Card photographs were as ubiquitous in the second half of the nineteenth century as camera phone and Instagram images are today. Primarily albumen prints mounted on card stock, card photos varied in several sizes. First came the carte de visite, French for “visiting card,” in the 1860s. Measuring 2½ x 4 inches, cartes de visite, or CDVs for short, took America by storm and created the world’s first photography craze. For the first time since the introduction of photography in 1839, portrait photographs were available to all classes as they were cheap to make, could be easily copied and sent through the mail without threat of damage. In fact, so many CDVs were sent through the mail as men were off fighting the Civil War, that the US government put a tax on them to help fund the war.
Cabinet cards were a larger version of the CDV, measuring 4¼ by 6½ inches and became very popular after 1870. The larger size allowed for greater decoration of the card mounts which advertised the photographer’s name and address. Gradually the mount designs, known as backmarks, grew larger and more ornate, often including many decorative elements common to Victorian design. Popular motifs included painter’s palettes and brushes with cameras to imply the association of photography with fine art, and the sun to symbolize the photographer’s dependence on light. Gilded borders, scalloped edges, colorful mounts and inks, patterned backgrounds, and highly stylized typography all appeared on the mounts of cartes de visite and cabinet card photographs. Some photographers hired artists to create original designs for their card mounts, but the majority chose designs from catalogs of photo supply companies. As a result, many studios from around the country produced card photographs with similar mount designs and backmarks.
Card photographs orphaned by their original owners and descendants that can today be found in thrift stores and flea markets may no longer hold the identity of the person pictured, but they can still be admired for their beauty and what they reveal about larger trends in Victorian culture, photography and graphic design. To see many more nineteenth century card photographs created in Louisville, visit the exhibit “Under the Skylight: Louisville’s Nineteenth Century Portrait Studios” in the Photographic Archives gallery from October 10 – November 1.
Today’s guest blogger is Pam Yeager from the University of Louisville Libraries Photographic Archives.
Unidentified images in the Photographic Archives provide me with lots of opportunities to indulge my love of getting the story under the surface. But one well-identified photo from a recent acquisition provided some fun and surprises, as well. The Speed Art Museum recently de-accessioned a small group of Louisville photographs. One of these is a photo of a Louisville mansion at 214 W. Broadway that was identified on the back as belonging to William H. Dillingham. Three people sitting on the front steps are almost invisible in the picture, which includes the entire massive façade of the building. Caron’s City Directory for 1885 tells us that Mr. Dillingham owned a woolen mill supplies company at 421 W. Main St. There’s another figure off to the side of the house and farther back – so I assume she is not part of the family – perhaps an employee?By 1905, the residence is listed as owned by J.C. Lewis, and the company on Main St. is not listed. In 1914, Caron tells us that at 214 W. Broadway, Ms. Mattie B. Russell had furnished rooms to let, one of which was occupied by Pauline Bredelli, a music teacher. Perhaps Ms. Bredelli was the connection that led to 214’s next occupant: In the 1916 Directory,the Louisville Conservatory of Music is listed at the address.
From Robert Bruce French’s article about the Louisville Conservatory of Music in The Encyclopedia of Louisville, I learned that the Conservatory opened on September 7, 1915, “in the former Dillingham mansion at 214 W. Broadway.” The Conservatory was a great success, so much so that another larger school was built on Brook St. in 1926-7. But after the Depression hit, student enrollment dropped and the school ultimately declared bankruptcy and closed in 1932. It then merged with the University of Louisville’s part-time (no degrees granted) Department of Music. Faculty and students from the Louisville Conservatory became U of L teachers and students, and in only four years the School was accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. French’s article also tells us the Brook St. site is now covered by I 65. And instead of the soaring arches of the Dillingham mansion at 214 W. Broadway, you’ll find a Subway restaurant, across from the more modest golden arches of a McDonalds.
Through October 25, 2012 the photo of the Dillingham mansion is part of Special Collections’ exhibit: “Samuel W. Thomas, Louisville Historian”, in the Photographic Archives gallery. Dr. Thomas used the photograph (when it belonged to the Speed Museum) in his book The Architectural History of Louisville, 1778-1900.
Are you and your students sick and tired of run-of-the-mill research assignments? Do you have an interest in urban architecture, genealogy, business, history, sociology or anthropology? Would your students like to explore Louisville? The University Libraries has an online resource that can help! The Sanborn Fire Insurance maps were “created to assist fire insurance companies as they assessed the risk associated with insuring a particular property.” They are “large scale plans of a city or town, drawn at a scale of 50 feet to an inch.” Using them, one can trace the development and change in neighborhoods, particular blocks, or whole cities. UofL’s collection includes maps from all Kentucky towns and the dates range from 1867-1970.
Using the maps, students could explore why streets are named in particular ways, how land use has changed over time, how business has changed over time. How businesses used to be clustered and why. They could walk the current streets and compare them to the maps, noting changes or similarities. For example one map from 1892 in the Butchertown area of Louisville shows a meat packing plant and a brewery next to Beargrass Creek. Students could discuss why these businesses would have chosen that location, for example.
The level of detail on the maps is truly astonishing. “Textual information on construction details (for example, steel beams or reinforced walls) is often given on the plans while shading indicates different building materials. Extensive information on building use is given, ranging from symbols for generic terms such as stable, garage, and warehouse to names of owners of factories and details on what was manufactured in them. In the case of large factories or commercial buildings, even individual rooms and the uses to which they were put are recorded on the maps. Other features shown include pipelines, railroads, wells, dumps, and heavy machinery.”
The Sanborn maps could be used in conjunction with the digital Kentucky map collection available from UofL Digital Collections. Check out the Sanborn maps here: http://sanborn.umi.com/. Contact one of the Reference Librarians for help! 852-6747.
