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Cartes-de-visite photographic collection, ca. 1858-1866

PC008 (RS19470)


Chronologically, the carte-de-visite era overlaps with the waning popularity of daguerreotypes and ambrotypes as the predominant media of photographic portraiture. The earliest carte-de-visite in this collection dates from approximately 1858, although the majority of the items cluster between 1862 and 1866. Nearly ninety-five percent of the material is portraiture, including military, political, literary, and theatrical personalities, as well as 'ordinary people' from infancy to old age, who are either New Englanders or were photographed by New England photographers. However, nearly 250 architectural or scenic views have been identified, most of which depict Boston.

The total size of the collection amounts to approximately 4,000 images, many still in their original and highly decorated albums.

Nearly every notable carte-de-visite photographer who worked during the 1860s in New England is represented, including several hundred works by James Wallace Black and John Whipple. The collection also contains items created by itinerant or provincial photographers, whose interpretations of the stylish pictorial conventions of their urban counterparts provides a useful contrast for photographic historians, besides supplying a good deal of incidental information about rural styles of dress, occupations, and demeanor.

The Library and Archives holds a rare copy of "The Last Men of the Revolution" by Rev. Elias Brewster Hilliard, published in Hartford, Connecticut in 1864. This volume is illustrated with six tipped-in carte-de-visite portraits, in addition to color lithographs of each sitter.

Source: Guide to the Library and Archives, 3.


Collection Name
Cartes-de-visite photographic collection, ca. 1858-1866
Collection Code
1853-1866, predominant 1862-1866
Physical Description
ca. 4,000 cartes-de-visite
Collection Type
Description Level
Reference Code


Loose items are arranged by the name of photographer and cross-indexed by the name of the sitter, when known. The albums are indexed by the name of the donor or the family with which the cartes de visite are identified. The architectural or scenic views are filed by localities. The albums of the Codman Family of Lincoln, Massachusetts have been extensively analyzed by photographer, localities, and subjects. This information is located in the index to the Codman Family Photograph Collection.

Record details

Black, James Wallace, 1825-1896 (Photographer)
Whipple, John Adams, 1823-1891 (Photographer)
Descriptive Terms
buildings (structures)
exterior views
studio portraits
views (visual works)
Material Type
cartes-de-visite (card photographs)
Boston (Suffolk county, Massachusetts)
New England (United States) [general region]

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