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.




Published by qvictoria

A collector of Victorian photographs for many a long year. I'm interested in both the individual photographs and the studio advertising on the 'backs' of the images, Victorian graphic design at its most varied and interesting. My collection of "cartes de visite" photographs is housed in plastic pockets within a series of albums, numerically arranged in order as they are acquired. There are now roughly 3000 photographers and images in all. I use directories, newspapers and genealogical information to research the life and work of each photographer and their studio but there aren't enough hours in the day. This photo is one of my collection, chosen for the gentle expression in the face of the sitter.

5 thoughts on “Going Places

    1. Hi George, I’m afraid I have very few American cdv (and all those are portraits). Perhaps someone will see this query and be able to provide a Zorn Brewery snap. Regards, Christine

    1. Michael, that sounds most interesting, thanks for letting me know about all this, Regards, Christine

  1. The girl in blue is so pretty! And little Maisie Barker in Fitzroy is adorable. I love the way her portrait is cropped as close as possible, yet still includes her whole figure. CDVs must have been cherished as a connection to loved ones who had gone far away. Great post!

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