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Cased Photographs

The American Antiquarian Society's collection of cased photographs includes nearly two hundred and thirty daguerreotypes, over two hundred tintypes, and approximately one hundred and fifty ambrotypes, in addition to many silhouettes, early photographs, and miscellaneous portraits. The collection is grouped by format, and then arranged alphabetically by subject. A number of subjects remain unidentified.

The cases that house these early photographs are often as fascinating as the images themselves. "Union cases," as they are sometimes called, were usually made of wood covered in embossed leather, or early intricately molded thermoplastic. Some cases are especially elegant, such as the mother-of-pearl case from Paris seen here. Cases commonly have a velvet pad in the door facing the image, and a small latch on one side

Although each item in the collection is an invaluable piece of our history, several holdings are particularly noteworthy. The Barton Family Collection from the 1840s includes daguerreotypes of Clara Barton, along with a lock of her hair. An 1848 daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe was used as the model for a famous engraving of the writer, and is housed with an envelope written in Poe's hand. A silhouette of Thomas Edison and a copy of an ambrotype of Charles Dickens are also among the treasures of this collection.

-Jennifer Racine, Readers' Services

 

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