Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can ~ #87 Tintypes, Cartes de Visite, Cabinet Cards

Digital images of vintage photographs shared by family members or seen on the internet normally do not include a scale making it difficult to imagine the size of the originals. I finally realized this and, in my last few posts, I’ve been including the size as well as a few other facts about the photographs. I plan to go back to add similar information to older posts.

unkcoupleUnknown Couple abt. 1894
Photo type: Cabinet Card
Card size: 4 1/4″ x 6 1/2″
Card color: cream
Card edges: plain cut, rounded corners
Border: single thin line
Front imprint: artistic gold print
Back imprint: none
Photographer: O. H. Talbott of South Side Square, Girard, Kansas
Scan: auto adjusted

I know nothing of tintypes, lol. I don’t even know what a carte de visite is, lol, but I’m learning these things from you. Thanks!

Andy Oldham of Christian Grandfather wrote this comment on one of my recent posts and Jeanne Bryan Insalaco of Everyone Has a Story had a question about the missing corners on tintypes. Andy and Jeanne’s comments triggered ( as in camera 🙂 ) this post with a comparison photo of tintypes, cartes de visite, and cabinet cards along with short explanations. 

comparisonofphotos600Tintypes (above, right) appeared in 1856 and were most popular in the 1860s and 1870s. They are often identified with the Civil War period as this was the time of their popularity. A decline came around 1872-1878. However, tintypes, or ferrotypes, were produced well into the 20th century at carnivals, beach resorts, etc. as souvenirs. They were direct positives, mirror images, on thin blackened iron plates. A photographer would purchase large metal plates and cut them down to size for use. Plates were trimmed and corners clipped to fit cases or paper mats either by the photographer or later by the owner. In the photo above the tintype, farthest right, is a 1/6 plate and measures 2 5/8″ x 3 1/4″. Other common sizes of tintypes were: 1/4 plate – 3 1/4″ x 4 1/4″ and 1/9 plate – 2″ x 2 1/2″.

Cartes de visite (above, middle image), also known as CDV, appeared in 1859 and was most popular from 1860-1880 and declined between 1880-1889. The size of a calling card, it was more commonly known as a card portrait. The acronym CDV only came into use during the 2oth century. The card portrait or carte de visite is an image printed on paper and mounted onto a card with the dimensions of 2 3/8″ x 4″, only a bit larger than the 1/6 plate sized tintypes.

Cabinet cards (above, on left) appeared in 1866, were most popular from 1875, when the format gained attention in the U.S., until 1900. Popularity declined around 1901-1903. The same process was used as with CDVs but on card stock twice the size. Cabinet cards measured  4 1/4″ x 6 1/2″ – about the size of a postcard. Imprints on the front and/or back, borders around the image, edges of the cards, and card color help date cabinet cards.

These are only quick descriptions of three styles of photographs from the 20th century. If I’ve piqued your curiosity, there are many sites online with more detailed information on vintage photography. Try searching the above terms, as well as, daguerreotypes and ambrotypes. Be warned, you may find yourself spending more time than you’d like reading about and looking at old photos.


More about this collection, how it came to be in my possession,
and links to previous posts in the series can be found here.

Please contact me!
Are you related to a person mentioned in this post? Send an email to
openingdoorsinbrickwalls @ pt.lu or message me on my Facebook page
Opening Doors in Brick Walls.

© 2017, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


















Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

When I’m not doing genealogy and blogging, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful Luxembourg countryside.

8 thoughts on “Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can ~ #87 Tintypes, Cartes de Visite, Cabinet Cards”

  1. I have collected several reference books on old photos. I like your concise explanations of tintype, CDV and cabinet card photos. I also love your image with the glove and magnifying glass.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is great Cathy! You’ve helped me a lot! I think I’ve actually seen two of these before. You’ve helped me understand so much thru your blog. Thanks for mentioning my blog too. I just can’t believe I missed this post when I’ve been looking for it! Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

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