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by Audrey Linkman

Audrey Linkman was the curator of the Documentary Photography Archive in Manchester and a Research Fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University. The Archive's most important historical collection was copied from the family photograph albums of over 2000 local people. Audrey is the author of The Victorians Photographic Portraits, Tauris Parke Books 1993. Audrey's full publications list is here. This article was first published in Photographica World, the Journal of the Photographic Collectors' Club of Great Britain, Number 69, June 1994. We are most grateful to Audrey Linkman and to the Photographic Collectors' Club of Great Britain for permission to reproduce this article here.

Without a doubt, the ferrotype in Victorian Britain was regarded as the cheapest, nastiest and lowest form of photographic life - though endowed, as we shall see, with an uncanny instinct for self-preservation. Because of its abject status little attention was paid to it in the editorial sections of the photographic press. This makes any account of its history difficult and conjectural. What follows should be regarded merely as a first attempt to chart the fortunes of the ferrotype in Britain, published in the hope that it will lead to the discovery of fresh information to illuminate the shadows. I should also add that this account concentrates in greater detail on the ferrotype's career in the Great British high street since the format's fortunes in the itinerant sphere are dealt with in depth in the final chapter of my recent book. (Editors note - this refers to Chapter 6, Pavement Portraits, in The Victorians Photographic Portraits, Tauris Parke Books 1993)

Scott Archer published the details of his wet collodion positive technique in 1852. The following year, a French photographer, Adolphe Martin, is said to have described a variant of Archer's positive process which came to be known as the ferrotype. In the ferrotype, the glass support which carried the collodion was replaced by a thin sheet of iron coated with black enamel. However, it was to be in America, not in France nor Europe, that the ferrotype was to enjoy its greatest commercial success. And since the ferrotype's career in Britain is intimately connected with its fortunes in the New World, we should look first across the Atlantic and trace there the outline of its birth and infant progress.


The first ferrotype patent in the United States was granted to Hamilton L. Smith, of Gambier, Ohio in 1856. At that time Smith held the post of professor of chemistry and natural philosophy at Kenyon College in Gambier, having graduated from Yale in 1839. His patent specified that the iron plate be coated with a mixture of either linseed oil or asphaltum and umber or lampblack and then dried in an oven. Iron was the preferred metal because it did not react with the silver salts. Very soon after the granting of the patent, plates made to its specifications were placed on the market by Peter Neff of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1856. Neff, a former student at Kenyon College, had been associated with Smith's researches on the process. He called these early plates Melainotypes (from the Greek word meaning black). Neff encountered a number of difficulties in his efforts to break into the market. Finding sheet iron thin enough for his purpose presented one major headache; another lay in getting his plates accepted by the trade "being everywhere met with opposition from daguerreotype dealers, but succeeded by sending out teachers to instruct daguerreotype operators". Neff also distributed free of charge a fifty three page pamphlet entitled The Melainotype Process, Complete. [ 1 ] (See Appendix 2 for a list of nineteenth century manuals on the ferrotype.)

Initially the patentees attempted to sell the plates at monopoly prices and impose a policy of "room rights" or licences priced at $20 per gallery. American photographers seriously questioned the validity of the patent. But resentment quickly translated into competition when in 1857 a pioneer daguerreotypist (and former student of Kenyon College), Victor M. Griswold, opened a rival plate factory in Lancaster, Ohio. Griswold marketed his plates under the name of Ferrotypes - the term which was subsequently to become universal. The monopoly was broken and since Griswold's action was never challenged in the courts, other manufacturers were induced to enter the field. Competition between manufacturers and the growing availability of plates had a restraining effect on prices, which, in turn, stimulated sales. [ 2 ]

At the time of the ferrotype's entry into the American market in 1856, the collodion positive was just gaining ascendancy over the daguerreotype. Commercially the portrait on iron presented a number of distinct advantages over both formats. For a start, it was cheaper and easier. Although the production of the finished ferrotype involved a fair number of steps and procedures - coating with collodion, immersion in the nitrate bath, exposing, developing, washing, fixing, washing, drying, tinting and varnishing - nonetheless, it was still one of the simplest photographic processes known at the time. [ 3 ] Once the various baths and solutions had been mixed and prepared, a deft and well-organised operator could work the process very quickly, and readily set up shop in situations far removed from the comforts of a purpose designed glasshouse or conveniently appointed darkroom-cum-laboratory.

Quicker than the daguerreotype, the ferrotype generally required even less exposure and less development than a glass positive. As with all direct camera positives the process did not involve the production of a negative. Not only could ferrotypists remain blissfully ignorant of printing procedures, they could also readily supply portraits while-you-wait i.e. within a matter of a few minutes. While-you-wait portraits had obvious advantages in certain types of commercial transaction. Sitters were not required to make additional visits to view proofs or collect the finished article; nor were they dependent on the vagaries of the weather which dictated the speed of production of paper prints. Photographers received payment on the spot which eliminated the possibility of unpaid bills and assisted cash flow - an important consideration for those working close to the margins of profitability. The metal plates were, in addition, cheaper and lighter than glass, and less liable to break, characteristics which considerably enhanced their appeal to those operating in the itinerant sphere.


Figure 1, Photographer unknown. An early example of a framed ferrotype on a black enamelled plate. In this fine quality studio portrait the base of a posing stand is visible behind the boy's feet. 9.7 cms x 8.4 cms. (Author's Collection)

Figure 2

Figure 2. Photographer: Estabrooke's American Ferrotypes, 57, Oxford Street, 2 doors  west of Berners St., London. A good quality ferrotype on a chocolate plate dating to the 1870s. The cheeks of the young woman have been blushed with red colour. The patterned edge of her dress from the adjacent exposure is just visible on the bottom left of the portrait. The printed label pasted onto the reverse of this plate reads: From one to eight cards, in different positions, taken at a sitting, finished and delivered in 15 minutes. ... Old pictures copied. No record of an Estabrooke occupancy of this address appears in Pritchard's Directory of London Photographers. Ferrotype plate, 10.2 cms x 6.2 cms. (Author's Collection)

Due to the absence of any negative most ferrotype portraits were laterally transposed. It was possible to generate non-reversed images, but the process demanded the use of a prism which had to be made of high quality optical glass to work effectively. [ 4 ] This made the prisms very expensive. In addition, their adoption tended to prolong exposure - two considerations which caused the majority of ferrotypists to carry on producing reversed images for a public who seemed happy to continue to buy them as such. [ 5 ]

Many ferrotypes were tinted with powder colours at an additional cost to the customer and this could certainly improve the overall appearance of the finished photograph. However, the delicate surface of the iron plate did not lend itself to retouching with a pencil. This became standard practice on collodion negatives in the majority of commercial portrait studios where the pencil was used to rectify technical defects or compensate for the deficiencies of nature. Whether the absence of any retouching was perceived as a benefit or a disadvantage depended entirely on individual perspective! E.P. Griswold, for example, chose to view it as a supreme advantage: "In a ferrotype all the characteristic features of the sitter are preserved - not a wrinkle, mole, or freckle is lost. No retoucher's sacrilegious hand can mar the faithful likeness." [ 6 ]

Figure 3

Figure 3. Photographer unknown. Richard Henry Kershaw, born in 1866, came originally from Yorkshire where his father was a fell monger. Richard found employment with the London and North Western Railway Company and is pictured here in his railway uniform, aged about sixteen in c1882. Ferrotype plate, 5 cms x 5 cms. (Documentary Photography Archive, Manchester 1690/1)

Without a doubt, however, the major drawback of the ferrotype process was the relatively poor quality of the image. The ferrotype could never match the delicacy and fine detail of the daguerreotype. Its whites signally failed to compete with the pleasing contrasts of the glass positive nor could it rival the beautiful tonal range of the paper print. In comparison with contemporary formats the ferrotype lacked detail in the shadows, boasted no fine highlights, achieved very poor contrasts and all too often presented a flat, muddy, smudgy, dark, dingy and overall shoddy appearance. Having said that, operators who took pride and care in their work - especially the American ferrotypists who specialised in this field - could manipulate the process to produce attractive work of great charm at a very modest cost.

