1840 to c.1920


Tintype Pin,  c. 1870,  31mm d.

The history of photography began with the idea of projecting an image through a lens onto a flat surface.  Artists used the “camera obscura” to accurately sketch scenes for subsequent paintings.  By the 1830s, creative minds sought to capture such images permanently.  Several inventive individuals experienced some success, but it was in 1839 that Louis Daguerre of France succeeded in a workable system of making such images permanent.  It was patented under the name “daguerreotype.”

 Within a few short years, the systems of making such photo-graphs moved from one-of-a-kind images (daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and tintypes) to negative images that could be transferred to paper creating a positive and “printed” many times over.

 Within 50 years, the making of photographs moved out of the exclusive domain of the specialist into the hands of ordinary folks.  By the late 1880s, systems were developed that utilized film on rolls that allowed taking a hundred pictures before reloading with more film.  Soon millions of  “snapshots” were being created by ordinary people with inexpensive cameras and film.  This same system has been in play until 20 years ago when the development of digital photography once again revolutionized photography.

This exhibit is designed to present examples of the various kinds of photographs
that populate the history of the medium.

1839 - c. 1860

The daguerreotype was the earliest practical photographic process.  It was made by exposing a projected image to a sensitized silver-plated sheet of copper, then developing it with fumes of mercury, creating a permanent image.  This extremely fragile image was presented, under glass for protection, in a special case.  These one-of-a-kind photographs were especially suited to portraiture.  Thousands of dagguerotypists the world over made millions of portraits of people at a fraction of the cost of a painted portrait.

Sizes: 1/16 plate (35 x 40 mm), 1/9 plate (50 x 60 mm), 1/6 plate (70 x 80 mm), 1/4 plate (80 x 110),
1/2 plate (110 x 140), full plate (165 x 215 mm)
From a Collection of 23


Man in Top Hat, Tinted, Ninth Plate, c. 1850


Two Children, Tinted, Sixth Plate, c. 1842


Gentleman with Book, Tinted, Sixth Plate, c. 1843


Lady with Fur Scarf, Tinted, Sixth Plate, c. 1844


Older Gentleman with Book, Tinted, Fourth Plate, c. 1844


Older Woman with Book, Tinted, Fourth Plate, c. 1844


 Gentleman with Book, Tinted, Sixth Plate, 1856


Gentleman with Glasses, Tinted, Sixth Plate, c. 1842


Mother and Children, Tinted, Half  Plate, c. 1846



1854 - c. 1865

By the early 1850s inventive minds worked to simplify the daguerreotype process, making it more affordable and therefore available to even more people.  In place of the complex and expensive silver plate, a glass plate was coated with a light-sensitive emulsion, silver salts suspended in albumen made of simple egg-white.  The resulting developed negative image was backed with a black paper or paint resulting in a positive image, named an ambrotype.  It, too, was very fragile and had to be covered with glass and presented in a case.

 Sizes: 1/16 plate (35 x 40 mm), 1/9 plate (50 x 60 mm), 1/6 plate (70 x 80 mm), 1/4 plate (80 x 110),
1/2 plate (110 x 140), full plate (165 x 215 mm)
From a Collection of 19


 Couple, Tinted, Fourth Plate, c. 1855


Couple, Tinted, Fourth Plate, c. 1855


Civil War Soldier, Tinted, Ninth Plate, 1863


Woman with Veil, Tinted, Ninth Plate, c. 1860


Group of Seven, Tinted, Fourth Plate, c. 1855


Two Friendly Men with Book, Tinted, Sixth Plate, c. 1855


Tintype / Ferrotype
1856 - c. 1895

The 1850s saw the process simplified even more.  The collodion emulsion was coated to blackened metal plates, usually tin.  The simpler and cheaper process moved photography out of the studio into the streets and neighborhoods.  Anybody could afford a tintype, and tintypists were available everywhere.  Tintypes couldn’t be easily damaged, and proved especially popular during the American Civil War when soldiers could send photographs of themselves back home. But tintypes, too, were one-of-a-kind images.  Cameras were soon made with multiple lenses that could make as many images on a single sheet of tin.  These were then cut apart, usually quite inaccurately, and typically presented in a paper folder.  A few ended up in old daguerreotype cases.

