 1/4-1/2 inches. Cabinet cards were usually studio portraits. Cabinet cards of celebrities were a favorite subject. Celebrity cards were widely collected in the last quarter of the 19th century. The cabinet card lost much of its popularity after 1900 with the introduction of the Brownie and rise of amateur photography. The cabinet card largely disappeared by the end of World War I.

Importance

The cabinet card was one of the most important photographic portrait format of the 19th century. The CDV appeared first, the cabinet card a few years later. They were both albumen print formats. More cabinet card were made than any other type of print in the United States from about 1870-1905. This was not the case in Euriope where the CDV appears to have been the dominant format. We are not sure why this difference developed.

Chronology

The cabinet card was introduced in 1866 and soon surpassed the smaller CDV format in popularity. Note the date. This means that there were no Civil WAr cabinent cards. There were CDVs, but not Civil War cabinent cards. The cabinet cards were particularly popular from 1875-1895. hey began to decline in the late 1890s, but especially after 1900 with the development of the Kodak Brownie and the popularity of amateur snapshots. Also after 1895 new forms of portraits appeared. Cabinet cards declined as a result after 1895 and become increasing rare in America during the 1900s. The time line is somewhat different in Europe where cabinet cards were still being made at the inset of World War I in 1914. A few were even still being made in the early 1920s. A problem working with cabinent cards, as with other formats is that most are not dated. There are a variety of indicators that can help date these cards.

CDVs and Cabinet Cards

While cabinet cards in America rapidly became the most popular format, some clients, however, continued to prefer the CDV prints. We are not entirely sure as to why 19th century clients chose one foam or the other. And in Europe the CDV remained the dominant portrait type during the late-19th century. We are unsure why this disparity developed.

Terminology

The term cabinet card is a simple term to describe a print that is mounted on heavy period card stock. The term supposedly related to the fact that cabinet cards were larger than CDVs and could be more effectively displayed in cabinets. It was, however, essentially a large CDV. Both were waus of displaying albumen prints. Cabinet cards could be and were displayed in albumns, but they were rather bulky. The name, however, comes from the tendency to prop them up in cabinets. The CDVs could be used the same way, but the small size meant they they could not be very effectively displayed this way.

Size

Cabinet cards are relatively standard sizes. They are easily destinguished from the smaller CDV format cards. Usually the dimensions are no more than 6� x 4� inches (16.5 x 11.4 centimeters). The sizes were fairly standard until the late-1890s when we begin to bsee a greater variety of sizes appearing.

Mounts

The distinguishing feature of the cabinet card was the commercially printed mounting cards on which the actual photograph was pasted. There were various kinds of mounts. The variations in the mounts are of considerable interest because they can be used to help date the image. As large numbers of these images are today found without any provenance and are undated. At first raw paste board was used. Later cards appeared with a glossy finish. The printed cardboard mounts that the image were pasted on were printed with information about the photographer and studio. Almost all cabinet cards and an imprint giving the name and location of the studio. The colors, script style, and art work used to decorate the mounts varied over time and can also used to help date these cards. There were also change in borders and other aspects of he mounts. Some of the mounts were quite fancy including those with ornate gilt borders. The popularity of the nount colors, shapes, embossing, and gilding varied over time. This can be used to help date the portraits.

Stage Setting

We notice several styles of portrait srge settings. We notice some portraits tht look rather like an empty stage setting. This was most common with CDVs in the 1860s. As the cabinet card emerged as a standard in America, we notice fancy rooms, often book-lined studies, clsical ettings, rustic setting, bust shots, and others. Classical settings often mean beautifully worked stone walls, fake rocks and grass, turned oiver colums, or other clasical images. Ivy was often added. An example of a classical setting is Walter Jakeman in 1881. We also notice outdoors scenes with trees, shrubery, grass, rivers, waterfalls, and fences. A good examople of a rustic setting complere with a fake iock is Frank and his brother in 1885. Another rustic setting is Walter Hoskins in 1890. We notice settings with a kind of misty out of focus bckground with clouds and flowers or other poetic scene. Edward in 1895 is a good example.

Country Trends

CDVs appeared in the late 1859s and remained popular throughout the rest of the 19th century, at least in Europe. The pattern in America is different. The first cabinent card appeared in America during 1866 and rapidly began to replace the CDV. While we still see somne CDVs, the great bulk of the portaits taken in America during the 1870s-1890s were cabinent cards. We almost never see the term cabinent card or cabinent portrait used on these American cards. In Europe, however, we do see some of these cards labeled "caninent portrait" and this included non-English speaking continental countries. We are not sure just why this was. Perhaps cabonent cards were seen as a British or American format, just as the CDV is a French term used because oif its French origins.

Back

Unlike the CDV, many cabinet cards had blank backs. This caried, but by the 1870s we find many CDVs with printed backs advertising the studio. This seems less common with cabinent cards, at leat American cards.

Photographic Process and Paper

Most cabinet cards were albumen prints, but some were made using other processes as well. As with CDVs, the card board was used to protect prints which were normally made on very insubstantial paper. The characteristics of the photographic paper changed as improvements were made in the photographic process. Early cards were normally sepia in color, but the colors varied over time and can be useful in dating the cards. Later cards with soft, silverish tones as well as rich black shades. These black and white cards are almost from the 1890s and look rather a black and white photograph. These black and white cabinet cards have a generally neutral image tone . They ere normally produced on a matte collodion, gelatin or gelatin bromide paper. A few cabinet cards have a greenish cast. Gelatin-based photographic papers appeared during the 1870s and by the 1880s and 90s were widely used along with gelatin bromide papers. There were prints with other tints. We have noted some with a bluish tint to the non-image area surrounding a grayish-brown image area. There were also tinted albumen papers that became popular during the 1880s, with interesting color combinations such as pink and blue coloration in the non-image area. We also note brownish gray images and blue paper. While these color combinations do exist, they are relatively uncommon.

Portraits

Subsequent cards were Although used for a variety of subjects, this was the most common way to display portraits in the 19th century.

Celberity Cards

Photographers played a major role in extending the popularity of celeberity. The multiple printings possible with the negatives used to make CDVs and cabinet cards meant that photographers could sell images of celeberties to the public and collecting these images became a popular hobby. It is unclear to what extent celeberties themselves benfitted or even approved of the early sles of tgese cards. Theater and music stars eventually had cards made for sale or publicity distribution to fans. These cards were made in both the CDV and cabinet cards. The earliest celeberity cards wre CDVs, but by the 1870s you find increasing numbers od cekeberity cabinet cards. Some studios even copied cards made by other studios and sold them.

Portrait Style

The photographic style used for the cabinet cards was essentially the same as the CDV, in part because the time frame for both formats is comparabe. Some difference is attributable to the large size of the cabinet card.

Studio Photography

Cabinet cards were usually studio portraits. Outdoor scenes were rare. Most were simple or individual or family portraits. Cabinet cards of celebrities were a favorite subject. Celebrity cards were widely collected in the last quarter of the 19th century.

Family Albums


Amateur Snap Shots

The cabinet card lost much of its popularity after 1900 with the introduction of the Brownie and rise of amateur photography. The cabinet card largely disappeared by the end of World War I.







HBC






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Created: May 3, 2003
Last updated: 11:59 PM 10/19/2010