CARTE DE VISITE
|The form of tintype (also referred to as ferrotype or
known as a "gem" is a small photographic image usually anywhere from 3/4"
to 1" wide and 1¼" high made possible by the use of a multi-lens camera with repeating
back which therefore could produce multiple exposures on a single photographic
plate. In terms of quantity, the gem was the most prolifically produced
form of photograph in the 1860s in America. Aside from the speed of its
production, the gem was also inexpensive and its small size made it suitable
for mounting in jewellery such as lockets and broaches. Like daguerreotypes
and ambrotypes before it, hand colouring was also possible and rouging
of the subject's cheeks was the most common form of this.
Carte de visite sized card mounts (2½"x4")
were developed to enclose the gem and the finished item was known as a
carte de visite tintype or ferrotype. This enabled the image to be mounted in
carte de visite albums although small albums specifically designed to fit
one, two, four or six gems to the page directly were also produced.
Unmounted gems usually sold from 10 cents per dozen and around 50 cents
per dozen with mounts1. Similarly mounts were
also developed so that ninth plate and sixth plate tintypes (usually slightly
trimmed on the sides) could also be placed in carte de visite albums. The six
plate tintype being approximately 2½"x3½" was just a little short of the
standard carte size of 2½"x4¼" so it could in fact be inserted directly into an
album carte slot without requiring a mount. "Bon Ton" ferrotypes were
usually the size one quarter of a 5"x7" plate (four images to each plate
being produced by a four
lens camera) but they were also sometimes called gem tintypes
although they were obviously much larger in size. Quarter plate tintypes were
also offered in paper mounts, but they were easily damaged so not many have
survived. Like regular cartes de
visite, the tintype carte and even unmounted tintypes produced in the United
were required to carry a tax stamp between 1864-66 which can
assist in dating of these photographs.
Although the tintype itself was introduced around 18562, the earliest gem would appear to date from 1858 and its production would have been dependent on the use of a multiplying camera. Such a camera was produced by Roberts of Boston around 18573. A patent for a multiplying back camera was granted to William Southworth of New Castle, Maine on June 17, 1862. The patent was purchased by Simon Wing who had already patented a camera design of his own in 1860. This multiplying camera was capable of making as many as 616 1/2" square images on a single plate depending on the number of lenses, number of movements of the plate holder and, of course, the size of the plate. Using a four lens array 16 gems could be produced on a quarter plate, and 32 on a half plate. A nine lens version of the camera was also produced that could produce up to 36 gems on a 5" x 7" plate.
The earliest published reference to cartes-de-visite
tintypes or ferrotype cards was in "The Card Photograph" by Cincinnati
photographer Charles Waldack (b. c.1831 in Belgium) that was
issued in 1862 as a pamphlet and also as an appendix to the third edition
of his "Treatise on Photography on Collodion".4
Simon Wing (c.1827-1911),
a native of Maine is first listed as a daguerreotypist in the 1850 census in
Orangeville, Michigan. He is listed in
Waterville, Maine around 1855. He later moved to Worcester, MA where
he was in partnership as Wing and Ellis (probably with Lemuel W. Ellis) around
1859 offering ambrotypes and photographs5.
He was back in Waterville the following year in the 1860 census and was granted a patent for
"Improvements in Photographic Cameras". S. Wing is listed as a photographist in Waterville, Maine in an 1861 directory4. He
appears to have opened his first tintype studio at 144 Washington St, Boston. Wing took
out a three month license in May 1863 for a studio at 299 Broad St, Newark,
New Jersey6 probably in an attempt to introduce
the tintype to that area. Business must have done well as he next opened another
studio in Boston, MA at 4 Summer St.
