Spanton Jarman Project
The Society is indebted to Mrs Ellen Benson of Chicago for the gift of this collection of cartes-de-visite. Her mother, an avid collector, bought them in an auction in Philadelphia and Ellen, who had lived in England in her youth, felt they should be returned to their origins in Bury St Edmunds.
The carte-de-visite is a type of photograph patented in Paris by the French photographer, Andre Adolphe Eugene Disderi in 1854. It was made of an albumen print, a thin paper photograph, mounted on thicker paper card measuring 64mmx100mm. Disderi had developed a method of producing multiple images on a single glass plate, and a format for mounting the images on small cards, making them relatively inexpensive to produce. He called them "carte-de-visit", as they were small enough to be used as visiting cards.
The new technology gained widespread publicity when, in 1859, Disderi published a photograph of Emperor Napoleon III in this format, and thousands flocked to buy copies of the image. Overnight a new craze was born, as people began to collect photographs of the celebrities of the day, and to share images of their friends and relatives.
The idea was soon taken up by local photographers, notably William Spanton and J W Clarke. Both men, born in 1823 had established themselves as commercial photographers in Bury St Edmunds in 1860’s and were keen to broaden the range of their work.
Thousands of cartes-de-visite were produced up to the 1880’s and were later supplanted by slightly larger versions, called ‘Cabinet Cards’. These remained popular until the early 20th century when George Eastman introduced the Kodak Brownie camera, and amateur photography was taken up by the masses.
Unfortunately, no record exists of the names of the people featured in these images. We would be pleased to hear from anyone who could help identify any of them.
Click on an image to see the entire gallery of the Cartes de Visite in large format, starting at your chosen image.
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