Daguerreotypes (1839-1860)

  • First modern photographic process introduced in 1839 by Louis J.M Daguerre
  • Image created on silver-plated sheet of copper
  • Image usually covered by thin layer of glass to protect and seal the copper plate
  • Has the appearance of a mirror
  • Like a hologram, image appears to shift from positive to negative
  • Process was expensive and time-consuming
  • Lost popularity on eve of Civil War
  • Daguerreotypes of Confederate soldiers in uniform are extremely rare

Unidentified Woman No. 18
Gary-Gilliam Family Collection
Ninth-plate Daguerreotype with hand-coloring
Photographed by James P. Weston, New York City, New York

Ambrotypes (1851-1870s)

  • Introduced to America from England
  • Process was patented and popularized by Bostonian James Ambrose Cutting in 1854
  • Image is a negative on glass with dark backing to produce positive image
  • Distinguishable from a daguerreotype because image does not seem to shift from positive to negative
  • Cheaper than daguerreotypes
  • Enjoyed height of its popularity in America during Civil War years

Pvt. Benjamin Thomas Long
2nd Co. H, 40th North Carolina Regiment (3rd North Carolina Artillery)
Sixth-plate Ambrotype on ruby glass

Tintypes (1856-1905)

  • Originally called melainotype and, more accurately, a ferrotype ("ferro" for iron)
  • Most common tintype patented by Hamilton Smith, an Ohio College physics and chemistry professor in 1856
  • Image on thin black-lacquered sheet of iron
  • Cheaper than other contemporary processes
  • Less fragile than other cased images, could be mailed and stored in a paper sleeve instead of a case



Jim Red
(b. ca. 800)
Eighth-plate Tintype

Cartes de visite (1859-1905)

  • Developed by Frenchman Adolphe-Eugene Disderi in 1854
  • Popularized in America in 1861 by photographer J. E. Mayall
  • Taken with multi-lens camera, allowing simultaneous creation of multiple copies
  • Image developed on albumenized paper (coated with egg whites) which was adhered to card stock
  • Mass-produced, sold and widely collected for personal photo albums




Queen Victoria and Children, in Mourning for Prince Albert

Albumen Prints (1850s-1900s)

  • Most popular paper photographic prorocess of mid and late19th century
  • Named for albumen (egg white) coated paper that photographers could make or purchase commercially
  • Albumenized paper rinsed and coated in other solutions to sensitize it to receive image
  • Albumen paper used for stereoscopes and cartes-de-visite



Robert E. Lee Monument
Unveiling, 1898
Monument Avenue
Richmond, Virginia

Stereographs (1852-1871; 1894-1910)

  • First popularized in England
  • Taken with twin-lens cameras and exposed on glass-plate negatives
  • Images printed on paper and mounted on heavy stock
  • Appear 3-dimensional when viewed through a stereoscope or stereopticon
  • Much of the field photography by Brady, O’Sullivan and Gardner was done by this process

No. 71.
Fairfax, Va.
Pho. And Pub. By W. M. Smith, 482 H st., Washington, D.C.