First Steps: An Ambrotype
An ambrotype photograph, is an image actually on glass, it was produced as a wet collodion positive on glass which was slightly bleached and made appear by placing something black behind it, paint, velvet etc. It was a slightly cheaper photograph than a daguerreotype which it replaced. They were first created in England in 1851 by Frederick Scott Archer and Peter Fry and named ambrotype by the Philadelphian photographer Marcus Root in 1854. The sizes were the same as the daguerreotype and the image produced was unique and reversed. They were sold in the 1850s for 6d or 1/-. Though replaced by carte-de-visite's some were still being produced in the early 1860s
examples from my collection
Whole plate 16.5cm x 21.5cm
Half plate 11.5cm x 14cm
Quarter plate 8.2cm x 10.8cm
One-sixth plate 6.8cm x 8.2cm
One-ninth plate 5cm x 6.3cm
Using the same case as a daguerreotype, the ambrotype was sealed inside a wooden case or a frame with a bright brass mount and under glass. The case was usually provided with a hinged lid and covered with leather or similar and some American cases were moulded using shellac with wood-fibre and gum and known as a Union case. The cases should not be taken apart or interfered with in any way.
They were displaced by the cheaper carte-de-visite photographs.
There is little to date them, as often no studio is named, so the best way is to see what the people were wearing (not easy). As a rough guide few will be as early as 1854, but large numbers were produced around 1858 before carte-de-visite were produced (1859/1860) and not so many up to 1866 (no real cut off date). So the bulk of them would be c.1858 plus or minus a few years.
© Roger Vaughan 2004