Rather then being offered by the studios as a sideline to other photographic processes, dedicated ferrotype galleries became the norm. Simon Wing appears to have created this situation for he only offered to sell his multiplying cameras to those who were willing to purchase the patent right for the town or county they wished to use them in. This meant of course that others turned their hands to manufacturing multiplying cameras, infringing the Southworth patent and the rights of Wing who replied with legal action. Eventually failing to win in a high court case, Wing had to put up with other players entering the field and multiplying cameras comparable to his own were eventually made by the American Optical Company and E. & H. T. Anthony, both of New York. A four lens camera was made by John Stock. A nine lens camera (manufacturer unknown) is illustrated on Robert Neiderman's camera site. Anthony offered their "Success Camera" model and later in their catalogue of 1886 they list a "Climax or New York Gem Camera" as being able to make 4, 8, and 16 images on a quarter plate with four 1/9th lenses. Wing was granted a patent for an improvement in his camera's design on May 26, 1868 and refinements continued to be made on it (see this Simon Wing camera page).
Wing remained entrepreneurial and extended his gem tintype business to new areas, opening a studio in Detroit in 1865 that ran until 1876. He also ran a business in Grand Rapids, Michigan from c.1867 initially under the partnership Wing and Johnston and then under his own name until 1878. Wing's Photograph & Ferrotype Rooms operated in in Toledo, Ohio from 1869-1882 and a studio in Freemont, Ohio operated in 18838. Wing opened studios in Monroe, Michigan in 1870 and in Chicago in the same year although that studio was devastated by fire in 1871, but Wing remained in business there until 1900. A studio was opened in Muskegon in 18789. Wing's Photographic Gallery operated at 506 Harrison St, Leadville, Colorada from 1889-189010.
Wing's ventures spread to the west where a studio was opened at 187 J St., Sacramento in 1874 under a partnership with Bennett Graham Allen (b. 1843 Vermont, d. c.1882 California) who had managed Wing's Detroit studio in 1872. Although the studio traded under the name of Wing & Allen it was apparently run by Otis M. Gove (b.1851 Seabrook, NH) who had come from Boston where he had worked for Simon Wing. He changed the operation's name in 1876 to Gove and Allen and in 1878 Gove is listed at the address by himself. He advertised "Otis M. Gove, who carried on the business for the well known firm of Wing & Allen, from the time the Gallery started until the present time, and has succeeded them and became proprietor...". It appears Gove also took over Wing's studio at 425 Washington St, Boston. (see figures 6 & 7)
Wing & Allen's Ferrotype Gallery opened at 342 Kearny St, near Pine, San Francisco in 1873 and was apparently run by Bennett G. Allen himself with his wife Lalla T(rezise) Allen. The studio was located at 523 Kearny St by 1876 and moved again to 521 Kearny St. The former address was occupied by William Shew from 1879. Following Bennett G. Allen's death the business was continued by his wife who is listed as the manager of the Wing and Allen studio, again operating from 342 Kearny St from 1884 trading as Allen and Hay, Mrs. Allen in partnership with Mary C. Hay but the union was dissolved 28 September 1886 with Mrs. Hay carrying on the business. Lalla Allen then formed Allen & Company with Nathaniel Weston in 1887-1888. Weston, originally from Duxbury, Massachussetts set up by himself at 27 Julian Ave, San Francisco after this11 but committed suicide by shooting himself on 23 February 1890. Mary Hay's brother George operated a ferrotype gallery in 1880 according to the census. Mrs. Laura Allen probably also operated Allen's Ferrotype Parlors in 188712.
An advertisement in the front of a gem album from the late1870s gives the following list of addresses for Simon Wing's studios:
425 Washington St, Boston, Mass.
Simon Wing continued working in photography all his life. In 1892 he even ran
for the US presidency as a member of the Socialist Labour Party. He is listed as
a photographic supplier in the 1910 census. He died the following year.
