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History, Conservation, and Repair The history of photographic prints, and how best to care for and repair them.

Help in dating a photograph

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  #1  
Old 12-12-2009, 12:53 PM
Cliff. Johnston Cliff. Johnston is offline
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Help in dating a photograph

I would like to know approximately the decade in which this image was captured.

http://www.pbase.com/cjmax/image/72563440

I suspect that it is not the person whom I have identified it as, but rather his son. The fly in the ointment is the writing on the reverse of the CDV.

Thanks,

Cliff.

Last edited by Cliff. Johnston; 12-13-2009 at 09:14 AM.
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Old 12-12-2009, 07:36 PM
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James Penner James Penner is offline
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Re: Help in dating a photograph

Any chance there's anything on the back that would help narrow it down? Any name or design? What's the size of the print?
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Old 12-12-2009, 09:39 PM
Cliff. Johnston Cliff. Johnston is offline
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Re: Help in dating a photograph

It's a CDV - carte de visite:

Those three letters are an acronym for the French "carte de visite" or visiting card. This style of antique photography took over in popularity from the daguerreotype or ambrotype of the 1840s and 1850s. Though they provided lovely images, the dag and ambro were easily damaged and not suitable to tuck into an album or a letter to a friend.

The Civil War era of the 1860s, however, saw a wide acceptance of the CDV, the invention of either Adolph Disderi in 1854 or Louis Dodero in 1851.

The CDV photograph belongs to the group known as card photographs because the albumen print (a mixture of egg whites, sodium chloride, and silver nitrate) was mounted on paper cards.

The size of a CDV is 2 1/4" x 4 1/4" (although you may see them sized as 4" x 2 1/2")

They went out of popularity ca. 1906.

Most can be dated by the various props that were used; however, this was strictly a headshot with no props. On the reverse the names of John McQueen Johnston and Susannah Way are written. At first I thought that this was an image of John McQueen Johnston, 1843-1917, but then I compared it to a known image of his son, John McQueen Johnston, 1872-1927, and it is a dead-ringer of the son. This then brought the questions to mind if someone wrote the name of his parents on the reverse or if the father and son were look-alikes. I'm hoping that someone can date the style of the clothing for me. In the image of the son, taken when he was in his early 30's, he had put on some weight, etc., but the ears and everything else match the cdv image. Both father and son lived during the time of the cdv too, so that's no help.

The other thing that I need to do is to check out when the photographer was in business in Ottawa. Perhaps that will give me a clue.

I appreciate your interest.

Cliff.

Last edited by Cliff. Johnston; 12-13-2009 at 09:16 AM.
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Old 12-12-2009, 10:16 PM
Cliff. Johnston Cliff. Johnston is offline
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Re: Help in dating a photograph

The photographer, Taggart in Ottawa (Canada), did not open for business until 1889. He advertised that he made CDV copies of tintype images using the most modern process available. Here is the rub - tintypes are reverse images. The buttons on the coat in this image have the buttons attached on the right side, but for men the fashion now is to have the buttons attached on the left side, but I've got some tintypes in which the men have the buttons attached on both the right and left sides - no help here. Is this a copy of an earlier tintype image? Dunno.

As CDVs were made from 1856 to about 1906 and tintypes were made from 1856-1930s (in carnivals mostly after WWI) this is of little help in dating the CDV. As the photographer who made the CDV opened in 1889 and CDVs when out of style in 1906. that gives a window of some 17 years which is of little help too. If I had a known image of the father that would help. I do have an image that I believe may be of the father, but I have not been able to verify this. The approximate dating of the image fits as there were no other male siblings who were married at this time with a child. This image may be viewed here:

http://www.pbase.com/cjmax/image/42048978

It looks more and more as if the only hope is to date the clothing. Then I should be able to tell if it's the father or the son judging from the age of the man in the image. I would say that he is in his early 20's. If the clothing dates to the 1890's that would make the image that of the son, as the person looks too young to be the father who would have been in his 50s by then. I would then assume that someone wrote the names of his parents on the reverse so as to not forget them.

It's a good puzzle, but solvable...

Cliff.

Last edited by Cliff. Johnston; 12-12-2009 at 10:28 PM.
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Old 12-13-2009, 09:00 AM
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csuebele csuebele is offline
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Re: Help in dating a photograph

Looks like it's the son to me. The age of the man & the date that the photog was in business seems to point in that direction.
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Old 12-13-2009, 07:35 PM
Cliff. Johnston Cliff. Johnston is offline
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Re: Help in dating a photograph

Yes, I am thinking along the same lines - the son.

Thanks,

Cliff.
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Old 01-06-2010, 07:55 PM
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AFrazier AFrazier is offline
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Re: Help in dating a photograph

I have two observations. The first is the tie. I'm no expert on fashion history, but I don't think neckties like that starting becoming the norm until closer to the 1900s.
The second observation is the tint. Some of the yellowing, as someone else noted, is that it is an albumen print. But there is also a hint of sepia toner, which, although discovered in the mid 1850s, wasn't as widely used until near the early 1900s. Gold chloride was the preferred toner/preserver for general prints.
Between the necktie and the toner, my best guess is that it is closer to 1900.

But again, I'm no fasion history buff.

Look, if you choose, at the portraits of the presidents of the United States. Benjamin Harrison, 1889-1893, is one of the first to start wearing the long necktie (which is not to suggest that it didn't exist before then, so don't misunderstand). But the bowtie is more prominently featured before that.

Last edited by AFrazier; 01-07-2010 at 09:57 AM.
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