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North Country Photographic Portraits Collection

North Country Photographic Portraits Collection

Collection Number: 
Collection Length: 
1860 to 1920
Finding Aid: 
Carte de Visite photographs of baby Willie Gale and Sherman Jenison


The carte de visite (Cdv) was the first small photographic format to gain wide popularity.  The process was patented by French photographer Andre Adolphe Disderi in 1854.  It consisted of an albumen print on thin paper adhered to thick cardboard stock.  The cabinet card, which consisted of a larger format photograph using the same process, came along somewhat later.  Cartes de visite and cabinet cards were popular because they made portrait photographs available to many and gave photography studios a ready way to advertise their services.  The advertising designs on the backs of cabinet cards in particular could be quite elaborate.  The card-type photos of the mid-to-late 1800s quickly fell out of popularity in the early 20th century due to the introduction of the inexpensive Brownie Box camera, manufactured by Kodak.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of approximately 400 photographic images of men and women living primarily in the St. Lawrence County area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Most of the photographs appear to be portraits of prominent businessmen and other residents, including wives and children.  Nearly all are either cartes de visite or cabinet card format images and most were taken by one of many photography studios in Canton, Potsdam, Ogdensburg, Gouverneur and other communities.  In addition to paper portrait photographs, a few of them are tintypes and some are group photos.  The majority of people are identified and many of those in the group photographs have connections to St. Lawrence University.

Organization and Arrangement

The photographs are arranged alphabetically by last name of the subject and by the size of the image.  Group pictures and unidentified portraits are arranged behind the photo portraits that are identified.