Early Photography Series 4 of 4

By: James DaMico, Curator of Audiovisual Collections

The Photography Department of Cincinnati Museum Center holds about 1 million photographic prints, negatives, slides, glass plate negatives, and cased images such as daguerreotypes.

This article is about early photography using examples from our collection.


The technological revolution continued when around 1850, the albumen print entered the scene. Instead of a one of a kind photo, a photographer could make multiple prints from one negative, typically a wet collodion glass plate.

Paper is coated with a thin layer of salted albumen (egg white), sensitized with a solution of silver nitrate, and dried. The paper is then "printed-out", usually in the sun, with the paper in direct and tight contact with the negative, washed, toned in a gold chloride bath and fixed in hypo. They are often mounted on card stock due to the thin paper. Albumen prints are the most common form of 19th-century photograph.

Carte de Vistie (Visiting Card Mount)

The standard 2-1/2" x 4" format was patented by a Parisian photographer, Andre Adolphe Disderi, in 1854 and became wildly popular as they were inexpensive to buy. These, along with tintypes, were wildly popular during the Civil War because they were small and cheap to produce.

Title: Edward J. Berry
Creator: A. S. Thomas 166 W. Fifth Street, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Date: 1878-1886 [Dates A. S. Thomas was at that address.]
Collection: Ball and Thomas Photograph Collection (SC#17)
Image No. SC#17-297

Edward J. Berry was born on March 23, 1862. His father was James Berry and his mother's maiden name was Gatewood. He was a prominent African American caterer who specialized in dinner and card parties, weddings, receptions and banquets.

This portrait of Edward J. Berry was taken by Alexander S. Thomas who came to Cincinnati in 1852 and worked with J.P. Ball until 1858.

CABINET CARD MOUNT (albumen photograph)

The cabinet card was introduced in the 1860’s and measured 6.5 x 4.25 inches. These were meant to be displayed in the home or in photo albums.

Title: Three unidentified girls
Creator: J. P. BALL & SON, 129 BRODWAY, Opposite Merchants Hotel. HELENA AVENUE, Opposite Turner Hall.
Date: 1887-1890 [Dates J. P. Ball & Son were at that address.]
Collection: Ball and Thomas Photograph Collection (SC#17)
Image No.: SC#17-310

This group portrait was taken by J.P. Ball and Son while residing in Helena, Montana.

Posted in Photograph and Print.