“A carte-de-visite is a small photograph (an albumen print, 11.4 x 6.4 cm) individually mounted on a calling card. The form was conceived for portraiture, though other uses would be found. Commissioned in multiple copies, cartes-de-visite were consumables that were offered in person, left as calling cards, and sent for sentimental reasons through the mail. When photographic studios began to offer the cartes-de-visite of the famous – royals, politicians, actresses – these tokens of patriotism and glamour were traded like modern-day baseball cards. Albums were needed for preservation and presentation of these special private collections. Their availability was advertised in the local newspapers. Commercial carte-de-visite albums were designed as bound books, with pages divided into slots that displayed the photographic image securely and also allowed the arrangement of pictures to be changed as the collection’s sub-categories expanded. Keeping such an album is like collecting stamps or autographs. These pastimes were well established at the time.” (1)
The founder of the NPS, Lewko Hryhorijiw, has a slightly contrasting view of the uses of CDVs. He believes that CDVs were:
- The calling card of the late 19th century. [People used CDVs much the same way a 21st century business man would use a business card.]
- Developing photographic technology allowed for a negative which meant that many copies could be made.
- People collected CDVs of friends, family and the famous. [Hryhorijiw agrees with Langford with respect to this aspect of CDV usage.]
Below is an example of a CDV from the collection of Lewko Hryhorijiw:
Wiliam Notman, CDV, 1866, subject unknown, collection of Lewko Hryhorijiw
(1) Martha Langford, Telling Pictures and Showing Stories: Photographic Albums in the Collection of the McCord Museum of Canadian History. McCord Museum of Canadian History, 2005.
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