Friday, February 25, 2011

Dating 19th Century Photographs

Gary Clark of taught how to date old photographs
Ambrotype, ca. 1861

I have an old photograph. According to the name on the back, it is my great grandfather, Samuel Frost Insider. But it is really old and I’ve held out hope that it was his father, John McCormick N’Sider.

Today I learned how to date the photograph. I attended Gary Clark’s class, “19th Century Cased Images & Tintypes: Discovering the Picture’s Date.” Clark is a professional photographer, photo restorer, and the author of an upcoming book on dating 19th century photographs.

We usually think of identifying photographs using clues in the photograph: clothes, personal style, studio setting, and props.

Clark said that other characteristics need to be considered as well. You should determine whether the photograph is a daguerreotype, ambrotype, or tintype. Also consider the size. The photograph packaging provides additional clues. Packaging may include case, plate, mat, glass, and preserver.

I appreciated everything I learned except for one thing. Applying my new-found learning, I dated my tintype to around 1890, too recent to be my great-great-grandfather.



Some of what Clark taught can be found on his website,

1 comment:

  1. Hi Insider . . .,

    Thanks for attending my class, but I'm sorry the date you come up with for your grandfather didn't match expectations. Can I help? I'd love to take a look at the tintype and see if you missed anything. Send me a scan? Take care, I enjoy your blog,

    Gary C.


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