Kodachrome or Ferrotype?

Photographs—whether taken last week or one hundred years ago—are a real family treasure. But when you’re not exactly sure who the smiling (or scowling) person is in the photo you’ve found, it may help to identify the time period in which the image was created. How? By dating the photo type. Here is a little information to help you get started.

Daguerrotypes (1839–1860)
The first “practical” photograph, the daguerreotype was made of silver-plated copper with a polished, mirror-like surface. Because of their fragility, these photos were often covered with glass and ornamental mats and then enclosed in small, hinged cases that were padded with satin or velvet.

Tintypes or Ferrotypes (1856–early 1900s)
The tintype was the most popular form of photography during the Civil War. It was made of a thin sheet of iron coated by black varnish. Its durability allowed soldiers to carry photos of loved ones into battle and send pictures home without fear of ruining them.

Cabinet Cards (1866–1900)
The majority of photographs taken in the late-1800s belong in the “cabinet card” category. Photographs were printed on super thin paper that was then mounted on thick cards. These wallet-sized images usually have the name of the photographer or photo studio printed on the front of the card.

Portrait Postcards (1900–1920s)
Around the turn of the century, photographers could print black and white photos on postcard backs. The finished postcard could then be affixed with a stamp and dropped in the mail. Portrait postcard styles continuously changed through the years, and, after 1907, the back of the postcard was divided into two areas—one for the mailing address and the other for a personalized message.

The Black and White Snapshot (1900–1960s)
In 1900, Kodak changed photography with the release of the Brownie camera. The original Brownie took black-and-white, 2¼-inch square photos, although Kodak changed the size of the images to 2¼-inch x 3¼-inch on later models. At an affordable price of $1, and with easy-to-use controls, the camera was not just for professionals anymore.

Color Transparencies or Slides (1940s–1970s)
Although some professionals were creating color photographs in the late 1800s, the ability to develop color film didn’t become widely available until the 1940s and 1950s. Color slides and slide projectors became popular, and color photographs have dominated amateur photography ever since.


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