Figure 4

Figure 4. Photographer unknown. Elizabeth Gunning, a buffer in a cutler's shop in Sheffield, with her future husband Edward James O'Brien (born 1870). This portrait was taken shortly before their marriage in 1898. In 1899 Edward joined the army and they later ran a public house in Sheffield. Ferrotype plate, 8.1 cms x 5.3 cms. (Documentary Photography Archive, Manchester   2250/4)

In spite of its numerous defects, however, the style enjoyed sufficient advantages to enable it to make headway in the American market. In the early years ferrotypes were made singly in the regular photographic sizes, 1/9, 1/6, and 1/4 plate, and sold in cases or frames similar to the packaging used for its two rivals. However, the ferrotype's inability to produce multiple copies from a single negative could have seriously blunted its competitive edge vis à vis the carte de visite. The carte, patented by the French photographer, André Adolphe Eugène Disderi in November 1854, took Britain and America by storm in the early 1860s. It soon settled down to become an international success and the staple product of the nineteenth century portrait parlour. Disderi's patent enshrined the concept of creating a number of small negatives on one large negative plate by the use of a camera equipped with multiple lenses and a repeating back mechanism. The paper portraits printed from the one glass negative were subsequently cut to size and pasted onto cardboard mounts of specified, standardized dimensions, approx 2 1/2 in. by 4 in. Whereas previous direct camera positives had retailed as single, discrete items (just like hand-painted portrait miniatures), cartes had to be purchased in quantity to be commercially viable. They usually sold by the score, dozen or half dozen, though the rich and successful were known to order them by the hundred. The purpose designed photograph album, which made its appearance contemporary with the carte, played a crucial role in fostering the purchase of multiple copies. An inspired marketing strategy, the album worked to instil the new habit of collecting family photographs and attracting fresh acquisitions through gift and exchange. [ 7 ]

The carte had captivated the British and American markets by the early 1860s. In December 1860, Simon Wing patented a multilens camera (U.S. Patent 30,850) which, with subsequent modifications, was capable of producing as many as 616 ferrotype images each measuring one half inch square on a single plate 12 by 15 inches in size. Wing and Marcus Ormsbee manufactured and sold several sizes of these cameras. [ 8 ] Multilens cameras equipped with repeating back mechanisms bestowed the salvation of mass production on a ferrotype process bereft of negatives. The processed iron plate was so thin that after exposure and processing it could simply be snipped with scissors to generate multiple copies. When in 1862 Wing designed and introduced standard carte size mounts perforated by a small aperture through which to display the tiny photographs, he enabled the ferrotype to compete commercially with other card mounted formats. By the simple device of combining a minuscule ferrotype with a carte de visite size cardboard mount, the portrait on iron gained crafty access to that bastion of the carte's commercial success, the family photograph album.

Figures 5A and B

Figures 5A and B. Photographer: Joshua Jewell, Pembroke Chambers, 15 Parker Street, Liverpool and at the Alexandra Palace, London. A typical American Gem portrait. This one features Ebenezer Hudson who was born in Liverpool in 1864. His father worked as a boilermaker. In the 1881 Census of Liverpool Ebenezer, aged sixteen, is described as a Publisher's Assistant. Jewell was one of at least three American Gem multiples operating in Britain. The addresses listed suggest a date in or about 1880. The design on the front of this gem was very popular and is commonly found. (Documentary Photography Archive, Manchester 1337/99)

Figure 6A

Figure 6A

Figure 6B recto and verso

Figure 6B

Figure 6C

Figure 6C

Figure 6 [Three unusual American Gems].

Figure 6A. It is quite unusual to find two gems on the one carte. This example features Henry Lindsay Hudson and his wife Bessie, née Rosson. Henry was to become headmaster of the Wesleyan Day School, Blaenavon, Monmouthshire in the late 1880s. He was also a Methodist novelist and journalist writing under the name of "Harry Lindsay". The name of T. Eyres, Lithographer, 3, King Street, Liverpool along the lower edge suggests that this firm manufactured the mount. (Documentary Photography Archive, Manchester  1337/90)

Figure 6B. Photographer: H. Gates, Union Street, Aberdeen. An American Gem featuring two people on the one tiny plate is also very much less common than single subjects. Such proximity and contact between this man and woman suggest they were married! (Author's Collection).

Figure 6C. Photographer unknown. An American Gem featuring a canine sitter! Quite unusual. This mount features an embossed motif with three putti or winged cupids disporting themselves around the central aperture. (Author's Collection)

This style became known in America as the Gem - in Britain, as the American Gem. The gem was a winner. According to the photohistorian Robert Taft, the gem became enormously popular in the United States from 1865 onwards. [ 9 ] Edward M. Estabrooke, American author of one of the first manuals on the process, claimed to have made "with his own hands, as many as one hundred and twenty dozen in one day, and sold every dozen at fifty cents". [ 10 ] Other Americans proved eager to profit from the format's success. New card designs quickly followed. In 1863 S. Masury of Boston patented a cardboard mount with an open window bordered by a printed or embossed wreath-like frame. During the following five years America saw the appearance of nearly fifty different frame designs on card mounts, some of which were intended for gems. [ 11 ] About 1868 a new design was introduced in America. This comprised a ferrotype plate mounted in a two- or three-leaf paper folder of carte size. In the three leaf style, two leaves formed the image holder while the third acted as a protective cover. This style became popular from about 1870. [ 12 ]

The onward march of the ferrotype in America continued steadily throughout the 1860s. The summer of 1860 saw a craze for tiny tintype portraits of presidential candidates on brooches and badges. It was a relatively simple matter to cut the thin metal plate to the appropriate size for insertion into lockets, pins, rings etc. The process was also well adapted to accommodate the constraints of itinerant work and impromptu, open air studios could readily be opened for business wherever sufficient customers presented themselves. The outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 considerably stimulated demand for a photograph that was cheap and quick, weighed less than glass and did not readily break or scratch or suffer immediate damage when exposed to damp. In fact the travelling photographer quickly became an established feature of the camp following opening for business as soon as the armies pitched their tents. An article in the New York Tribune in August 1862 made mention of the Bergstresser Brothers of Pennsylvania who had followed the army for more than a year. They claimed to have taken in one day in one of their galleries 160 melainotypes at $1 each. [ 13 ] Pictures on iron enjoyed the additional advantage of passing through the post with little risk of damage. According to Estabrooke many ferrotypes were taken expressly for this purpose and called "Letter-types". [ 14 ]

