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Western Americana card photograph file

 Collection
Call Number: WA Photos File

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of card photographs of various sizes and formats, as well as unmounted photographic prints. The collection documents a broad range of commercial photography between 1860 and 1910, mainly created by regional operators and traveling photographers. The collection also includes examples by renowned photographers, such as Frank Jay Haynes, William Henry Jackson, Alexander Martin, Isaiah West Taber, and Carleton E. Watkins.

The imagery provides diverse visual documentation of the natural and built environment, as well as portraits of the inhabitants of the American West during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Specific images include informal and studio portraits of American Indians and settlers, as well as views of cities and towns, mining and logging operations, railroads, military installations, agricultural activities, American Indian reservations, and natural scenery in and about the American West.

Image descriptions of photographic prints derive from inscriptions on the verso and recto of the item and from image analysis by the archivist. Descriptions of items in this finding aid include the dimensions of each photographic print in centimeters and the dimensions of its mount (when present) in centimeters. Descriptions usually include information about the working locations of photographer, and occasionally physical characteristics of items, such as image numbers applied by the photographer or inscriptions by a previous owner, as well as contextual information about the image.

Each folder contains a single photographic print, except when noted in the item description.

About Card Photographs

Most of the items in this collection are photographic prints mounted on cardboard, known as card photographs. During the nineteenth century, card photographs were a popular way to present photographic prints, especially carte-de-visite and cabinet photographs. The mounts for card photographs vary in format and dimensions, and the mounted photographic prints vary in technical processes. The photographic prints are usually albumen prints, but also include collodion prints, cyanotypes, gelatin silver prints, platinum prints, and salted paper prints.

Introduced in the United States in 1860, carte-de-visite photographs gain their name from French calling cards. The photographic prints, which usually measure 8.89 x 6.35 cm (2.125 × 3.5 in.), were mounted on cardboard 10 x 6 cm (2.5 X 4.5 in.). Carte-de-visite photographs remained a popular form in the United States into early 1870s, when they were largely replaced by cabinet photographs.

Cabinet photographs are larger than carte-de-visite photographs, usually 9.5 x 13.8 cm (3.5 x 5.5 in.), mounted on cardboard 10.5 x 16.4 cm (4.5 by 6.25 in.). Cabinet cards remained popular during the last two decades of the nineteenth century, as did other sized formats, including boudoir midget mounts, 5.1 x 8.6 cm (2 x 3.375 in.); victoria cards, 8.3 x 12.7 cm (3.25 x 5 in.); promenade photographs, 10.2 x 17.8 cm (4 x 7 in.); boudoir photographs, 13.3 x 21.6 cm (5.25 x 8.5 in.); imperial photographs, 17.5 x 25.1 cm (6.875 x 9.875 in.); and panel photographs, 29.5 x 10.2 cm (8.25 x 4 in.).

Card photograph mounts often have printed or embossed decorations conveying advertisements about the photographer, the studio, and location, as well as awards, areas of expertise, or prominent patrons. Photographers and other individuals, such as the subjects in the image or the collector of it, often wrote descriptive inscriptions about the photograph on the verso or recto of the cardboard mount.

Dates

  • circa 1850-circa 1970
  • Majority of material found within 1860 - 1910

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

This collection has no permanent box or folder designations for items within it, so patrons should note the photographer and image description when requesting materials

Conditions Governing Use

The Western Americana Card Photograph File is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, may belong to the photographers or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired from various sources

Arrangement

Organized into three series. Series I. Identified Photographers. Series II. Unidentified Photographers. Series III. Oversize.

Given the dynamic nature of this collection, items will move in and out of the collection. The collection has no permanent box or folder designations for items in each series.

Extent

circa 1000 photographic prints : b & w ; on mounts 22 cm. x 30 cm. or smaller.

Language of Materials

English

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/beinecke.waphotosfile

Overview

This collection consists of card photographs of various sizes and formats, as well as unmounted photographic prints, circa 1851-1965. The collection documents a broad range of commercial photography between 1860 and 1910, mainly created by regional operators and traveling photographers. The collection also includes examples by renowned photographers, such as Frank Jay Haynes, William Henry Jackson, Alexander Martin, Isaiah West Taber, and Carleton E. Watkins.

History of the Collection

This collection derives from an illustration file maintained by the staff of the Yale Collection of Western Americana since 1952. The collection has served as a means for bringing together photographic materials acquired singularly and in small groups. Occasionally, a critical mass of photographs by a particular photographer or studio accrue within the collection and becomes the basis for an artificially created collection documenting that individual. This collection continues to embody this dynamic function and groups of photographic material will continue to become the basis of smaller individual collections.

During the late twentieth century, archivists preliminarily arranged and briefly described the collection in a print finding aid. In 2008, the print finding aid served as the basis for a thorough examination and detailed description of the collection.

Prior to 2008, library staff did not routinely document provenance information.
Title
Guide to the Western Americana Card Photograph File
Status
Under Revision
Author
by Matthew Daniel Mason
Date
April 2008, last updated March 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

Contact:
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977

Location

121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.