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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

Scope and Contents

The Carte de Visite Photograph Collection contains mounted albumen photographs in the carte de visite format, with the bulk of the images, individual portraits, filed alphabetically by sitter. While the vast majority of the collection is photographic, it also includes engravings, lithographs, and photo-mechanical prints mounted on cards. Most of the images date from the 1860s. Many portraits depict soldiers and officers in Civil War uniform; indeed the overlapping time period of the carte de visite craze and the Civil War makes this collection an important resource for Civil War-era portraits and views.

Many photographers are represented in the collection, although there is no index to photographer. Represented photographers hail from twenty-two foreign countries, and thirty-two states. One hundred and twelve New York City photographers and eight Brooklyn photographers are represented as well. Prominent photographers and publishers include E. & H. T. Anthony, D. Appleton & Co., Mathew Brady, Jeremiah Gurney & Son, George G. Rockwood, and Napoleon Sarony. The collection is arranged in four series: Portraits, Views, Civil War, and Miscellaneous.

 Series I. Portraits holds most of the images in the collection. The following list of sitters is current as of March 2005. The series is arranged in two subseries: Photographic Portraits and Printed Portraits.
•  Subseries I. Photographic Portraits includes identified and unidentified men, women, and children. Sixty-five percent of the subseries is identified photographic portraits of men, women, and children, while the remaining 35 percent are unidentified. This subseries sometimes includes photographs of paintings of the person. Unidentified sitters are filed by gender and thereunder by type of portrait (full-length, bust, etc.). Persons with more than ten portraits in the collection include: Robert Anderson, Nathaniel P. Banks, John Wilkes Booth, William Cullen Bryant, Ambrose Burnside, Benjamin Butler, Jefferson Davis, Elmer Ellsworth, David Farragut, Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Johnson, William Pitt Kellogg, Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, George B. McClellan, George Gordon Meade, William T. Sherman, and the concert singer Emma Thursby. Specific groups of sitters are filed after the alphabetical list of sitters and the unidentified sitters. These include circus and theatrical performers, European royalty, Native Americans, sitters in foreign costume (all unidentified), and members of the 1867 New York State Constitutional Convention. All photos of the latter category were taken by the studio of Jeffers & McDonald, at No. 519 Broadway, Albany.
•  Subseries II. Printed Portraits contains engravings issued in carte de visite format. Most of those held here are bust portraits of Civil War generals, many from a series printed by L. Prang. Most are identified.

 Series II. Views includes photographs and a few prints of views in Europe, Central America, New York City and other states. The photographs of New York City churches are mostly from a series taken by New York photographer George Stacy, in circa 1863. Other views from this same church series were tipped in to larger sheets of paper, and can be found foldered together in the New-York Historical Society Collection of Geographic Images (PR 020).

 Series III. Civil War includes scenes from the war, and some composite and group portraits of officers. Individual portraits can be found in Series I.

 Series IV. Miscellaneous includes cartes de visite that do not fit into the previous series. Photographs of paintings, and of objects can be found here. Many paintings are genre scenes, many by John P. Soule. Hand-colored lithographs of natural history specimens are also included.


The collection is organized in four series:

Series I.
Series II.
Series III.
 Civil War
Series IV.