A cabinet card consists of an albumen print (although later cards used matte collodion, gelatin or gelatin bromide paper) mounted on a standard sized card backing of 4¼ by 6½ inches. Like the earlier carte de visite, the card displayed details of the the photographic studio that took the photograph, either below the below the photograph, on the back of the card, or both.
They were introduced in 1863 by a British photographic studio, Windsor & Bridge, and became widely used for portrait photography (initially, they were intended for landscape photography), superseding the smaller carte de visite. Cabinet cards were placed in albums like the carte de visite, although it was a few years before albums specifically for the larger size of cabinet cards became available, or could be placed on stands or in frames for display (often in parlour cabinets, hence the name). They reached a peak in their popularity in the 1880s.
The introduction of the simple and inexpensive Brownie camera by Kodak in 1900, meant home photography became much more affordable and the studio portrait less necessary, but cabinet cards continued to be produced as late as the early 1920s.
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A carte de visite consists of a small albumen print photograph on paper mounted on cards of around 2½ by 4 inches. The size of the format was patented by a Parisian photographer, André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri in 1854, and soon spread to the UK and the US. The standard size meant people could exchange portraits or even buy celebrity portraits and place them in special carte de visite albums. Cartes de visite could also be sent easily in the post unlike the previous daguerreotype and ambrotype photographs.
Carte de visite photographs were created in a camera that had multiple lenses, allowing several images on a single large glass photographic plate to reduce the cost. Since the negative was on a glass plate (using the wet collodian process) any number of further copies could be made.
In England, carte de visite were very popular, with sales running into hundreds of millions annually, and they also became popular during the American Civil War as soldiers and their families posed for photos. Most images were taken in the studio, though there were some of landscapes.
Sales of cartes de visite reached a peak during the 1860s, but they remained popular until the early 20th century despite the introduction of the larger cabinet card in the 1860s. Earlier examples usually use thinner card and the card had square corners. Rounded corners on the mount were introduced in the 1870s.
The introduction of the simple and inexpensive Brownie camera by Kodak in 1900, meant home photography became much more affordable and the studio portrait less necessary.
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