After the war regular studios and galleries devoted exclusively to the sale of ferrotypes opened for business in American cities. These covered the range of operation from the unashamedly cheap and cheerful to outlets whose proprietors prided themselves on turning out work of the highest quality. Indeed sales were so brisk and buoyant that by 1870 a specialist trade organisation, The Ferrotypers Association of Philadelphia, was holding regular monthly meetings to discuss questions of technical and commercial interest. That its members also took seriously the need to promote quality and improve standards is evidenced by the award of a gold medal to the individual who most frequently brought the best ferrotypes to the meetings. [ 15 ]


This picture of the progress of the ferrotype in the United States in the 1860s - of increasing production, growing consumer demand, innovation in product and equipment, and professional pride in work of high quality - could hardly present a starker contrast with its reception in contemporary Britain. One account recorded that about 1856 "Under the designation of "melainotypes," positive collodion pictures on black japanned iron plates were used in Great Britain ... ; but they gradually died out in favour of glass plates where lightness and portability were of no account, or of black leather or leather cloth where flexibility was a desideratum". [ 16 ] Cased and framed ferrotypes were certainly produced in Britain in the late 1850s and early 1860s but never in sufficient quantity to make any significant impact on the market. John Werge's claim to have made "several" would appear to be an accurate reflection of the negligible interest on this side of the Atlantic. In the late 1850s Werge was running a high class studio in Glasgow. He abandoned the daguerreotype process in 1857 and concentrated instead on producing quality prints from collodion negatives. "I considered the Ferrotype the best form of collodion positive, and did several of them, but my chief work was plain and coloured prints from collodion negatives, also small portraits on visiting cards." [ 17 ] Like many other British photographers who boasted a 'first rate connexion' (notably, for example, Henry Peach Robinson) Werge scorned the glass positive. His surprising championship of the ferrotype, indeed the fact that he mentioned it at all, may be attributed to his having worked in America for two short periods, the first early in his career in 1853/4, the second in 1860/1861 when ferrotypes were gaining a hold in the American market.

But if the 1850s in Britain were marked by a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the ferrotype, the succeeding decade saw extreme moderation convert into total abstinence. By the summer of 1871 The Photographic News could write in reply to a correspondent that "The ferrotype plates used to be kept by various dealers in this country but we doubt whether anyone keeps them now". [ 18 ] Significantly no dealers subsequently wrote to the News to correct this assumption. By 1872 it was claimed that the production of collodion positives on metal plates could "almost be reckoned amongst the extinct arts". [ 19 ] This neglect was not confined to Britain. Dr Hermann Vogel, the German Correspondent of The Photographic News, could report early in 1873 that "the ferrotype is a specific American style" and was scarcely known in his country. [ 20 ]

Figure 7

Figure 7. Photographer: G.C.Melville, 105A, Market Street, Manchester. A typical Victoria illustrating its larger dimensions. (Author's Collection)

Why such a contrast? The differences between the Old World and the New in their response to the ferrotype are so extreme, they demand some attempt at explanation. That divergence, however, must be explored within the broader context of the general development of portrait photography in America and Britain. And here, too, the contrasts are considerable. Americans pursued the commercial exploitation of the new invention with such ardour, inventiveness and business acumen that by 1856 they had made impressive progress well in advance of developments in Britain. The first daguerreotype portrait was taken on American soil. America opened the first studio for the sale of photographic portraits in March 1840 - twelve months in advance of Britain. College educated Americans had no inhibitions about applying their talents to resolving the problems of translating a scientific breakthrough into a commercial success. Americans stream-lined the process, even introducing power-driven buffs and selected abrasives which at the same time increased the sensitivity of the plates and produced brilliant pictures. Indeed, American daguerreotypes were acknowledged as the best in the world. "Super-excellent" was the judgement of the Illustrated London News on those exhibited at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851 where America carried off three of the five medals in daguerreotype work. [ 21 ]

Figure 8

Figure 8.Photographer unknown. Itinerant ferrotypists expanded into all the areas of activity that had been opened up by the glass positive worker in Britain. They were particularly active at the seaside where ferrotype cameras were in operation on the sands, on the promenade and in studios in the resort itself. This group is posed in front of a conveniently positioned bathing machine. 1890s. Ferrotype plate, 8.5 cms x 6 cms. (Author's Collection)

But America not only made the best daguerreotypes, she also sold the most. In June 1853, at the height of the format's popularity, the New York Tribune counted "upward of a hundred daguerrean establishments" in New York and Brooklyn alone, and estimated that "there cannot be less than three million daguerreotypes taken annually" over the whole country. [ 22 ] Competition brought competitive prices. By 1853 cheap "photo-factories" had opened for business offering daguerreotypes as low as twenty-five cents apiece. In these establishments all the various stages of production were separated out and the plate passed along the assembly line to be prepared, exposed, developed, gilded and fitted into its preserver or frame. Customers paid in advance, made no appointment and were dealt with in order of appearance. They progressed from waiting room to operating room to delivery desk where the finished portrait was handed over and carried away on the spot. John Werge's visit to a twenty-five cent gallery on Broadway produced three portraits out of four "as fine Daguerreotypes as could be produced anywhere". [ 23 ] Werge's account confirms that the daguerrean era in America had seen commercial photography expand to encompass the popular market and inaugurate the while-you-wait trade. By 1856 portrait factories in the United States were advertising pictures on glass for ten, twelve, and twenty cents. [ 24 ] Why then should the ferrotype not succeed when it was above all cheaper, simpler to operate and, in certain applications, offered additional advantages over glass? It made sound economic sense to invest in the manufacture of ferroplates in America where the market niche had already been carved by precedent.

This was far from being the case in contemporary Britain. England in the 1840s was subject to patent restrictions. Richard Beard sold monopoly licences to operate the daguerreotype process at very high rates and, in the early years of the decade at any rate, actively pursued infringements through the courts. [ 25 ] Excessive start-up costs fostered high prices over the counter where one guinea was the initial, minimum charge. Prices did fall, William Constable of Brighton being among the first to ask 12s. 6d. for a cased portrait at the end of 1843 - but never declined to the extent where the daguerreotype courted the popular market. Even though Beard himself was bankrupt by 1849 and itinerants were known to operate without troubling to obtain a licence, sales of the daguerreotype in Britain remained restricted to the rich and genteel classes.

