David V. Tinder Collection of Michigan Photography, Carte de Visite photographs (1859-ca. 1910)

Collection processed by Terese Austin and Clayton Lewis and finding aid created by Claire Milldrum, December 2016
Graphics Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: David V. Tinder Collection of Michigan Photography, Carte de Visite photographs
Creator: Tinder, David V.
Inclusive dates: 1859-ca. 1910
Extent: approx. 17,000 photographs
The Tinder collection of carte de visite photographs are primarily professional studio portraits made by over 1,250 different Michigan photographers between 1859-ca. 1910. A majority of the subjects are unidentified people of middle and upper classes, with some notable persons, performers, comic poses, occupational portraits and different ethnicities represented. A smaller number of pictures of objects and outdoor views are also included.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu

Access and Use

Acquisition Information

F-832, F-923, F-980, F-999, F-1012, F-1056, F-1086, F-1135, F-1137, F-1138.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information

This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation

David V. Tinder Collection of Michigan Photography, Carte de Visite photographs, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan. The majority portion donated by David B. Walters in honor of Harold L. Walters, UM class of 1947 and Marilyn S. Walters, UM class of 1950.


The David V. Tinder Collection of Michigan Photography, Cartes de Visite collection is divided into two series:

  • Series I: Sorted alphabetically by photographer. Contains over 14800 images.
  • Series II: Sorted alphabetically by subject. Contains over 2050 images.


The carte de visite photograph was a portrait format popular with professional photographers from 1859 to the end of the 19th century, though it persisted until the 1920s. Its origins with small paper photographic prints pasted to visiting cards gives it its name. Photographers frequently referred to this format as a "card photograph" after the 1860s.

Typically, the carte de visite was a vertical image on thin photographic paper, mounted on a 4 ¼ x 2 ½ inch piece of Bristol paper or cardstock. It was one of the first inexpensive methods of portraiture, due to its small size, inexpensive materials, and the special multi-lens cameras that could produce multiple images from the same sitting. The carte de visite was cheaper to reproduce and less delicate compared to the daguerreotype, making it an appropriate choice for sharing and trading. It could also be reproduced in mass quantities for widespread distribution.

The carte de visite format first appeared in the United States in the summer of 1859, five years after the format was patented in Paris. It quickly became a popular phenomenon in Europe, Great Britain, and the United States. The carte de visite remained enormously popular through the 1860s, with tens of millions produced in the middle of the decade. It was used for portraits representing the full spectrum of society, from slaves, and working people, to popular celebrities, heads of state and royalty.

The cards often carry the name and location of the photographer printed either on the front border of the card below the photograph or in a design on the reverse side. These decorative "backstamps" often included promotional messages and illustrations. Typically, the photographic trade was made up of both resident photographers with permanent studios and traveling itinerants with mobile studios set up in wagons or tents. Due to the wide array of skills and technical knowledge results by these photographers are uneven. Photographic studios were seen as a way to gain wealth quickly, creating many short lived studios and inconsistent image quality. By 1870, the business was quite competitive.

Most early cartes de visite were prints on albumen paper, recognizable by their warm sepia and yellow hues. In the late 1880s and 1890s the introduction of matte collodion, silver gelatin and gelatin bromide papers resulted in images closer to the tones now associated with black and white images. Over time, early thin buff-colored cards gave way to thick cardstock in various colors with printed or embellished edges, gilding, embossing, and other decorative touches. During the latter part of the 19th century, cartes de visite were largely replaced by the cabinet card due to the larger size and higher image quality of the latter.

One of the keys to the success of the carte de visite portrait was its relative affordability. In 1870, one dollar for six or twelve was common. Backstamps and other promotional materials usually noted that the studio preserved all negatives so customers could obtain reprints at a later date.

Cartes de visite of the 1860s had a highly formalized portrait style based on portrait paintings. The lengthy exposure times necessitated the use of braces and head-clamps that limited natural poses. Full-length portraits were common along with vignettes and creative borders for bust portraits. A wide range of studio props, including pastoral backdrops, furniture, mantle pieces and faux fences were common. Smaller items such as books, musical instruments, hunting rifles, bicycles, and so on frequently offer clues to the occupation or interests of the subject.

The majority of cartes de viste are individual portraits, but many are of families, school classes, and athletic teams. Aside from portraiture, the carte de visite format was also used for outdoor views of buildings, public events, nature scenes, and for promoting commercial products. Carte de visite landscape views were often printed from stereograph negatives and twin-lens stereo cameras were occasionally used in the studio to produce cartes de visite portraits. From 1864 to 1866, cartes de visite were taxed as paper products, and bear tax stamps. At times, photographers would add hand coloring to the photographs to add a more life-like quality.

