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French Carte de visite of Nadar

The carte de visite or CDV (also carte-de-visite) was a type of small photograph which was patented in Paris, France by photographer André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri in 1854.[1] It was usually made of an albumen print, which was a thin paper photograph mounted on a thicker paper card. The size of a carte de visite is 2⅛ × 3½ inches mounted on a card sized 2½ × 4 inches. It was made popular in 1859 in Europe, and from 1860 in the United States. The new invention was so popular it was known as "cardomania"[2] and eventually spread throughout the world. In 1854, Disdéri had also patented a method of taking eight separate negatives on a single plate.

Each photograph was the size of a visiting card, and such photograph cards became enormously popular and were traded among friends and visitors. The immense popularity of these card photographs led to the publication and collection of photographs of prominent persons. "Cardomania" spread throughout Europe and then quickly to America. Albums for the collection and display of cards became a common fixture in Victorian parlors.

By the early 1870s, cartes de visite were supplanted by "cabinet cards," which were also usually albumen prints, but larger, mounted on cardboard backs measuring 4½ by 6½ inches. Cabinet cards remained popular into the early twentieth century, when Kodak introduced the Brownie camera and home snapshot photography became a mass phenomenon.


The American Civil War

The carte de visite photograph proved to be a very popular item during the American Civil War. Soldiers, friends and family members would have a means of inexpensively obtaining photographs and sending them to loved ones in small envelopes. Photographs of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and other celebrities of the era became an instant hit with the public. People were not only buying photographs of themselves, but also photographs of celebrities.



  1. ^ Welling, William. Photography in America (1978 & 1987)
  2. ^ Newhall, Beaumont. The history of photograph (1964)

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