Figure 9

Figure 9. Photographer unknown. Gertrude May Williams, born in November 1877, and her brother, Alfred Henry Chevers Williams, born June 1875. Their father was a merchant of cotton piece goods in Manchester. Gertrude's left foot and Alfred's left hand have both moved during exposure. The bucket and spades clearly suggest a resort but the surroundings (and the fact that the children retain their shoes and socks) might imply a studio in the town rather than a tent on the beach. Ferrotype plate. (Documentary Photography Archive, Manchester 1085/14)

When the first collodion positives came onto the market in the early 1850s they were priced at 10s. 6d. and clearly targeted that same middle class clientele. Only with the defeat of Fox Talbot's claim against the wet collodion process in December 1854, was commercial photography in England finally freed from all restriction. According to Adrian Budge's detailed study of one northern town "It was 1855 and 1856 which witnessed simultaneously the first major boom in photographic studios in Leeds and the rapid drop in photographic portrait prices as the market was expanded to include the less affluent." [ 26 ] The first shilling portrait, however, was not advertised until May 1857 and the sixpenny glass positive followed soon after. Indeed one commentator characterised the late 1850s as a period which saw "the opening of hundreds of establishments where reasonably good glass positives were produced for a shilling, and shortly afterwards the opening of hundreds more, where unreasonably bad ones were produced for sixpence each and less." [ 27 ]

While the patent monopoly and threat of legal prosecution played a part in limiting competition and keeping prices artificially high, these alone cannot explain England's reluctant embrace of her working class customer. One suspects that this tardiness was certainly aided by British class values regarding trade in general and English photographers' desperate obsession with the art status of their new medium. This desire to rank on equal footing with painters sprang from photographers' concern about their own social standing in the wider society where the class of their connexion helped to define their own social status. At all events by 1856 when the first ferroplates saw production in America, where portraits were already cheap and instant, photography in Britain had yet to penetrate the popular market. In addition the British supply industry in the 1850s was geared to the provision of glass positives and could hardly have welcomed foreign competition in the form of metal ones. There is evidence to suggest the existence of at least one British manufacturer of ferroplates in the guise of C.T. Masterman of London who advertised his "Patent Enamelled Iron Tablets for Positive Photographs" in the summer of 1857. [ 28 ] We can safely assume they did not make his fortune!

Figure 10

Figure 10. Photographer unknown. A portrait taken in the park or on the common. Places like these, where the public went to relax on Sundays and holidays, were regular haunts of the while-you-wait photographer. Ferrotype plate, 8.3 cms x 7.1 cms. (Author's Collection)

Sadly for Mr Masterman, his was an enterprise in advance of its time. For in the early 1870s, direct intervention from America slowly fanned a new flicker of interest in the ferrotype in Britain. Early in 1870 H. M. Hedden, who had been in the business of manufacturing ferroplates in America since 1862, established the Phoenix Plate Company. On 1 March 1870 he obtained a United States patent on the "Chocolate" plate which was available either in a high gloss or egg shell finish. These chocolate tinted plates were thought to give a richer, warmer tone to the portrait and to represent such a vast improvement that the original black plates now suddenly fell from general favour. [ 29 ] The chocolate plate caused a sensation among ferrotypists in America. They became the rage. Encouraged, no doubt by their rapturous reception at home and seeing, perhaps, in Britain a virgin territory ripe for cultivation the Phoenix Plate Company obtained a patent on the chocolate plate in England in August 1871.

Agents were dispatched across the Atlantic to introduce the plate into Britain. They arrived late in the season and little was done. Early in 1872 Thomas Sherman Estabrooke of Brooklyn, one of the best known ferrotypers in the United States accepted the agency of the Phoenix Plate Company in England. He proceeded to London in June to establish the first gallery in this country devoted exclusively to the production of ferrotypes. [ 30 ] Directories list his address at 30 Regent Street between 1874 and 1876. (There may have been other studios. See Fig. 2) Edward L. Wilson, the American correspondent for The Photographic News, solicited a kindly reception for his fellow countryman on the grounds that "he is one of those who makes the very best of work, and demands the very best of prices for it." [ 31 ] This reputation for quality and a Regent Street address may suggest some concern with improving the poor status of the ferroptype in Britain. By October 1872 Wilson could write that "Mr Estabrooke is proceeding admirably with ferrotype pictures in England." [ 32 ]

1872 also saw publication in the United States of two manuals devoted exclusively to the ferrotype process, Edward M. Estabrooke's The Ferrotype and How to make it and A. K. P. Trask's Practical Ferrotyper. Extracts from this latter work were reproduced in The Photographic News towards the end of 1872. [ 33 ] The book itself could be purchased from Piper and Carter, the News's publisher. The impact of the American sales drive was reflected in the British trade press which now began to give greater publicity to the working of the process and its commercial potential. (It must be said that even a single article represented almost one hundred per cent increase in coverage since previous exposure had been negligible.) In 1874 The British Journal of Photography could grudgingly concede in a promotional article that the ferrotype "is being re-introduced into this country, and we believe it will obtain a permanent footing; for, with all its drawbacks, it has much in its favour." [ 34 ] Plates and equipment were imported from America. As early as 1873 The Photographic News claimed that the Phoenix plates were available from all the dealers. [ 35 ] It is perhaps worth noting that a frame of ferrotypes was even sent to the Photographic Society exhibition in 1875 by Captain Turton. [ 36 ] With increased publicity in the trade press, the ready availability of practical instructions and manuals, the renewed import of equipment and plates from America, and an entrepreneur paid to push sales and open up a market, the ferrotype inevitably began to be more widely available in Britain from the 1870s.

For most of that decade, however, the impact of the ferrotype on the British high street would appear to have been only gradual and limited. Despite its advances, comment in the 1870s remained largely grudging, critical and patronising, disparaging the poor quality of the work produced and the display in showcases of finer specimens which were manifestly imported from America. [ 37 ] The fact that the ferrotype's cheap prices attracted a working class clientele did little to enhance its image or promote wider acceptance in this country. In 1877 John Nicol, a founder member of the Edinburgh Photographic Society, lately returned from a series of visits up north "extending over several hundreds of miles", claimed to have found "here and there" a photographer who has been successful in creating a large trade in ferrotypes. Nicol presented himself at one such studio just as it was approaching dusk and wrote an eye witness account of the working practice of its proprietor:

"He had just called up the eighty-fourth ticket, and I saw him, as he called it, "knock off" the holder. His work is altogether confined to quarter-plate ferrotypes, for which the price is uniformly sixpence each, and threepence additional for each member of a group. The business is carried on by the photographer himself, with the aid of a girl who receives payment as the sitter enters the waiting-room, and who supplies in return a ticket bearing a number which is strictly in the order of entering. Number one is first sent to the studio, and as soon as he is taken number two is called, and so on to the end. Frequently, however, so great is the demand on Saturdays and half-holidays, the sitters have many hours to wait before their number is called; and many a penny and twopence is paid by the holders of high numbers for an exchange with those fortunate enough to have low ones. While talking over the matter with him he boasted that he never needed to take a sitter twice, and I could not help thinking, as I looked at the specimens lying about, that he was not likely to be troubled with a second visit."