The immense popularity of carte de visite collecting drove the development of the photograph album. Albums with precut and standardized slots were produced so the carte de visite could be inserted easily. The popularity of albums kept the carte de visite largely the same standard size. Widely available images of celebrities, art work, politicians and occasional outdoor views could be added to a family album. Cartes de visite often functioned as cultural currency, and as Oliver Wendell Holmes called them, "sentimental greenbacks of civilization."

The introduction of personal cameras, particularly the Kodak roll film cameras of the 1880s, began to divert interest away from studio photos in favor of snapshots, which tended to be more candid and more often outdoors. The development of heavier printing papers that did not need to be mounted also reduced the popularity of cartes de visite and card photographs. By the turn of the century, a proliferation of standard and non-standard size photographs dominated the market, ending the four decade run of the carte de visite.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Tinder carte de visite photograph collection includes the work of approximately 1270 professional photographers from across the state of Michigan. Series I includes mostly anonymous individual portraits taken by known photographers (see the Additional Descriptive Data section of the finding aid for a complete list of photographers represented in the collection). Series II is sorted by subject as listed below.

For all but the broadest categories (such as children, men, or women), the subject groupings include almost all of the photos in the collection on that subject.

African Americans (25 photographs) Individual portraits, including a photo of a man wearing a graduation cap.

Artwork (53 photographs) Reproductions of artworks, including three photographs of Nydia, the Blind Flower Girl of Pompeii (Slave Girl) by Randolph Rogers, a photographed lithograph of Abraham Lincoln, and Raphael’s Alba Madonna.

Asian Americans (12 photographs) Four portraits are of a Burmese man identified as Myatt Kyau.

Athletes (11 photographs) Of note are three images of a woman holding dumbbells.

Backstamps (73 photographs) Individual examples representing the diversity of backstamps used by photographers.

Bicycles and Tricycles (5 photographs)

Bird’s-eye Views (10 photographs)

Buildings (48 photographs)

Celebrities (15 photographs) Includes images of Sojourner Truth and Abraham Lincoln along with abolitionist Laura Haviland.

Children (13 photographs)

Children - Boys (80 photographs)

Children - Carriages & Coaches (38 photographs)

Children - Dolls and Toys (65 photographs)

Children - Girls (84 photographs)

Children - Infants (36 photographs)

Churches (11 photographs)

Clergy (26 photographs) Includes an image of Bishop Peter P. Lefevre, Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Detroit.

Comedy and Humor (14 photographs)

Confirmation (13 photographs)

Couples (64 photographs) Of note is the hand colored image of a man with a gun handing a rabbit to a woman.

Employment (59 photographs) Occupational portraits, mostly adults, with several children included. Occupations represented include fireman, butcher, cook, waiter, hunter, painter and others.

Ethnic Dress (11 photographs)

Family (98 photographs)

Group Portraits - Adult (35 photographs) Includes an image of a group of men standing behind a dog pulled cart.

Groups - Children (9 photographs) Includes an image of two young children dressed as a bride and groom.

Groups - School (13 photographs) Includes one interior view of a classroom during instruction.

Houses (14 photographs)

Industry (6 photographs) Includes images of lumber camps and one image of a mine.

Interiors (3 photographs)

Lake Superior (40 photographs) Includes images of Lake Superior from the stereographs of by Brainard F. Child and C. B. Brubaker.

Leisure (12 photographs) Includes images of hunting, roller skating and playing croquet.

Men (215 photographs) Of note is a photograph of a man with a beard long enough to reach the floor, and an image of a man with a gun, feather headdress and roller skates.

Men - Disabilities (12 photographs)

Men - Hats (54 photographs) Of note is a portrait of C.E. Wheeler, captain of a boat club in Saginaw, Michigan, wearing a sweater with large stars on it.

Men - Medals (3 photographs)

Military Uniforms (81 photographs) Studio portraits of men in uniform. Some are identified, including Ira C. Baxter of Company I, 21st Michigan Infantry.

Musicians (56 photographs)

Native Americans (8 photographs) Studio portraits of Native Americans, including one of Nock chic ga me, who lived in Saginaw Bay along with a photo negative and biographical note.

