What are Cabinet Card Photographs?

Native American Cabinet Card Photograph

Chances are high that you’ve come across one of these photographs sometime in your antique escapades.  How do I know that?  Because the Cabinet Card photograph was most likely the most prolific form of photography in the 19th Century.

Transitioning from hard mediums, like Ambrotypes and Tintypes, to a paper medium made the mass production of these images a breeze.  It also made getting your photograph taken much more affordable, granting access across the broad spectrum of 19th Century populous. 

First appearing alongside the Carte de Visite in the 1860s, the larger card provided a big image area and proved great for landscapes.  It was quickly adopted to portrait photography and by the 1880s had become the dominant form.

Cabinet cards were general marked by the photographer on the front, and in the later years started to feature elaborate artwork printed on the back for advertisement.  

For More in-depth reading on Cabinet Cards, check out these great sources:

The Cabinet Card

How to Spot a Cabinet Card

PhotoTree – Cabinet Cards