The ticket system employed in this north country studio replicates the arrangement operating in Werge's Broadway photo-factory some years earlier, while prepayment was the rule in both businesses. Nicol's careful use of language to distance himself from any suspicion of familiarity with such enterprises and the patronising tone of his account illustrate clearly the low regard in which work and workers of this sort were held by the photographic establishment. Nicol, indeed, could not restrain himself from concluding that if the man were to double his prices and take more time over his pictures, his customers would return and this would allow him to enjoy life in a more "rational way". [ 38 ]

Figure 11

Figure 11. Photographer unknown. A fine example of a backyard portrait taken by a speculative photographer who went from door to door soliciting trade. Such operators regularly took photographs of householders at the front door, at the garden gate or in the backyard. Some actually carried backdrops to screen off the reality of home and street. In spite of his surroundings this gentleman poses formally as if confronting a camera in the studio. Ferrotype plate, 8.2 cms x 6.9 cms. (Author's Collection)


Curiously the dying months of the 1870s and the fledgling years of the 1880s found the ferrotype in Britain enjoying a sudden burst of popularity - in the shape of the American gem. (See Figs. 5 and 6) Victorian family albums which survive today reflect this upsurge of interest since one or two gems are frequently found there nestling among the cartes and cabinets. It remains a mystery why a style which was available and popular in America from the early 1860s should suddenly hit the high street as the latest novelty in Britain some twenty years later. The gems sold in Britain comprised a postage stamp size ferrotype measuring approximately 1" by 3/4". The card mount of standard carte de visite size intended for these gems carried a small, oval-shaped window slightly smaller than the ferroplate. This aperture was usually positioned near the centre of the card. The cards came in a range of colours - green, blue, yellow, pink, white etc. The front of the card frequently carried a printed design and the range and variety of these designs was considerable. Some cards, however, limited themselves to a simple embossed motif which usually framed the aperture: others combined a design with an embossed motif. Two gems in my own collection, which were taken by T. Taylor of Bradford of the same young woman in the same dress almost certainly on the same occasion, are mounted in cards of different colours decorated with different designs. It seems likely that many of the cards were imported from America but some do bear evidence of English manufacture by such firms as W. Hooper of Walworth.

The ferrotype itself was held in place by a paper label pasted onto the back of the card. This label was often printed or stamped with the photographer's name and address and occasionally advertised prices or services. Some photographers, however, had their card mounts printed with these details which may suggest an established business which introduced gems along with other regular styles and formats. The gem was so tiny it normally portrayed only the head and neckline of a single sitter. The face is sometimes presented full frontal or in the more usual three quarters position, profiles being quite rare. Occasionally two heads appear on a single gem and sometimes the gem features an animal, usually a cat or dog, in place of a human being.

Gem photographers could also offer a variation of the basic format which boasted a plate of slightly larger dimensions. This went by the name of the Victoria. (See Fig. 7) Victoria plates measured approximately 2¼ x 1¾ inches. The small increase in the size of the plate allowed more of the figure to be included in the portrait. Victorias range from head and shoulder to three quarter views of the body. They, too, usually only feature a single sitter though two people are sometimes found on the one plate.

Gems in Britain retailed at 9 for 7 1/2d and as such were the cheapest photographs on the high street where their capacity to be delivered while-you-wait rated their other distinctive attraction in that location. The Bristol photographer, W. H. Crinks, advertised his "celebrated" American Gem Portraits at 9 for 7 1/2d; 18 for 1s 3d; 36 for 2s 6d, and these appear to have been the standard range of prices though minor variations are found. The Anglo American Photographic Company offered "3 doz. Gem Portraits for 2s. 6d. In four positions, taken and finished in a few minutes". While Edward Hill of Wolverhampton announced "Anglo American Photo Gem Portraits, Which are taken, finished and delivered in a few minutes 9 for 9d. Mounted in Cards 1s. 36 in 3 Positions 2s. 6d." Victorias came a little more expensive. Hinchcliffe of Liverpool charged "3 for a 1/-. 3/6 per dozen. Finished in five minutes." Frank Walton from his studios in Leeds and Manchester, advertised Victorias at: "Price, Mounted. 3 for 1s 0d; 8 for 2s 0d; 12 for 2s 6d. Tinting One Penny each extra." While Joe Caddick's "New Victoria Carte de Visite" was priced as follows: 3 for 1s., Tinted 1s. 3d. 4 for 1s. 3d., Tinted 1s. 6d. 6 for 1s. 6d., Tinted 2s. 0d. Colour work seldom amounted to more than a faint blush of rouge on the cheeks and helped improve the profit margins. [ 39 ]

Since gems and victorias retailed at such low prices ferrotype photographers relied on the volume of sales in order to make a profit. The gem operator ideally required a studio "situated in a busy thoroughfare, where he gets plenty of publicity, and where there is a fair chance of a succession of new people." [ 40 ] Proprietors of established studios, debating whether to incorporate gems into their existing trade, had to take into account that "the introduction of the ferrotype in its 'gem' form brings with it a lower class of customer, and materially alters the character of a business". [ 41 ] Clearly studios selling gems were firmly anchored in the lowest reaches of the British market. While gem customers were certainly not confined to the "lower class", no photographer who aspired to high class work could ever contemplate giving them houseroom without incurring a loss of caste and status. (See Appendix 3 for a rudimentary list of studios offering ferrotypes.) The correspondingly low prices asked by some gem operators for other lines confirm their humble rank. Frank Dor‚ of King Street, Huddersfield advertised "Highly Finished" cartes de visite at three shillings per dozen. While William James Robinson of Cardiff and Portsmouth was prepared to offer cartes de visite at one for one shilling, four for three shillings and cabinets at two shillings each. At the opposite end of the spectrum Alexander Bassano priced his services at two guineas for the sitting entitling the customer to twenty cartes or a dozen cabinets. One guinea was the minimum, golden fee that distinguished the superior metropolitan atelier from inferior competition.

Figure 12

Figure 12. Photographer: Calvert Bros., American Photographers. A nice example of a street portrait showing a man on horseback. The Victoria style mount with a printed design includes the word "Registered" which suggests a date in the mid 1880s or later. (Author's Collection)


By 1880/1 Britain had witnessed the emergence of at least three chain store concerns, which appear to have specialised in the sale of American gems. The Anglo American Photo Company advertised two studios in London, at 153 Fleet Street and 272 Regent Street. Directories date these from 1880. [ 42 ] The manager of this enterprise was Richard Parker Estabrooke, presumably a relative of Thomas Sherman Estabrooke though not, it would appear, a man of unimpeachable reputation. R. P. Estabrooke was apparently operating a photographic enterprise at 153 Fleet Street as early as 1877, since in that year he was brought to court, charged with selling obscene photographs - an activity hardly calculated to enhance the status of the ferrotype in Victorian Britain! Anglo American had outlets in Bradford by 1881 and Cardiff by 1882. Other branches were advertised in Bristol, Birmingham and Wolverhampton - industrial centres with large populations where there was indeed a "fair chance of a succession of new people".

A competitor, James Frederick Lowrie had opened a studio in London, also based in Fleet Street, by 1878 and continued there until 1885. In the very early 1880s he opened branches in Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Both Lowrie and Anglo American claimed branches in America. Does this suggest that the promotion of gems in Britain at this period was another sales campaign spearheaded from across the Atlantic?

At the same time as Lowrie and Estabrooke were expanding northwards, Joshua Jewell, the third chain store gem operator, was opening studios in Liverpool and London, Manchester (1881), Bristol (1882), Glasgow and Newcastle. A gem in the possession of Mike Jacob lists two addresses, 15 Parker Street, Liverpool and the Alexandra Palace, London. It carries a manuscript message, "20th May 1880 N. McConnockie with compts." It is possible that Jewell may not have started his expansion from a base in London like the other two multiples. Nor does he appear to advertise any branches in America. (See Appendix 1 for a list of American gem multiples in Britain.)

