Civil War Photo Contest
Featured Book Reviewer
- Feb 23, 2013
- East Texas
Prior to the Civil War there were three different types of what are now known as cased images, or as a lady I bought one of these from called them, "little pictures in boxes": Daguerreotypes, Ambrotypes, and Ferrotypes. Daguerreotypes were the first practical photographs, developed by Frenchman Louis Daguerre in 1839, considered to be the "Birth of Photography". Daguerreotypes soon came to America, but by the time of the Civil War were outmoded and were largely replaced in the early 1850's by a newer process, ambrotypes, which remained popular through the 1860's. Ferrotypes, or as they are more commonly known, tintypes, date from around 1857 or so and by 1870 had replaced ambrotypes in popularity, lasting until the early 1900's. Though often confused, they are each totally different processes, alike mainly in often being sold in the small wooden or molded cases, hence the term "cased images".
Daguerreotypes and the later tintypes are photographs on metal plates of varying sizes, sold according to the size or design of the case the customer wanted to pay for. Ambrotypes on the other hand, were photographed on panes of glass, making them very fragile outside their cases. All three types suffered from the fact the chemical emulsion that "captured" the image could relatively easily be scraped off or damaged; daguerreotypes were especially delicate, one reason they quickly fell out of favor. Looking at the above attachment, you can see there are several parts to one of these small packages: the glass plate with the photograph on one side; a separate clear glass covering it; a stamped brass mat, with a usually oval or rectangular opening; a brass molding called a "preserver" to hold them all together; and a case with a dark inside or backing. Since the photo is essentially a negative, the dark backing is necessary to see the picture; in fact they can be used as regular negatives to make copy prints.
This is a scan of the above photo; note the pink-tinted cheeks, common on cased images made in a studio. Jewelry, buckles, buttons, etc. was often gilded as well, and sometimes a thin tinted wash was also applied to dresses, uniforms, drapery, etc. The scan below of a probable North Carolina Confederate officer shows both tinted cheeks and possibly also his pants. Notice how the glass has been roughly cut out; too small for its case, it has slipped up and down causing the photographic emulsion to be scraped by contact with the brass mat.