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In vintage photography, two terms are often mistakenly used interchangeably - CDV and Cabinet Cards. CDV stands for Carte de Viste which translates to visiting cards. Cabinet cards are so named because they were typically displayed in cabinets in family homes. CDV photos predate the cabinet card photos. The image was developed on a very thin sheet of paper and glued to a stiff card stock.
CDV photographs are about 2 1/2" x 4" - sometimes a little smaller. Cabinet cards are about 4" x 6". Both CDV and Cabinet Cards have "albumen" or "Albumen silver" prints laid on the cards. Without going into all the techical details, the albumen print came into wide use in 1855 through about 1890 and was a widely used commerical way of producing photographic images on paper. Photographers began advertising printed on both the front and back of the card.
The larger cabinet cards that were produced during the 1860s were widely used during the Civil War. Cabinet cards continued to be produced as laate as 1924. Early cabinet cards featured landscape photos. It didn't take long for them to be used for family portraits because of their larger size. Since these photos were made from larger negatives, the images have very sharp details.
During the 1880s families used large, decorative, often leather-bound photo albums to protect and display their family photographs and portraits. Due to being in excess of 100 years old, those albums may not be the best way to protect cards collected today. They should be kept in a clean, dry storage box or album. The best way to protect your cards is to keep them in acid free plastic sleeves to prevent scratching or wear. Keep all cabinet cards out of direct sunlight to prevent fading of the image.
Some of the more collectible cabinet cards include:
- American Presidents & Other Politicians
- Celebrities, Broadway Singers & Circus Performers
- Military Images & Pets & Owners
- Postmortem Photos & Ghostly Images
- Street Scenes & Landscapes
Dating CDV Photography:
- Card Corners
- Pre-1870 - Square Corners
- Post-1870 - Rounded Corners
- Image Szie
- Less than 3/4" - 1860 - 1864
- About 1" - 1862 - 1867
- Between 1 1/2" - 1 3/4" - 1865 - 1872
- Fills Complete Card - 1874 - 1910
- Card Borders
- 1860 - 1862 - No Borders
- 1862 - 1863 - One or two thin lines around image
- 1864 - 1869 - Two lines, a thin inner and a thicker outer
- 1874 - 1880 - Very thick border
- Props and Background
- Before the late 1860s backgrounds were empty or had a single object for the person to lean against or sit on
- 1870 - More elaborate backgrounds and props were used