In its heyday the American gem was much in demand, if we are to believe the words of James Lowrie himself, reported in October 1880, "that there are 'Gem Photographers' who take from three to five hundred sitters on a fine day." [ 43 ] Fine days, however, would appear to have been in short supply since the firms of Joshua Jewell, James Frederick Lowrie and the Anglo American Photo Company seem to have flared only briefly into life in London and a few major cities, and then quickly fizzled out of existence. None of the provincial branch studios are listed in the directories for more than a single year and many addresses do not make it into the directories at all, a fact which supports the idea of a fleeting and precarious hold on life. Local established photographers who offered gems along with other regular lines and had gone to the expense of buying a special camera, will certainly have continued to supply demand as long as it persisted. [ 44 ] Indeed Fallowfields were still advertising ferrotype cameras for gems and victorias in the late 1890s. However, the evidence does appear to suggest that the craze for American gems in Britain was in its heyday in the 1880s with heaviest demand occurring in the early years. Certainly, by the end of the decade we see the stirrings of a new fad in tiny portraits - the photographic postage stamp which, perforated and gummed, retailed at 50 for 3/6, 100 for 4/6! [ 45 ]

If the ferrotype charted a relatively undistinguished career on the high streets of Britain, it certainly enjoyed greater prominence and a considerably longer life in the itinerant sphere. Itinerancy was associated with portrait photography in Britain from its infancy. Economic rationale had propelled miniature painters from town to town in search of commission and itinerant daguerreotypists took wing and followed suit. Early migrant photographers, people such as John Eastham, Oliver Sarony and John Beattie, were relatively substantial business operators serving a 'superior' clientele. Their sitters included the nobility, landed gentry, and prosperous clergy, manufacturers and trades people. It was the introduction of the glass positive in Britain that brought photography within the orbit of an entirely different caste of itinerant who served an entirely different class of customer.

Henry Mayhew in his London Labour and the London Poor, published in the late 1850s and early 1860s, describes two of these new recruits to the 'profession'. One had been a travelling showman, but finding that photography was attracting more attention than giants and dwarfs "he relinquished the wonders of nature for those of science." The other had earned a living busking with his banjo in public houses or "drag pitching" in residential courts and terraces. [ 46 ] Travelling showmen and street entertainers like these realised that once photography was cheap, quick and easy, it could be naturalized into their customary haunts and grafted onto their own traditional practices. These new style itinerants then proceeded to extricate photography from the restrictive coat tails of the art world and cheerfully exploit it as a form of cheap, popular entertainment. Throughout the 1860s gaily painted caravans, dark boxes on wheels and canvas booths advertised the photographer's temporary presence at the roadside in busy, public places; in parks, commons and beauty spots on high days and holidays; and in the fairground at wakes, race meetings and seaside resorts.

Crucial to commercial success in venues such as these was the ability to take while-you-wait portraits. Annual fairs and wakes could last a single day, extend over three, or in exceptional cases continue a few days longer, but the visitor in search of entertainment might only stay a couple of hours. Most holidaymakers to the seaside resorts, which developed apace during Victoria's reign, travelled on cheap day excursion tickets. In order to fully exploit the commercial potential of passing trade, vendors had to be able to offer an 'instant' product. In Britain it was the glass positive, which could be completed in about five minutes, that prised open this sector of the market. Indeed, the portrait on glass remained the favourite while-you-wait format among itinerants throughout the 1860s.

The ferrotype challenge came in the 1870s - precipitated, no doubt, by the marketing campaign from America. The ferrotype and glass positive co-existed within the itinerant sphere during the 1870s and 1880s but the ferrotype eventually ousted and outlived its rival. This outcome was inevitable since the metal plate offered considerable advantages for the operator, and the customer in these settings was careless of artistic likeness and heedless of aesthetic niceties. People were out to enjoy themselves and photography was simply part of the entertainment. Viewing the "instant" photograph on the spot and carrying off the desired memento satisfied popular desire for self-indulgence and amusement.

The ferrotype advanced without let or hindrance into all the territories previously annexed by the glass positive worker. (See Figs. 8 - 13) Ferrotype photographers went from door to door soliciting speculative portraits from householders who posed, formal and unsmiling, at their front door, garden gate or in their back-yard. Cameras were planted at the corners of busy thoroughfares where operators touted for trade among the passing crowds. On Sundays and holidays ferrotypists opened al fresco studios in the lanes leading to local beauty spots and in those parks and commons where work weary people routinely sought rest and relaxation. The public house and the village green were regular ports of call. While wakes, fairs and racecourses which drew the crowds in free-spending mood held out the potential of serious business especially if the sun shone brightly.

At the fairground portrait parlours varied from splendid caravans decorated with the carvings and paintings traditionally associated with showmen, to a canvas tent that could be up and open for trade within thirty minutes or less. Though taken by those whose motives were purely financial, portraits in these surroundings imitated conventional trappings and it is frequently impossible to discriminate the ferrotype produced by the itinerant from that taken in a cheap studio in the high street. But it was the seaside above all other venues that ferrotypists were to colonize in force and appropriate as their own particular sphere of operation. [ 47 ]

Figure 13

Figure 13. Photographer unknown. The photographer of this fine plate has clearly set up shop at a local beauty spot seeking customers among the tourists and visitors. Photographers may have been required to pay a rental on such standings which could prove very profitable on sunny days. Ferrotype plate, 12.3 cms x 8.7 cms. (Author's Collection)

With the refinement and rapid adoption of the dry plate negative in regular studios by the 1880s, there came an inevitable demand for a dry plate for use in positive work. Throughout the 1880s various suggestions for using gelatino bromide on ferrotype plates failed to meet the requirements of the itinerant operator. [ 48 ] Then in 1891 Ladislas Nievsky, former chief photographer with the London Stereoscopic Company and technical director of an ill-fated venture into automatic photograph machines, invented a collodion dry plate. This was placed on the market by Jonathan Fallowfield, whose firm had become the major suppliers of ferrotype equipment and materials in Britain in the 1880s. One report of a press demonstration commended the speed of the new plate - three seconds exposure, development completed in twenty seconds and one minute more for fixing, washing and drying. Varnishing was no longer necessary since the film itself was said to be almost as hard as the metal upon which it rested. [ 49 ]

His dry plate eliminated the necessity of sensitizing on the spot, but Nievsky then went on to design a new style camera which was intended to streamline working practices even further. The prototype Nievsky machine carried a magazine of 50 ready sensitized ferrotype dry plates which could be loaded in broad daylight. The body of the camera contained a tank connected to three pipes holding developing fluid, fixing liquid and water. After exposure the plate dropped into the tank and was processed "automatically" by squeezing the fluids onto it. [ 50 ] Nievsky's subsequent improvements to this prototype combined developing and fixing in one bath and carried magazines holding up to a hundred plates. Others were not slow to design cameras along similar lines. One example, featured with illustration in The British Journal of Photography of 17 September 1897, was a camera designed by Thomas and Whitworth. [ 51 ] The Duplex Ferrotype Portrait Camera was on the market by the spring of 1898. [ 52 ] The provision of ready sensitized plates and cameras equipped with the facilities to process after exposure banished the need for improvised dark boxes on wheels or canvas tents and gave the operators greater flexibility to set off in active pursuit of customers.

