While reviewing old family photos, I was struck by one collection not only because of the age of the photos but also the representative examples of the types of photographs commonly available during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


On the left in this daugerreotype is my great-great-great-grandfather James William Howe, born in 1831. (I don’t know who the gentleman on the right is.) This image was probably made sometime in the early-to-mid 1850s, which was also the time of peak popularity of daugerreotypes in the US. The image is under glass and beautifully detailed even under magnification. As with all photos using this method, the image reflects a negative view when observed at an angle and has a striking depth to it.


The tintype or ferrotype was made on a thin sheet of steel lacquered and coated with a photosensitive material. The photos were inexpensive and fast to make so were popular at carnivals and other events. This undated photo includes two distant relatives while on vacation in Germany. The tintypes were made in a variety of standard sizes; this one is a 1/6th plate, measuring about 2.5″ X 3.5″.

Carte de Visite

The carte de visite (or CdV) was a very popular type of photo starting around 1859 in the US. It was an albumen print on paper backed with sturdier card stock. This 1877 photo of Robert Henry Julia was made just before his tragic death one year later at the age of 22. The reverse sides of the CdVs often had ornate advertising of the maker’s business and artistry.

Cabinet Card

The cabinet card introduced in the 1870s replaced CdVs and were popular through the beginning of the 20th century. They were a standard 4″ X 6″ size and, like the CdV, were albumen prints on paper mounted to a thicker cardboard. These two images are my great-great-grandmother Esther Amelia Ferris Hyatt and my great-great-grandfather Eugene Hyatt.

The photographer, Evan D. Evans, opened his business in Ithaca, NY after an 1881 fire destroyed his Corning NY business. He was highly skilled and successful, becoming Cornell University’s official photographer. We can conclude these portraits were made in Ithaca sometime between 1881 and 1894, the year of Eugene Hyatt’s death.