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Guide to the New-York Historical Society
Carte de Visite Photograph Collection
circa 1859-1900 (bulk, 1861-1869)

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by N-YHS staff, 2005; finding aid migrated by Joseph Ditta, 2020.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on December 29, 2020
English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Historical Note

The carte de visite photograph was patented in France in 1854, and quickly became a popular fad both in Europe and the United States. The photographs were made using a special camera which took a number of photographs (usually 8), which were then developed through the collodion wet-plate process, and printed on albumen paper, which was then mounted on a standard size of card stock (2 ½ x 4 in.). The photographs were inexpensive to produce and to purchase, and became a way for individuals to share photographs of themselves with friends and family members, and for individuals to collect the images of locally and nationally prominent people, local and foreign views, and other keepsake images. Special albums were produced for holding the small photographs.

Cartes de visite began to appear in the United States in the summer of 1859, and continued to be produced up to about 1900, although their prime period of popularity had ended by around 1870, when larger, cabinet-size photographs (introduced in the U.S. in 1866) became more readily available and affordable. Throughout the 1860s, the carte de visite was the chief commercial portrait medium.