American Civil War Photography
|Military Photos - 1840-1899|
As we begin the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War starting in 2011, and ending in 2015, We at OldPhotographic thought it might be a good time to talk about collecting antique photographs of the Civil War.
Believe it or not, there are many types of Civil War photographs ranging from Ambrotypes to Cabinet photos, to CDV's (Carte de Visite's), to Salt prints, to tintypes, which present the beginning Civil War photography collector with a wide range of selections to choose from, but in this article we will concentrate on the three main types of images that most Civil War photography collectors gravitate towards; Ambrotypes, CDV's, and Tintypes.
Civil War Ambrotypes
First we will talk about Civil War period Ambrotypes. An Ambrotype is a photograph that creates a positive image on a sheet of glass using the wet plate collodion process. The image was developed directly onto the glass and then the back side was painted with a coating of black varnish which When viewed from the clear side made the image clearly visible.
Because Ambrotypes were developed onto a sheet of glass and were inherently very fragile, they were generally put into a protective case which was either made from wood with a leather covering, or an early type of thermoplastic made from a varnish and wood pulp which is frequently misidentified as gutta percha. Both types of cases are called Union Cases and are highly collectible in their own right.
Ambrotypes were first in use from the early 1850's and were used throughout the mid 1860's, although by the mid 1860's other less fragile forms of photography like the CDV and Tintype were gaining popularity.
The Ambrotype came in a variety of sizes ranging from the double whole, 10-1/2" x 13-1/2", and the whole plate, 6-1/2" x 8-1/2", down through the half-plate, 4-1/4" x 5-1/2", quarter-plate, 3-1/4" x 4-1/4", sixth-plate, 2-3/4" x 3-1/4", ninth-plate, 2" x 2-1/2" and the sixteenth-plate, 1-3/8" x 1-5/8" being the smallest size. Rarity also follows this scale with the double whole and whole plate being the rarest sizes to acquire, and the sixth-plate and ninth-plate the most common sizes.
Of the three most popular types of photography used during the Civil War, Civil War period Ambrotypes are also slightly more difficult to find than the other two types of photography we will discuss simply because of the fragility of the image, and the popularity and inexpressiveness of the CDV and Tintype.
Civil War CDV's
The CDV was invented in the mid 1850's and by the beginning of the Civil War had become the most popular form of photography. The CDV was an albumen print which used the albumen found in egg whites to bind the photographic chemicals to the paper. The resulting photograph which was usually 2 inches by 3½ inches in size was then glued to a small card which was usually approximately 2½ × 4 inches in size.
Because CDV's were light weight, small and inexpensive to produce, and could be mailed for one cent at the beginning of the Civil War, CDV's became the rage throughout the Civil War period and continued to be one of the most popular forms of photography well into the 1870's when Cabinet Cards began to take over in popularity.
Civil War Tintypes
The Tintype, although invented in the early 1850's, did not gain popularity until the mid to late 1850's and was in wide use by the beginning of the Civil War. Tintypes were produced using another form of the wet plate collodion process, except that instead of developing the image onto a sheet of glass, it was developed onto a thin sheet of Japanned metal. The resulting image although reversed was cheaper and faster to produce, and by the end of the Civil War it was one of the most common forms of photography used in the United States.
Although not a fragile as the Ambrotype, many Tintypes were sold in the same type of union case as the Ambrotype. They were also sold in inexpensive paper folders in which the Tintype was sandwiched between two sheets of paper with one sheet being a matting for the image to show through.
We hope that this little history of Photography through the Civil War period has helped you in your efforts to amass a quality Civil War Photography Collection.
Tags: american, tintypes, photography, photographs, types, range, civil, beginning, present, prints, salt, collector, wide, selections
Older news items:
" Of the thousands of people, celebrated and unknown, who have sat before my camera, I am often asked who was the most difficult subject, or the easiest, or which picture is my favorite. This last question is like asking a mother which child she likes the most."
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