Vintage #9

posted in vintage

Vintage #9

Here is another photo in the vintage series I’ve been blogging.  This one is another print I found at the antique shop next to the BBQ place I used to stop at in Concordia, MO (near Kansas City), on the way to and from college in Kansas (the shop has since closed.  We stopped there on a family vacation last summer for some BBQ).

It’s a “carte de visite”, and here are the front and back views:

The carte de visite was developed by Disdéri, a French photographer, who developed a way to mass produce photographs as calling cards (which was already used a bit).   He would take one photo with a camera that had 4 lenses, producing a sheet of 8 photos at once (think of our current “wallet” prints). He is also credited with inventing the twin reflex camera, which was a huge improvement in the picture-taking process of glass plate cameras of the day (focusing first, then having to switch the focus glass out for the glass plate ‘negative’).

This ushered in a craze of small prints from local photographic studios during the 1850s, and on through the turn of the century.  There was this social custom of the time, to leave a calling card.  They were originally 2.5×4″ albumen prints (the photograph part you see in the image above — it’s like a thin, translucent film), but this sample I have is almost 4×6″, which makes me think it came much later… and maybe it wasn’t just a calling card anymore – but became a standard print for albums and family collections.  It’s odd to me that this doesn’t have the woman’s name on it.  The “Thomson” name is the name of the studio in KC that produced this print, and David P. Thomson was the most respected photographer in the area in the 1800s.  He was so prolific you can still find photos and info on his studio online!  Here is a blog that found some of his similar prints in California.

Here is a photo of his studio:

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more in the vintage series.


  1. I am quite tardy in replying to your comment on my site, but I wanted to come around and see this photo. She is quite an unhappy looking woman isn’t she!? I love it though. As for the size of the photograph, a 4×6 was called a cabinet card. I have old photo albums that are made to stand up, like a cabinet. The photos could be viewed individually or two by two, depending on how the album was arranged. The cabinet card really took off in the 1870s and dominated through the 1890s. After the turn of the century they declined and so did cdvs, to be replaced with something more like what we think of as our graduation photos. Thank you for your comment and I will be checking back to your vintage series!!

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