From a Collection of 144


Older Man with Cane, Old Daguerreotype Case


Smiling Woman with Glasses


Young Boy, Gemtype


Young Girl, Gemtype (12 x 24 mm)


Seated Man


Boy on Toy Horse


Three Couples


Group of Fourteen


Seated Black Man


Two Ladies with Reluctant Man


Two Men with Pipes


Man with Dog


Two Rough-looking Men


Civil War Soldier


Rare Outdoor Scene


Cartes de Visite / Visiting Card
1854 - c. 1895

At the same time another photographic process was being developed which proved to be the one that was the most practical and successful of all.  In 1854 André Disdéri, a French daguerreotypist, printed ambrotype glass negatives to light-sensitive paper.  An unlimited number of paper prints/photographs could be produced easily and quite inexpensively.  But the inventive Disdéri added a marketing scheme to his system and promoted these photographs as personalized calling cards.  He named them Cartes de Viste. CDVs were mounted on a standardized cardboard mount which also advertised the photographer on the back. They proved to be the most popular style of photographs to date and the craze lasted into the 1890s.

Size: c. 64 x 100 mm
From a Collection of 140


André Disdéri Photo, Portuguese Politician, c. 1870


Family, Dad with Top Hat, c. 1865


Two Men and a Dog, c. 1870


J. Livenstroem Photo, Fellin (Viljandi), Estonia  (Jaan Kirp), c. 1865


Jaan Riet Photo, Fellin (Viljandi), Estonia, c. 1890


Gentleman, c. 1860


Lady, c. 1860


Gentleman with Beard, c. 1870


Handsome Black Woman, 1881


Big Lady with Big Dress, c. 1860


Good Dog, c. 1880


Mathew Brady Photo, Commodore Nutt & Miss Minnie Warren, 1864


U.S. Cavalry Officer, c. 1865


Photographer's Studio, c. 1870


Photographer's Studio,  verso,  c. 1870


Cabinet Card
1866 - c. 1900

The next system to entice the public to buy photographs was dubbed the Cabinet Card.  It was considerably larger than the CDV, but the process was identical.  And as with cartes de visite, these were promoted to fill albums that would grace living rooms and boudoirs.  The larger cards were big enough for several people to view at the same time and were of sufficient quality that small details could be enjoyed.  Every home had an album of family photographs to show visitors.

Size: 110 x 170 mm
From a Collection of 138


Banjo Player, c. 1890


Boy with Coronet, c. 1890


Two Gentlemen, c. 1885


Nebraska Couple, c. 1890


Dressed-up Little Boy, c. 1885


Dressed-up Little Girl, c. 1885


Posing Lady, c. 1875


Long Dress, c. 1890


Lace Collar and Glasses, c. 1890


Confident Young Lady, c. 1880


Large Beard, c. 1875


F. A. Rinehart Photo, c. 1885


Stereoview / Stereograph
1852 - c. 1920

Very early in this history, and for many years, a parallel photographic phenomenon coursed.  It was an idea, virtually a gimmick, that proved extremely popular throughout the world.  Two slightly different images of the same subject were mounted side-by-side and viewed through a dual-lensed viewer that resulted in a three-dimensional stereo image for the viewer.  Stereoviews (stereocards, stereographs) and a variety of viewers were eventually found in every proper home.  The earliest were, for a short time, daguerreotypes and ambrotypes and a few tintypes. Paper albumen prints could be reproduced over and over again, so almost all stereoviews were prints.  Stereoviews soon transported ordinary folks to every exotic place in the world.  The heyday for stereoviews was in the 1860s and 1870s, but it was revived again around 1900 when photographs could be replaced with lithographic images printed on a press. The idea has never died.

Size:  c. 90 -112 x 178 mm
From a Collection of 217


Ethnic Views from Cultures Around the World
Silver Prints, c. 1900-1910
Collection of 19.  Click to See More


Carleton Watkins Views of Yosemite and West Coast U. S.
Albumen Prints, c. 1860s
Collection of 10.  Click to See More


William Notman Views of Montreal
Albumen Prints, c. 1860
Collection of 13.  Click to See More