Now you can explore Louisville’s history through your phone! With this new feature you can access every image from the University of Louisville Photographic Archives that has been pinned to the Historypin Google map through your smart phone, as well as:
- Explore content nearest to your current location
- Explore the streets – holding your phone up to the street, the app uses your camera view to display nearby images. By selecting the image, it can be overlaid onto the modern view to create an historical comparison, which you can toggle or fade between.
- Capture a modern moment of history – images taken with the app are immediately pinned to the Historypin map, with any captions and stories you add. Images can also be added from your phone’s albums.
- Digitize an old photo – take photos of old pictures as an easy alternative to scanning them, then add photo details and pin them directly to the Historypin map.
- Take modern equivalents of old classics – when exploring historic content, you can snap exact contemporary replicas
- Shake history up – a simple shake of the app brings up a random piece of content from anywhere in the world
I’ve been working my way through the 1940s invoices for the Caufield & Shook Collection. Caufield & Shook was a photography studio that did business in Louisville from 1903 to 1978. Their motto was “We photograph anything, day or night.”
As part of our ongoing digitization project, I’ve been writing descriptions of scanned photographs for this collection. Around 1100 of them from the 1920s and 1930s are already available online in Caufield & Shook Collection of the Digital Collections.
Now I’m working on a new batch: images from the 1940s. Part of my process is tracking down the original invoices that the company recorded for each image. When the company went out of business they donated the collection and the invoices to the University of Louisville Libraries Photographic Archives. The negatives and photographs are organized by image number; unfortunately, the invoices are organized by client name. So I’m making an index that tells us which images are from which clients so that we can find the invoice info, like date, client name, and any notes on what the image is.
While this can be tedious sometimes, it’s taught me a lot about the nature of the work Caufield & Shook did and, in fact, a lot about the city of Louisville. Just to give you an idea, let me tell you about a client whose invoices I was working with this morning.
The invoice that caught my eye had this note on it, “3 views of milk goat on Keene Farm.” The client was Ewing Von Allmen Dairy Company located at 431 West Oak Street. I don’t know why that caught my eye – maybe because I just like goats – but on further examination I learned some more things about the company. For one thing, the company ordered 65 images from Caufield & Shook during the 1940s. Those images included displays at groceries and other stores like McCrory’s 5 and 10¢ Store, Schmitt’s Grocery (at 2700 S. Fourth Street), and the Piggly-Wiggly (at 2208 Bardstown Road). There are pictures of safety meetings and a laboratory. The invoices record the company’s involvement with the community, including pictures of the Sealtest bowling and baseball teams, a children’s party at Kentucky Dairies, and an ice cream stand at the Kentucky State Fair.
If I can learn this much from a bunch of invoices, I can’t wait to see the photos!
If you are trying to find information on local artists, the Artist Files in the Art Library will be a great resource for you. The Artist Files contain exhibit notices, brochures, articles and ephemera on artists from Kentucky and surrounding states or who have a connection to the region.
For information on art and architecture in Louisville and the surrounding area, use the Information Files which contain articles, brochures and ephemera. There is a particularly rich section on the art in the Speed Art Museum. These files will come in very handy if you have an assignment to find information on a work of art in the Speed.
Here’s what the Artist and Information file folders look like:
The Artist Files web page lists the names of the artists who have files. You must come to the Art Library to access the information.
The Information Files web page lists the subject headings of the files. Again, you must come to the library to access the information.
The Artist and Information files are located in the Art Library book stacks by aisle 13.
You may have attended special events — a wedding, reception, formal dinner, or even a prom — at the 88-year-old Henry Clay building located at the southwest corner of 3rd Street and Chestnut Street, but have you ever wondered what else has happened in this building?
Originally an Elks Athletic Club, the Henry Clay was built in 1924 and designed by local architectural firm Joseph & Joseph in a neo-classical revival style. Four years later, the Elks moved out and the building was re-purposed as the Henry Clay Hotel. Images in the Royal Photo Co. collection show that Southern Bell frequently held classes for employees there.
In 1963, the building took on a new life as a YWCA. Some people may remember taking swimming lessons in the building (sadly, the pool no longer exists). There are painted signs on the south side of the building along the alleyway that connects to Third Street pointing to the Pool Entrance.
Although added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, eventually, the building fell into disuse and sat empty for many years. Since 2005, however, the Henry Clay has been owned by City Properties Group, which restored the building to much of its original splendor, including limestone floors and ornate molding in the lobby. Lower floors are used for event space and house the Bunbury Theatre, while the upper levels have residential apartments and condos.
Browse these and other images at the University of Louisville Digital Collections in the Images of Kentucky and its Environs and Royal Photo Company collections.
The University of Louisville Photographic Archives is now contributing historic photographs of Louisville to Historypin.com. Utilizing Google Street Maps and Street View technology, historic scenes of streets, neighborhoods, cities, and all kinds of other locations can be compared to current day views. Institutions and individual users from around the globe are adding photographs from their archives to the Historypin map to create a time-traveling look at places all over the world. Do you want to see what Bardstown Road looked like in 1930? Did you know that the view of 2nd and Main Streets has not changed much since 1913, or that the building on the corner of 37th and Broadway used to be a firehouse?
Visit www.historypin.com/profile/view/UniversityofLouisvillePhotographicArchives/ for a look at Louisville’s past.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Kentucky Derby this week and found this item in the Ekstrom Reference Collection [Ref. SF357 .K4 B76 2007]:
The fillies are running on Friday and then Saturday is the big day, the Kentucky Derby. We’re all getting ready for the races so I’m going to feature some Derby-abilia this week.
Here’s a photograph from the Royal Photo Company Collection.
Bartenders mix up some Mint Juleps at the Dobbs House bar.