Nievsky's early semi-automatic tintype camera was styled the "Simplex" and sold under licence. It reduced the costs of production to about one penny per picture. [ 53 ] Portraits usually retailed at twopence or threepence each which significantly undercut traditional operators' regular asking price of sixpence - or as close to that figure as they could get! It was argued that at such low prices and with the significant improvement in production times, photographers could reasonably expect to more than treble the number of customers and so increase profits in the long run. Reports of sightings of the new machines appeared as early as September 1892. Three or four were seen in operation on Hampstead Heath where " the proprietor of the old-fashioned camera and tent looks on with disgust." [ 54 ] At Easter the following year the semi-automatic camera was said to be very much in evidence in all the places where the peripatetic men live and have their being". [ 55 ] While as early as August 1893, Mr H.H. Rushton, Secretary of the National Photographic Company Limited, applied (unsuccessfully on this occasion) for permission from the Brighton Beach Committee to allow two or three of their assistants to stand on the beach for the purpose of taking photographs with the Simplex camera. [ 56 ] Some commentators expressed the opinion that the introduction of these new machines even heralded a change in style among the operators themselves. "The new photographer has not that bland, insinuating, pensive air of the older operator. He is brisk and brusque, and altogether unphotographic in appearance." [ 57 ]

The automatic cameras which conferred on the ferrotype the twin advantages of speed and cheapness appear to have ensured its survival until well into the twentieth century. Indeed, the portrait on iron continued to enjoy a measure of popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, particularly at the seaside resorts which drew the crowds throughout the period. The ferrotype lingered on in Britain to finally resign a very frail and tenuous hold on life in the early 1950s - a centenarian! Always a modest style, scorned by the serious photographer and decidedly inferior to other nineteenth century formats, the ferrotype nonetheless survived and outlived the daguerreotype, glass positive and assorted card mounted portraits. It even managed to preserve a place for itself in competition with the postcard which finally saw off the carte and cabinet in the early years of the twentieth century. The secrets of the ferrotype's long life must be attributed to its versatility in youth and its successful monopoly of the while-you-wait sector of the market in middle age.


I should like to end with a word of thanks to Michael Pritchard for information on Fallowfields, Colin Harding for his helpfulness, Mike Jacob for his generosity and to David Hooper for assisting me to acquire a lovely, little pile of blistering metal plates!

Appendix 1 American Gem Multiples in Britain

Appendix 2 Nineteenth Century Manuals and Publications on the Ferrotype Process

Appendix 3 Ferrotype Studios in Britain

References and Notes

1. William Welling, Photography in America: The formative years 1839 - 1900, Thomas Y. Crowell Co., New York (1978), p.117. ⏪ Back to footnote 1 in the text

2. Edward M. Estabrooke, The Ferrotype and how to make it, Gatchel & Hyatt, Cincinnati (1872), Morgan & Morgan Inc. Reprint (1972), pp.66-94. ⏪ Back to footnote 2 in the text

3. The ferrotype process may have been simple, but it was not healthy. Potassium cyanide proved a more efficient fixing agent than hyposulphate of soda. This was a highly dangerous poison which could seep into the body through cracks in the skin of an operator's hands and cause very unpleasant effects. ⏪ Back to footnote 3 in the text

4. The non-reversed ferrotype, and how to make it, The Photographic News, Vol. 18 no. 774 (4 July 1873), p.315. (Reprint from Photographic Times). See also: Talk in the Studio, The Photographic News, Vol. 18 no. 776 (18 July 1873), p.348. re reversing prisms. ⏪ Back to footnote 4 in the text

5. Answers to Correspondents, The British Journal of Photography, Vol. 46 no. 2035 (5 May 1899), p.288. Enquiring how ferrotypes could be reversed, R. Pryor was crisply advised that "Ferrotypes are all reversed, and remain so." ⏪ Back to footnote 5 in the text

6. E. P. Griswold, Ferrotypes, The Photographic News, Vol. 31 no. 1529 (23 December 1887), p.809. (Reprint from Photographic Times) ⏪ Back to footnote 6 in the text

7. Audrey Linkman, The Victorians: Photographic Portraits,Tauris Parke Books, London (1993), pp.69-72. ⏪ Back to footnote 7 in the text

8. William Darrah, Cartes de visite in nineteenth century photography, W. C. Darrah, Gettysburg (1981), p.13. ⏪ Back to footnote 8 in the text

9. Robert Taft, Photography and the American scene: A social history 1839 - 1889, Dover Publications Inc., New York (1964), p.164. ⏪ Back to footnote 9 in the text

10. Estabrooke, op. cit., p.35. ⏪ Back to footnote 10 in the text

11. Darrah, op. cit., pp. 164-165. ⏪ Back to footnote 11 in the text

12. Lux Graphicus on the Wing, The Photographic News, Vol.12 no. 521 (28 August 1868)."Lux Graphicus" was a pseudonym for John Werge, who claimed that he "had some of these shown to me a short time ago." Darrah claimed that this style came into prominence about 1870. Werge began his photographic career as an itinerant daguerreotypist in Britain. He worked in America on two occasions, his first visit taking place in 1853/4 and his second in 1860/1. His second visit would have acquainted him with ferrotype work in America. On his return he worked at various times as a studio photographer and photographic dealer and supplier. He contributed occasional articles to the trade press and wrote a personalized history of photography in his later years. ⏪ Back to footnote 12 in the text

13. Taft, op. cit., p.160. ⏪ Back to footnote 13 in the text

14. Estabrooke, op. cit., p.34. ⏪ Back to footnote 14 in the text

15. Talk in the Studio, The Photographic News, Vol. 14 no. 597 (11 February 1870), p.72. American Correspondence, The Photographic News, Vol. 14 no. 602 (18 March 1870) p.123. Talk in the Studio, The Photographic News, Vol. 14 no. 605 (8 April 1870). ⏪ Back to footnote 15 in the text

16. Ferrotypes, The British Journal of Photography, Vol. 21 no. 725 (27 March 1874). ⏪ Back to footnote 16 in the text

17. John Werge, The evolution of photography, London (1890), p.70. See also: Lux Graphicus on the Wing, The Photographic News, Vol. 12 no. 521 (28 August 1868). "The American examples that I have seen are very brilliant and beautiful, and, to my mind, next in delicacy of detail and richness to the long discarded but ever beautiful daguerreotype." ⏪ Back to footnote 17 in the text

18. To Correspondents, The Photographic News, Vol. 15 no. 672 (21 July 1871), p.348. ⏪ Back to footnote 18 in the text

19. Ferrotypes: collodion positives on metal plates, The Photographic News, Vol. 16 no. 742 (22 November 1872), pp.553-555. ⏪ Back to footnote 19 in the text

20. Taft, op. cit., p.164. H. Vogel, German Correspondence, The Photographic News, Vol. 17 no. 751 (24 January 1873), p.24. ⏪ Back to footnote 20 in the text

21. Taft, op. cit., p.69. ⏪ Back to footnote 21 in the text

22. Welling, op. cit., p.101. ⏪ Back to footnote 22 in the text

23. Werge, op. cit., pp.200-202. ⏪ Back to footnote 23 in the text

24. Taft, op. cit., p.128. ⏪ Back to footnote 24 in the text

25. Bernard V. & Pauline F. Heathcote, Richard Beard: an ingenious and enterprising patentee, History of Photography, Vol. 3 no. 4 (October 1979), pp.313-329. ⏪ Back to footnote 25 in the text

