The rise of cartes de visite in America dates to about 1860, as storm clouds of civil war loomed in a divided country. During the war years, they emerged as the dominant photographic format and part of a larger mass media revolution. “Cardomania” swept the nation through the first half of the 1860s and remained in vogue through the end of the decade.
Today, cartes de visite are remembered as something of a novelty format wedged between the Daguerreian Era and the cabinet card.
The importance of cartes has been overlooked and undervalued. How did they come into existence? Why were they so popular? How did they impact our culture? This talk by Ron Coddington explores events that culminated in André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri’s 1854 patent and trace photographer’s claims as the first to produce a carte de visite.
Coddington examines the variety of ways that they were used as fundraisers and an array of other conventional and unconventional purposes. Surviving cartes also reveal the artistry of photographers, some of whom were pioneer daguerreians, others trained by the early masters, and many more who entered the business with plenty of passion but little practical knowledge. Coddington shares representative images from his collection of civilians, soldiers and sailors to illustrate the technical skill and artfulness of the 1860s.
Coddington is the author of the Civil War Faces series of books published by The Johns Hopkins University Press. The series includes volumes on Union soldiers, Confederates, African Americans, Navy men, and women who served as nurses. He is Editor and Publisher of Military Images, a quarterly magazine that showcases, interprets and preserves photographs of the Civil War period.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, Civil War News, Civil War Times, The Civil War Monitor, and other publications. He is a career journalist who has worked for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The San Jose Mercury News, and USA Today.
Presented on October 3, 2020.