The tintype was never anywhere near as popular in Britain as it was in America and although introduced there in 1856 it soon disappeared from use. It became somewhat fashionable again in the late 1870s like in Australia and New Zealand. Its re-emergence was spurred on by the arrival of Thomas Sherman Estabrooke from Brooklyn (born Thomas Sherman Estabrooks in 1835, New Brunswick, Canada and brother of author Edward M. Eastabrooke) who opened a tintype studio at 30 Regent St in 1872 and acted as an agent for the Phoenix Plate Co. Thomas worked at that location up to around 1876. Theodore N. Gates, a photographer from Westborough, MA visited England during 1874 acting as an agent for the Phoenix Plate Co. and he delivered specimens to the publishers of the British Journal of Photography14. In 1877 Thomas Estabrooke's younger brother Richard P. Estabrooke (born Richard Parker Estabrooks in 1842, New Brunswick, Canada) opened a studio at 158 Fleet Street, London. He moved to 153 Fleet St by 1879 and traded as The Anglo American Photo Co15 until 1881when the liquidation of the firm was announced16 but he remained at the address until 1890 and offered cartes de visite. Another branch of the firm managed by Richard P. Estabrooke operated at 272 Regent St, London (1880-1882)17. Thomas Estabrooks/Estabrooke returned to America opening a studio in Houlton, Aroostook, Maine.
Other branches of The Anglo American
Photo Company operated at18:
Another chain of studios traded as The American Gem Studio. They were operated
at a number of locations:
Lowrie set up in 83 Fleet St, London in 1878 and
later also 184 Fleet St (1880-1882) as well as the following branches:
The British American Photo Co. operated at:
Stewart & Co. of 217 Bourke St, Melbourne, one of that city's largest photo studios offered ferrotype cards in 1873 (Argus 10 November 1873) but no examples of their output have been seen. The firm of Gove and Allen of San Francisco opened in Sydney in 1880 and they were responsible for the somewhat belated popularizing of the gem tintype in Australia. The firm traded as both The American Gem Studio and The American Studio. Poul C. Poulsen, a Danish immigrant opened the Gove & Allen franchises in Adelaide and then Brisbane and Charter's Towers. Poul's brother Anders Poulsen ran the Adelaide branch while Poul concentrated on the Brisbane studio. Others franchises were opened by others in Melbourne, Ballarat and Sandhurst (Bendigo) and many smaller towns. The range of places they visited and even revisited was quite astonishing. Poul Poulsen operated temporary "flying" branches in Bundaberg and Maryborough in Queensland. The Sandhurst branch closed in 1882 ("we are expecting by every mail to receive instructions from our principals in San Francisco to close the Sandhurst business"24). The Adelaide studio closed in 1884 and Anders joined his brother Anton Poulsen and they worked as travelling photographers in the Macleay River district of New South Wales. Poul Poulsen expanded the Brisbane studio, opening a prestige facility there offering all types of photography (but phased out tintypes) in 1885. All of the Gove and Allen studios had ceased trading by 1885. The studio addresses were:
23 King William St, Adelaide
It is interesting that the Gove and Allen name had only been used in America in Sacramento from 1876-78 but the name continued to be used in Australia beyond Bennett Allen's death in 1882 (although as pointed out above his wife Laura continued her husband's business). The card mounts used in the Gove and Allen studios in Australia are identical to types used in America. They were initially made of plain white card with embossing around the oval image opening in the mount while some also had simple geometric and floral printed designs as well. Orange and blue coloured card mounts were also used and novel thicker cards which had apertures for 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 gems were also offered. A gem album holding 4 gems to the page was sold by Gove and Allen's Sydney studio that contained an advert for albums and (Wing's) patent cameras on the front endpaper. This album is identical to those used by Simon Wing's American studios at the time and some of the Sydney albums have turned up for sale in America with American owner's names inscribed. Perhaps a stock of unsold album was returned from Australia.