Objects (26 photographs) Promotional and advertising photos for various products, including farm machinery, wooden furniture, pipe organs, small statuary, and floral arrangements.

Performing Arts - Portraits (46 photographs)

Pets (52 photographs)

Photography (26 photographs) Studio portraits, either as copies of cased images or those including photography materials like albums or stereoscope viewers. Includes a business card for an East Lansing Camera shop.

Politicians (21 photographs) Includes judges, senators and a secretary of state.

Post Mortem (27 photographs) Of note is an image of two children together.

Schools (10 photographs)

Spirit Photographs and Spiritualism (2 photographs)

Transportation (11 photographs) Outdoor views of mostly Great Lake vessels and a few of trains. Two images of carriages and one fare card for a Hary Burstein in Detroit.

Uniforms - Fraternal Organizations (26 photographs) Primarily Masons, Elks, and Odd Fellows.

Universities & Colleges - Hillsdale College (46 photographs) Portraits of male and female members of the class of 1867 and some college buildings.

Universities & Colleges - Michigan Agricultural College (8 photographs) Portraits of students during the 1880s.

Universities & Colleges - Michigan State Normal College (42 photographs)

Universities & Colleges - Olivet College (4 photographs)

Universities & Colleges - University of Michigan (149 photographs) Portraits largely of the classes of 1863 and 1865. Also includes images of buildings including the hospital and law building.

Weddings (8 photographs)

Women (189 photographs)

Women - Clothing and Dress (39 photographs) Women in elaborate dresses or unusual patterns. Includes an image of three women dressed in kimonos.

Women - Hairstyles (52 photographs)

Subject Terms

  • David V. Tinder Collection of Michigan Photography.
  • Photographs shelf.
Subjects - Visual Materials:
  • African Americans.
  • Architecture--Michigan.
  • Asian Americans.
  • Athletes--Michigan.
  • Baby carriages--Michigan.
  • Bicycles.
  • Buildings--Michigan.
  • Carriages & coaches--Michigan.
  • Cats--Michigan.
  • Children--Michigan.
  • Church buildings.
  • Clergy--Michigan.
  • College athletes.
  • Couples--Michigan.
  • Cyclists--Michigan.
  • Dogs--Michigan.
  • Dolls--Michigan.
  • Dwellings--Michigan.
  • Entertainers--Michigan.
  • Families--Michigan.
  • Football players--Michigan.
  • Fraternal organizations--Michigan.
  • Indians of North America.
  • Legislators--Michigan.
  • Livestock--Michigan.
  • Logging.
  • Lumber industry--Michigan.
  • Mackinac Island (Mich.)
  • Men--Michigan.
  • Michigan Military Academy.
  • Military decorations--Michigan.
  • Military men.
  • Monuments & Memorials--Michigan.
  • Musicians--Michigan.
  • Occupations--Michigan.
  • Outdoor recreation.
  • Parades & processions--Michigan.
  • Pets--Michigan.
  • Politicians--Michigan.
  • Railroads--Michigan.
  • Schools--Michigan.
  • School children--Michigan.
  • Statesmen--Michigan.
  • Students--Michigan.
  • Uniforms--Michigan.
  • Weddings--Michigan.
  • Women--Michigan.
Genre Terms:
  • Albumen prints.
  • Cartes de visite.
  • Collodion printing-out paper prints.
  • Gelatin silver prints.
  • Photographic prints.
  • Portrait photography.
  • Postmortem photographs.
  • Publicity photographs.

