c. 1860-70's CDV Carte de Visite Photograph of Hattie Keith & Dora Keith, NJ Photographer: Levi Longcor, Washington, New Jersey. Counties: Bergen, Burlington, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Sussex, and Warren.
Photography: An Article about the History of Antique CDV Carte de Visite Photographs
by Debra Clifford, Ancestorville
At Ancestorville, we have over 1250 family identified vintage CDV Carte de Visite photographs to go up, all searchable by surname, county, photographer name and noted where they were found. They offer an invaluable look at early antique photography, family names, clothing, early textiles and fabric, hair styles, genealogy, regions, and also allow us to meet our lost family members face to face! Each offers an important clue as to surname, regional towns and area history, and connect lost family ties. Each Ancestorville family is waiting to be found, and can be purchased directly, or as digital scans.
CDV or Carte de Visite photographs are small albumen (made with egg white) photo prints that were developed on thin paper. They were mounted on a heavier cut cardstock measuring about 2 1/2 by 4 inches. Different color mounts, square or rounded corners, styles and thicknesses, glued off center, backmarks of photographers etc. can be the important clues to dating your old family photographs.
CDV History: A Frenchman, Andre Disderi, received a patent for CDV's in 1854, which allowed 8 negatives to be taken by a camera onto an 8 x 10 plate. First introduced in the US 1859, at the time of the start of the Civil War, CDV's were produced in the millions. The ease of size and paper format of this newfangled photograph allowed the CDV to be sent through the mail, a great benefit from the heavily glassed and protected and cased ambrotype and daguerreotype photos that were previously available.
We often find the term "likeness" written on the back of many 19th c. photographs. A young Civil War soldier would proudly send his "likeness" home to a waiting beau, mother and family, and most likely it was a CDV photograph.
Carte de Visite photographs are direct descendants of the Victorian Calling Card, thus the name, which translates to "visiting card". The Victorians were passionate "card" collectors, and it is reported that Queen Victoria filled between 35 and 100 CDV carte albums with CDV's she had personally collected. Her husband, Prince Albert, was an avid early photographer, with a photographic darkroom set up in Windsor Castle. England reportedly had annual sales of CDV's into the hundreds of millions. Although directed by her staff to consider taxing CDV sales, she refused, saying she wanted all the classes to delight in the hobby without being burdened by the government.
1860's Embossed Leather Victorian CDV Photo Album
with Ornate Brass Hinges. Made by Carlton & Porter, New York.
(from collection of author)
With the advent of the CDV photograph to America, well known photographers such as Mathew Brady quickly unearthed his celebrity daguerreotype collection to copy into CDV format for the masses. Unfortunately, many were then freely copied by other photographers and distributed by the thousands. You will find many of these celebrity CDV's to have backmarks, and many not, as a great deal of them were unauthorized copies, or early "bootlegs." In the 1870's, the very famous actress Sarah Bernhardt wisely charged NYC celebrity photographer Sarony hundreds of dollars for a single CDV portrait sitting, in which he readily obliged. CDV's became big business.
Backmark: 1860's White & Hyler's (Hyler) Excelsior Photographic Hall, Middletown, Orange County, N.Y. This decorative Photographer's Backmark depicts a Civil War era family being photographed with CDV camera on a cast iron footed camera stand. (from collection of author)
Revenue Stamps: During the Civil War in America, revenue stamps were required on photographs, which were required to be canceled (usually marked or signed over) by the photographer. This can help date them. These stamps are collectible as well, with the blue "Playing Card" stamp to be the most desirable.
1866 "Album Filler" CDV called "Little Mischief" Published by the New York Photographic Company. Entered into the Act of Congress in the year 1866 by E.P. Barney, Pinxt. (a term telling us the artist did the "original" rendition) in theClerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York. (from collection of author)
1860's CDV post mortem of an infant, flowers in his/her hand.
CDV is unmarked (from collection of Jeffrey Kraus Antique Photographica)
Outdoor CDVs: Most all CDV's are single or small group portraits. The exception is the "outdoor" CDV. Outdoor scenes are unusual, with frontier or western scenes very highly desirable. A traveling photographer could carry one camera and "shoot" the west, a new frontier. When found, they are a wonderful look into Victorian America and abroad, with scenes such as landscapes, towns, group scenes, occupational businesses, street scenes, architecture, barn raisings, churches, farmhouses, animals and carriage life. In this regard they can be seen as photojournalistic in nature.
"The Ice Man" 1870-80's Occupational CDV Photo of an Iceman
with his ice tongs. Chamberlain Photo Studio, Medfield, Massachusetts.
c. 1860-70`s CDV Carte de Visite Photograph of William Henry Cox, CT. Photographer: M. Moulthrop, Phoenix Building, 298 Chapel St., New Haven, CT Connecticut. County: New Haven. This is a beautiful Cox family photo of a stunning looking gentleman, taken by a skilled photographer.
Overall, we see each CDV on our site as a beautiful, one of a kind piece of history, and with the added benefit of a family surname attached! The ancestors portrayed in these these CDV's lay in graves across America and abroad, awaiting to be found. At times with unusual names, we have found explicit genealogy and family roots info online from one single CDV, as in item number Item# 2871. This is a beautiful CDV portrait of Caleb Tangier Smith taken at a photography studio in San Francisco, California. Please search for your family with us, and if not yet present at Ancestorville, we invite you to "adopt" a family and do some online genealogy research. We will be happy to add the info you may find to the listing. These spirits await being found by their 21st century families and historian friends. Enjoy and good luck!
— Debra Clifford, Ancestorville
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