Although Gove and Allen studios produced the majority of gem tintypes in Australia, other studios offered them including:
- London, American &
Sydney Photo Company, 328 George St, Sydney
Samuel Joseph Lovewell purchased a tintype franchise from Simon Wing. Samuel's sister Ellen (Nellie) M. Lovewell was married to Wing's associate Otis Gove. Samuel's son George Henry Lovewell opened a tintype studio at 198 Main St, Stockton, California before migrating to Australia and is listed as manager of the San Francisco Portrait Gallery in Rundle St, Adelaide in 1880. During that year he formed a partnership Lovewell and Tuttle with fellow American William Nutting Tuttle in Elizabeth St, Sydney. The partnership was short-lived and Lovewell then crossed the Tasman to New Zealand and opened a studio Lovewell, Wing & Co. in Manners St, Wellington during 1881 and they offered carte de visite tintypes and tintype albums similar to those used by the Wing studios in America. Wing himself was involved only in name. A branch studio was opened in Napier but it was not open for long as the following announcement appeared on 28 February 1881 "Messrs. Lovewell, Wing and Co. announce that they will close their photographic studio on Thursday evening next.26"
George Lovewell returned to Australia after the New Zealand venture was wound up, first opening a studio in Western Australia in 1882, then he went to Melbourne around 1883 where he took over the Gove and Allen studio there offering cartes de visite but apparently not tintypes. He opened a studio in Warrnambool during 1883, taking in a James Charles Foyle as partner and trading as Lovewell & Foyle. In 1884 he operated his own Elite Studios in Timor St, Warrnambool until 1891, then moved to Ararat where he worked until 1894. Catherine Lovewell, George's wife along with their infant son Joseph and her mother left Australia for California in 1894 aboard the S.S. Monowai. The tickets were paid for by her father in law S. J. Lovewell who was by then in Los Angeles working as a physician. George Lovewell remained in Victoria, opening a studio in Boorowa in 1895 than ran until 1897. Cartes de visite labelled Lovewell & Co, Hamilton, Victoria have been noted. What became of George Lovewell is unknown.
Otis Gove extended his studio operations in America,
eventually running businesses in Boston, California, Oregon and City Mexico
with his PO address being Lexington, MA. By 1883 he offered a number of
photos from Mexico with his mounts carrying the studio address Num.7, Calle
del Espiritu Santo. Gove was joined in that business by 1884 by a partner
named F. North and they traded under the signature of Gove y North,
with the studio named Fotografia Americana. Although this studio
made carte de visite, cabinet portraits and landscape view photographs it is not known if they produced
tintypes. They also produced views of the Ferrocarril Mexicano, from
Mexico City to Veracruz, and the Ferrocarril Central, from Mexico City
to El Paso. From 1885 North is listed working alone for a time, and
then an Austrian photographer Osbarh(?) joined him until 1900. Gove became an
early cinematographer and sometimes Hollywood actor. He filmed the aftermath of
the San Francisco earthquake on 9 May 1906 and "A Trip to Berkeley" on 24 May
1906, as well as directed "A Daring Hold-Up in Southern California" during that
year, all for the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company. In 1907 he filmed the
comedy romance short "An Acadian Elopement" and in 1916 he filmed Walter
Edward's crime drama "The Corner". Gove appeared as an actor in "Why Tightwad
Tips", "Fat Bill's Wooing", "The Chauffeur's Dream", and "The Kidnapped
Conductor", all produced in 1912. He died in Los Angeles 23 January 1931.
Many American and to a lesser extent Australian and British family photograph
albums of nineteenth century contain carte de visite tintypes and the quaint and
miniature gem albums were quite popular in American homes from the 1860s to the
1880s. The development of a dry plate tintype was accompanied by a great upsurge
in popularity of the medium from the late 1870s but by the mid-1880's the gem
tintype had essentially faded from existence, although matted tintypes in paper
and card mounts, but using larger than gem size images continued to be offered
well into the twentieth century as a form of inexpensive, immediate photography
which seemed well suited to cater to the tourist market.
1. Estabrooke, Edward M., The Ferrotype and How to
Make It, Cathchel & Hyatt, OH & KY, 1872
Thankyou for information and assistance to:
William B. Becker, Claudette Begin,
Alex Chis, Nora Hague, Bob Jackson, Steve Knoblock, Carl Mautz, Robert
Noye (dec), Mark Osterman, Peter Palmquist (dec), Ron Polito, Andrew Rodger, Gina
Rodriguez, Gary D. Saretzky, Phil Storey,
Robert Niederman, Sandy Barrie, Alan Davies, Mike Butcher, George Gilbert, Ron Cosens, Matthew Isenburg, Janice Schimmelman
and Peter J. Leonard. Some of the help I received came via
of Photography mailing list which became defunct at the end of 2000
but it was supplanted by e-Groups and now Yahoo's PhotoHistory
This site was created 1 February 1998
and last updated 5 Dec 2015.