Contents List

Container / Location Title
Photographers [series]
Box   1  
Anonymous -- Ayres, George B.
Box   2  
Babcock -- Ball, J.A.
Box   3  
Ball, R. -- Beardsley
Box   4  
Beardsley -- Bissell, E.
Box   5  
Bissell, E. -- Brooks, J.A.
Box   6  
Brothers, N.V. -- Brush, J.A.
Box   7  
Brush, J.A. -- Carson & Graham
Box   8  
Carson & Graham -- Cheney & Richardson
Box   9  
Chidester, B.F. -- Coffin, Charles
Box   10  
Colburn, E.J. -- Cookingham, J.V.
Box   11  
Cookingham, J.V. -- Cuyler, Benjamin
Box   12  
Dafoe, J.M. -- Dysert, L.O.
Box   13  
Earle, Charles -- Foote, W.C.
Box   14  
Foote, W.C -- Friend & Smith
Box   15  
Gage -- Grand Central Gallery
Box   16  
Graves, E.L -- Haight & Marvin
Box   17  
Hale, B.F. -- Hiler, M.
Box   18  
Hill, J.G. -- Honey, J.
Box   19  
Hopkins, C.H. -- Ish, J.W.
Box   20  
Ives, E.B. -- King
Box   21  
King, B.F. -- Lewis, E.B.
Box   22  
Lewis, E.B. -- McClellan, W.
Box   23  
McClellan, W. -- Menkee, H.
Box   24  
Menkee, H. -- Mowbry, E.L.
Box   25  
Mowbry, E.L. -- Packard, C.C.
Box   26  
Packard, C.C. -- Parsons, J.H.
Box   27  
Parsons, J.H. -- Porter, M.H.
Box   28  
Porter, M.H -- Quartermass, W.
Box   29  
Quartermass, W. -- Revenaugh, S.
Box   30  
Revenaugh, S. -- Scotford, J.H.
Box   31  
Scotford, J.H -- Showman, L.K.
Box   32  
Showman & Green -- Speechley, S.T.
Box   33  
Spencer, D.H. -- Sterling, C.F.
Box   34  
Sterling, C.F. -- Tibbits, H.B.
Box   35  
Tibbits, H.B. -- Udell, A.A.
Box   36  
Vail, A.C. -- Webster & Clarkson
Box   37  
Weed, C.L. -- Wing, S.
Box   38  
Wing, S. -- Young & McKay
Subjects [series]
Box   39  
African Americans (25 photographs) [view selected images]
Artwork (53 photographs)
Asian Americans (12 photographs) [view selected images]
Athletes (11 photographs)
Backstamps (73 photographs)
Bicycles and Tricycles (5 photographs)
Bird’s-eye View (10 photographs)
Buildings (48 photographs)
Celebrities (15 photographs) [view selected images]
Children (13 photographs)
Children-Boys (80 photographs)
Children-Carriages & Coaches (38 photographs)
Box   40  
Children-Dolls and Toys (66 photographs)
Children-Girls (84 photographs)
Children-Infants (36 photographs)
Churches (11 photographs)
Clergy (26 photographs)
Comedy and Humor (14 photographs)
Confirmation (13 photographs)
Couples (64 photographs)
Employment (59 photographs)
Ethnic Dress (11 photographs) [view selected images]
Box   41  
Family (98 photographs)
Group Portraits-Adult (35 photographs)
Groups-Children (9 photographs)
Groups-School (13 photographs)
Houses (14 photographs)
Industry (6 photographs)
Interiors (3 photographs)
Lake Superior (40 photographs)
Leisure (12 photographs)
Men (136 photographs)
Box   42  
Men (79 photographs)
Men-Disabilties (12 photographs) [view selected images]
Men-Hats (54 photographs)
Men-Medals (3 photographs)
Military Uniforms (81 photographs)
Musicians (56 photographs) [view selected images]
Native Americans (8 photographs) [view selected images]
Objects (26 photographs)
Performing Arts-Portraits (46 photographs)
Box   43  
Pets (52 photographs)
Photography (26 photographs)
Politicians (21 photographs)
Post Mortem (27 photographs)
Schools (10 photographs)
Spirit Photographs and Spiritualism (2 photographs) [view selected images]
Transportation (11 photographs)
Uniforms-Fraternal Organizations (26 photographs)
Universities & Colleges-Hillsdale College (46 photographs)
Universities & Colleges-Michigan Agricultural College (8 photographs)
Universities & Colleges-Michigan State Normal College (42 photographs)
Universities & Colleges-Olivet College (4 photographs)
Universities & Colleges-University of Michigan (69 photographs)
Box   44  
Universities & Colleges-University of Michigan (80 photographs)
Weddings (8 photographs)
Women (188 photographs)
Women-Clothing and Dress (39 photographs)
Women-Hairstyles (52 photographs)

Additional Descriptive Data

The Clements Library has created a complete list of photographers represented in the Tinder collection of carte de visite photographs: Cartes de visite photographer index.

Related Materials

David V. Tinder Collection of Michigan Photography.

The William L. Clements Library has many photograph albums including in carte de visite format. Search the library's online catalog for more information.


Tinder, David V. Directory of Early Michigan Photographers. This reference work contains biographical information about virtually every known commercial and significant amateur photographer in the state of Michigan from the first known appearances in the 1840s into the early twentieth century.

Siegel, Elizabeth. Galleries of Friendship and Fame: A History of Nineteenth-century American Photograph Albums. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.