This site is an ongoing digital cataloging project of a private collection of cabinet cards and CDVs. This site is updated daily.

On Collecting

If you do not know what a cabinet card is or what a carte de visite/CDV is then I suggest you start with the wikipedia entries I’ve linked. Or, you can read my much more succinct page: Cabinet Cards and CDVs.

There’s something special about a cabinet card; holding a physical object in one’s hand, a tactile and visual experience, enabling a glimpse into the lives of those portrayed, a single moment in time captured, perhaps the only remaining evidence of a life. Often, little can be found out about the subject: a city, a photographer’s name, and an approximate date are all one gets (if you’re lucky). But for me this is enough. I like to hold the cards and imagine the life of the person pictured. Was she happy? Did she love, and was she loved by others? or How did he live and make a living? How did he die? Were their children? Did he provide for them well? So many questions for every card. In some rare cases it is indeed possible to uncover these individuals’ biographies, like when the figure is notable or identified and the historical record allows for discovery.

I’m not sure when I actually started collecting cabinet cards. I am sure it was some time before I admitted I actually do collect them. I remember distinctly buying my third card and the shop owner saying, “Two’s a spare, three’s a collection,” but the time between my third card and my hundredth card wasn’t nearly as long as between that first card and the third. I can’t remember which was my first, but I can tell you I have little intention of stopping. I have maybe a thousand or so cards, and I intend to get more as I can afford them and as I find compelling images. But a thousand cards presents some interesting problems.

  1. I pay between $1 and $20 depending on the card. Eventually this will become a sizable investment.
  2. Locating a card I want to look at is difficult.
  3. Keeping them organized and cataloged allows me to better understand what I own.
  4. I want to share them. I want people to be able to see my collection. I want others to be able to enjoy them as well.

So I decided to put this site together. I want it to become an educational resource and I want it to motivate me to learn as well. I am sure there will be errors on this site. I will try to minimize these and will correct them if they are brought to my attention. Reach out if you have questions or if you spot something that is incorrect.

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I want to discuss the history, geography, and how the technology of cabinet cards was essentially unchanged for decades (or at least how this is the appearance). I want to learn more about the fashion and the lives depicted. I want to amass a large private collection, and I want to share it.

Sometimes it bothers me that the evidence of a life lived ends up being sold in an antique shop. In some cases a singular photo is perhaps the entirety of proof of existence. Perhaps by putting these photos online I can introduce these people to a new century. One they could never have imagined.

I’ll be updating this post as this site grows, so check back.

Last updated 12/12/2018 by Christopher L. Jorgensen

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