Going Places

A collection of 19th century carte de visite photographs might be seen as no more than a series of images taken by long-dead photographers. However, look a little closer and a theme begins to appear. Many c-d-vs indicate that if there was one thing that our Victorian forebears were doing, it was going places.

Emigration was big in the 19th century. Many fled Europe for Britain or America, while in the same breath British nationals were taking off to new worlds in the colonies  and all other points of the compass . All this is revealed by the information on the little photographs that they left behind for posterity.

Britain proved a popular destination for European emigres, some of whom promptly set up photographic businesses. Some examples of their work is seen below. Settling in England’s north-east, German born Bolko Schmiechen soon established a flourishing business, married a local girl and raised a family. Others followed the same pattern, among them Ceaser Ferranti, French born despite his Italian sounding name, Jules Guggenheim, from Hungary, and Polish-born Augustus Mahalski.

While these new settlers were making England their home, British travellers were sending images of themselves and their families back to the country of their birth. Some photographs came from as far away as Australia, like the one of Maisie Barker, snapped in Fitzroy, a suburb of Melbourne. Another example is that of James Ferguson, possibly Scottish, who had travelled to the Mediterranean island of Sicily and sent his image from there. In the Netherlands a young woman  had her image captured as a souvenir for her ‘dear mother’, when she left home to go to Leipzig. The studio was that of Wegner and Mottu and their trade card shows a canalside view much like those that can be seen in Amsterdam today.

It is likely that thousands of carte de visite crossed oceans and continents in the second half of the 19th century, uniting loved ones and families separated by the miles. Many kept these precious little pictures, often for generations, so that we are able to view and enjoy them today.




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New Finds

This gallery contains 5 photos.

A recent trip to a local antiques fair provided a few new CDVs, all interesting for different reasons. The first one was unusual as it is an invitation to provide photographs for an album. It is decorated with images of Queen … Continue reading


Around the world

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Since our site attracts international interest, here are some of the photographers in the “Photographers Worldwide” section of the blog. While many of my non-British cartes de visite come from Europe, there are other from the Americas, including the Caribbean,  … Continue reading


Winter Warmers

This gallery contains 9 photos.

As the chill winds of winter begin to blow, I’ve looked back to see what the Victorians wore to keep themselves warm. The first image shows a small child enveloped in her fur-trimmed coat, with matching cape and what maybe … Continue reading

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A Double Take

This gallery contains 4 photos.

As photography took centre stage in the 19th century dubious practices began to creep in. Such was the competition for customers, people were often accosted in the street, at fairs and race meetings by snappers hungry for sitters. Some photographers … Continue reading

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And the Parrot came too

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When you think of Victorian family portraits, animals aren’t the first thing that spring to mind. Usually a group would consist of  husband and wife or parents with their brood of children. Granny and Grandpa, as well as uncles aunts … Continue reading


September’s image

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This photo, of Mrs Patterson and Janet, was taken around the mid-1860s by J. Berra of Manchester. The gowns of the two women point towards middle class respectability, being stylishly restrained but evidently of fine quality. The dress of the … Continue reading

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