Cartes de visites through the years

Cartes de visites were a popular means of letting members of a family at a distance receive a likeness of a relative.

From the pictures and the style of the mountings it is possible to date a picture which might make the difference between identifying someone as Great-aunt Lottie when it is actually her daughter, Letitia.

Although photographs were around much earlier the majority of people could not afford them before the 1860s.

These are normally very easy to identify as the card mountings are very thin and the subject is almost always seen at full length.

These two pictures above are classic early 1860s portraits. This is shown by the fact that the card shows the complete subject with space above and below. Also in the picture of the woman the carpet can be seen as well as a mantelpiece.
The woman’s hairstyle is also normal for this period with the ears fully covered. This point on its own would not have been enough to date a picture, however, because older woman retained styles into later decades.
By the 1870s the hair had come off the ears and the poses were not as stiff or formal for women.

Judge by the picture bottom here in which the woman is semi-kneeling on a chaise longue. Her hair is back and her dress is much lighter. By this period furniture would be used as a prop and never fully seen. The sloping rather than high bustle also indicates late 1860s to first half of 70s.

The picture of this man is more likely to be late 1870s and possibly even 1880s. By this time the style for men was a more formal head and shoulders.
The high buttoned jacket, and cravat with pin rather than a tie point towards the turn of the decade.

This picture of the young lady in a floral dress with a painted backdrop, is harder to identify. The style of pose indicates a mid 80s to 90s and the brightness of the dress indicates a similar period. The card itself, however, and its simple border, hints more at the late 1860s. It may be that the photographer was using up old stock for the mounting.

The child’s picture looks like a solemn young girl but is more likely to be a boy as they were kept in skirts until about three or four years old and it is probably from the 1870s — after this little boys used to go into trousers and sailor suits.

This could be a family member who rode as an amateur jockey or it could just be a multi-copy picture of a jockey of the time so beware of putting him in the family. By the head and shoulders with softened surround it is probably late 80s or 1890s.

The young man has a high-crowned bowler popular in the 1870s but the style may have edged into the early 80s.

The collar and smocked yoke on the dress indicate 1880s onwards but the child’s hairstyle would point towards the 1890s.

This is a typical late 1890s pose with a head and shoulders pose and the softened area, plus the frilly neckpieces and wide shouldered dresses. Also the shorter curlier hair styles and the glasses on one of the young ladies point to this period.

The severe hairstyle (probably pulled into a bun) of the woman with the child and the softened edges point towards the 1890s and this could have been taken to send to a soldier husband abroad in one of Victoria’s many little wars.

The tighter fit of the jacket in the final picture, with a cravat beneath (note the pin) points towards a late 1870s possibly very early 1880s. The buttonhole indicates a wedding.

Share with...

Family History See all