E. and H. T. Anthony Views of  New York and Washington D. C.
Albumen Prints, c. 1860
Collection of 6.  Click to See More


Views of Southern U. S.
Hand-colored Litho Prints, c. 1910
Collection of 11


Views From Around the World
Color Litho Prints, c. 1910 - 1925
Collection of 78


Genre Humorous Risque Scenes
Albumen Prints, c. 1890 - 1910
Collection of 6


Genre English Humorous Scenes
Hand-colored Albumen Prints, c. 1880
Collection of 6


Southern U. S. Black Scenes
Hand-colored Litho Prints, c. 1900 - 1910
Collection of 17.  Click to See More


William Henry Jackson, The Royal Gorge, Colorado
  Albumen Print, c 1880



By the late 1800s dozens of different processes and techniques had developed both to take photographs and to print and reproduce them.  Here are presented examples of some of the most important of these, beginning with George Eastman's Kodak Round Photo which was the first roll-film system (100 exposures) aimed solely at the amateur audience, and ending with the simple Snapshot.  By 1900 photographs were here to stay and their varied complexions have changed the way the world relates to itself.

From a Collection of c. 700




Kodak Round (No. 1, 1888, 64 mm d.,  No 2, 1889 - 1900, 92 mm d.)
House on Lake, Kodak No. 2 Albumen Print, 92 mm d., on Card 108 x 133 mm, c. 1889


Collotype or Albertype (c. 1885-1910)
L. A. Huffman, 90 x 137 mm, 1881 / 1907


Cyanotype (c. 1880 - 1900)
90 x 90 mm, c. 1900


Glass Lantern Slide (90 x112 mm, 1850 - c. 1920)
Lapp Family, c. 1900


Albumen Print (1850 - 1900)
Lapp Family, Hand-colored Cabinet Card, 110 x 170 mm, c. 1890


Albumen Boudoir Print (1850 - 1900)
Carleton Watkins, San Francisco Scene, 210  x 130 mm, c. 1874


Mammoth Plate Albumen Print (1850 - 1900)
National Museum, Venice, Italy, 450 x 350 mm, c. 1880


c. 1880 - 1970)
W. H. Jackson, Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde, 17
8 x 228 mm, 1899


(1879 - present)
Edward Curtis, Pomo Basket, 280 x 350 mm, 1925


Cigarette Card (
c. 1880 - 1910)
Lizzie McCall, Albumen Cartes de Visite, 115 x 64 mm, c. 1885 


French Postcard (
c. 1890 - 1930)
Toned Silver Print, 88 x 116 mm, c. 1910  


Advertising Photo
Silver Print, 63 x 97 mm, c. 1920


Itinerant Farm Photographer Photo
Albumen Print, 106 x 165 mm, 1899


Police Mug Shot
Yukon Territory, Albumen Print, 103 x 125 mm, 1904


 Railroad Photographer Photo
  Albumen Print, 117 x 165 mm, c. 1890


Circus Photo
Toned Silver Print, 138 x 90 mm, c. 1920


Souvenir School Photo
Silver Print in Metal Frame, 75 x 50 mm, c. 1920


Amateur Photographer
Silver Print, 148 x 123 mm, c. 1910


Buggy Ride Snapshot
Esther and Alma, Silver Print, 63 x 86 mm, c. 1920


Boy with Cow Snapshot
Silver Print, 89 x 140 mm, c. 1920


Bashful Girl Snapshot
Silver Print, 52 x 76 mm, c. 1920


Baby and Pet Dog Snapshot
Silver Print, 86 x 137 mm, c. 1920


Our House Snapshot
Silver Print, 86 x 137 mm, c. 1920


New Car Snapshot
Silver Print, 82 x 118 mm, c. 1920


Sunday Dinner Snapshot
Silver Print, 62 x 88 mm, c. 1920


Fishing Snapshot
Silver Print, 78 x 130 mm, c. 1920


Airplane Ride Snapshot
Silver Print, 88 x 63 mm, c. 1920


Girl's Fun Snapshot
Silver Print, 85 x 65 mm, c. 1920


All photographs presented are original.  They have been collected
primarily in the U.S.A. over a period of 50 years
and represent a fraction of the total collection of R. Paul Firnhaber / Imagi Gallery.
 Dates that are approximate are marked "c"  (circa);  known dates lack the "c."
Images are not presented in scale to each other.


An exhibition of this collection was held at the Kondas Museum of Art
in Viljandi, Estonia, April 03 through June 07, 2013.



Imagi Gallery