Most of the images in my collection of unknown photos are cabinet cards. Although introduced in England in 1866, cabinet cards did not become popular in the United States until the late 1870’s. If my dating estimates are close, the cards in this collection date from the mid 1880’s and later.
Photo paper in the late century was thin and subject to curling, so the photographer would mount the picture on a stiff card measuring usually 4¼ by 6½ inches, considerably larger than tintypes andThe cabinet card’s name probably derived from the fact that these larger cards could be displayed on a cabinet and seen from across the room, unlike their smaller predecessors.
The card itself evolved over time from very plain to quite elegant and included different colors, edges, borders, and fancy artwork advertising the studio. These attributes are used to determine the approximate dates the photos were taken. I estimated the dates attached to the photos in this gallery using the card designs and the guidelines in 19th Century Card Photos Kwik Guide by Gary W. Clark. Hair styles and clothing fashion are also used to date photos, but I found this difficult and confusing. That method I will leave to the experts. The date of one photo however I am sure of because someone took the time to write it on the back. Continue reading