In the penultimate post of our series showing you how to date your old photographs by using physical clues to determine the process used to create it, I’m going to show you how to spot a cabinet card.
About cabinet cards
Cabinet cards are photographs mounted on stiff pieces of cardboard. They were introduced in the 1860s and gradually superseded the smaller carte de visite format.
The front of the card is usually printed or embossed with the photographer’s details, and the back of the cabinet card is often printed with elaborate designs.
The popularity of the cabinet card waned around the turn of the century, particularly after the introduction of the photographic postcard, but they were still being produced right until the First World War.
Use these clues to identify a cabinet card
The cabinet card was basically a larger version of the carte de visite. Paper prints measuring about 5.5 x 4 inches were pasted to standard sized cardboard mounts measuring 6.5 x 4.25 inches.
Cabinet card mounts are usually thicker than those of cartes de visite.
By the 1880s, cabinet card mounts sometimes had bevelled edges, and were often finished in gold or silver.
The colour of the cardboard mount can also help date the photograph. Cream mounts were always popular, but bolder, dark colours like black, dark brown, green or burgundy began to appear in the 1880s and 1890s.
More in the series
- How to spot a daguerreotype (1840s–1850s)
- How to spot a collodion positive/ambrotype (early 1850s–1880s)
- How to spot a ferrotype/tintype (1855–1940s)
- How to spot a carte de visite (late 1850s–c.1910)
- How to spot a postcard (1900–1950s)
- How to date Victorian photographs
- How to date photographs by fashion
- Researching your photographer ancestors