The American Antiquarian Society's photograph collection includes approximately one hundred and fifty ambrotypes. Ambrotypes became popular in the mid-1850s, and were much less expensive to produce than daguerreotypes. These consist of a collodion image fixed to a glass plate, which, when held up to light, appears negative. To create a positive image, the back of the plate was either painted black or placed against a black background. Like daguerreotypes, ambrotypes are unique objects. The low-contrast images are sometimes difficult to distinguish from cased tintypes, unless the black background material is damaged.


The collection has been fully digitized. A fully illustrated collection inventory is available.

Images are also available through the Society's digital image archive.

They were generally produced in the following sizes, which are noted in the inventory:

  • Imperial or Mammoth Plate - Larger than 6 ½" x 8 ½"
  • Whole Plate - 6 ½" x 8 ½"
  • Half Plate - 4 ¼" x 5 ½"
  • Quarter Plate - 3 ¼" x 4 ¼"
  • Sixth Plate - 2 ¾" x 3 ¼"
  • Ninth Plate - 2"x 2 ½"
  • Sixteenth Plate - 1 ½" x 1 ¾"

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