26. Early photography in Leeds 1839 - 1870, Leeds Art Galleries (1981), p.12. ⏪ Back to footnote 26 in the text

27. Decline of prices in photography, The Photographic News, Vol. 11 no. 469 (30 August 1867), pp.413-414. ⏪ Back to footnote 27 in the text

28. Advertisement, The Liverpool and Manchester Photographic Journal, New Series (1 June 1857), p.118. This advertisement reappears in the issue of 15 June 1857. ⏪ Back to footnote 28 in the text

29. Griswold claimed to have been able to produce ferroplates in a range of colours - blue, green, red and chocolate - as early as 1857, but met with no success in his efforts to introduce them onto the market. Estabrooke, op. cit., pp.82-83. ⏪ Back to footnote 29 in the text

30. Estabrooke, op. cit., pp.97-98. ⏪ Back to footnote 30 in the text

31. American Correspondence, The Photographic News, Vol. 16 no. 722 (5 July 1872), p.318. ⏪ Back to footnote 31 in the text

32. Edward L. Wilson, American Correspondence, The Photographic News, Vol. 16 no. 736 (11 October 1872), p.485. ⏪ Back to footnote 32 in the text

33. The Photographic News, (22 November 1872), op. cit. ⏪ Back to footnote 33 in the text

34. The British Journal of Photography, (27 March 1874), op. cit. ⏪ Back to footnote 34 in the text

35. To Correspondents, The Photographic News, Vol. 17 no. 750 (17 January 1873), p.36. ⏪ Back to footnote 35 in the text

36. The Photographic Exhibition - portraiture, The Photographic News, Vol. 19 no. 893 (15 October 1875), pp.498-499. Ovinius Davis of Glasgow and Edinburgh also exhibited two frames of ferrotypes at the Glasgow Photographic Exhibition in 1886. Glasgow Photographic Exhibition, The Photographic News, Vol. 30 no. 1454 (16 July 1886), pp.449-450 and no. 1463 (17 September 1886), pp.594-595. ⏪ Back to footnote 36 in the text

37. To Correspondents, The Photographic News, Vol. 20 no. 947 (27 October 1876), p.516. ⏪ Back to footnote 37 in the text

38. John Nicol, Ferrotypes and photography under pressure, The British Journal of Photography, Vol. 24 no. 901 (10 August 1877), pp.378-379. ⏪ Back to footnote 38 in the text

39. The prices quoted are from details printed on the backs of ferrotypes in the author's possession. ⏪ Back to footnote 39 in the text

40. Photography in and out of the studio, The Photographic News, Vol. 25 no. 1193 (15 July 1881), p.328. ⏪ Back to footnote 40 in the text

41. Ibid. ⏪ Back to footnote 41 in the text

42. Michael Pritchard, A directory of London photographers 1841 - 1908, ALLM Books, Bushey (1986), lists the following:


Estabrooke Thomas Sherman


30 Regent Street SW 1874-76


Estabrooke Richard Parker


158 Fleet Street EC 1877
153 Fleet Street EC 1879-90


Anglo American Photo Co
(Richard P Estabrooke, Man.)


153 Fleet Street EC 1880-1884
272 Regent Street W 1880-83

In 1877 Richard Estabrooke of 153 Fleet Street and John Baker, 34 Grays Inn Road, were charged with selling obscene photographs and of conspiring with each other to sell the pictures. They were described as wholesale dealers who supplied the trade.Talk in the Studio, The Photographic News, Vol. 21 no. 985 (20 July 1877), p.348. ⏪ Back to footnote 42 in the text

43. To Correspondents, The Photographic News, Vol. 24 no. 1152 (1 October 1880), p.480. ⏪ Back to footnote 43 in the text

44. Jonathan Fallowfield was reported to have supplied a camera with twelve lenses, taking thirty six gem portraits by means of a triple repeating back, with instantaneous front, for œ6. Answers to correspondents, The Photographic News, Vol. 33 no. 1603 (24 May 1889), p.352. ⏪ Back to footnote 44 in the text

45. Leaflet issued by The Artistic Photographic Co., Berwick House, Oxford Street, London,W. John Johnson Collection, Bodleian Library, Oxford. Postage stamp portraits were apparently made and sold in Britain as early as c.1870 when a patent was said to have been applied for, but not proceeded with. They became popular in America in the mid 1880s where it was reported that in January 1885 Mr Tonndorf and Messrs Kuhn Bros., both of St. Louis were about to go to law to determine who was the legal patentee of the format. In December 1885 an American, Orrin Luther Hulbert, was reported to have gone to the expense of obtaining an English patent for the postage stamp portrait. At all events references to them in the British trade press increase significantly towards the turn of the century. ⏪ Back to footnote 45 in the text

46. Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, Vol.3, Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., London (1867), pp.206-210. ⏪ Back to footnote 46 in the text

47. For a detailed description of the activities of itinerant photographers in the Victorian era, see Linkman, op. cit., pp.139-183. ⏪ Back to footnote 47 in the text

48. The Photographic News, for example, makes reference to experiments by Joseph Gray of Newcastle, "a pioneer in connection with ferrotype and positive work in gelatine". Notes, Vol. 29 no. 1390 (24 April 1885), p.266 and Notes, Vol. 31 no. 1494 (22 April 1887), p.248; useful hints from Dr C. Schleussner in Wochenblatt on Ferrotype plates with gelatino bromide emulsion, Vol. 31 no. 1489 (18 March 1887), pp.161-162; and instructions on using gelatino bromide on ferroplates in the Annals of the Year Book, Vol. 32 no. 1531 (6 January 1888), p.1. ⏪ Back to footnote 48 in the text

49. Ferrotype dry plates, The Photographic News, Vol. 35 no. 1728 (16 October 1891), p. 724. ⏪ Back to footnote 49 in the text

50. A novelty in apparatus, The Photographic News, Vol. 36 no. 1740 (8 January 1892), p.26.It is perhaps worth noting the claim that the semi-automatic ferrotype camera was a modification of a camera of French origin patented in the wet collodion era. See: Notes, The Photographic News, Vol. 39 no. 1911 (19 April 1895), p.242 ⏪ Back to footnote 50 in the text

51. Ferrotype apparatus, The British Journal of Photography, Vol. 44 no. 1950 (17 September 1897), p.601. Note also: Patent News, The British Journal of Photography, Vol. 18 no. 1895 (28 August 1896), p.558. Ferrotype Apparatus - No. 17,772 "Improvements in Photographic Apparatus specially adapted for ferrotype dry plates". G.H. Thomas and B. Whitworth. ⏪ Back to footnote 51 in the text

52. Our editorial table, The British Journal of Photography, Vol. 45 no. 1977 (25 March 1898), p.188. See also: Ex Cathedra, The British Journal of Photography, Vol. 93 no. 1888 (10 July 1896) pp.433- 434. This makes reference to the use of a "Duplex" machine at an event in aid of the Actors Orphanage Fund. It claims the Duplex was invented by Nievsky. A reference to Nievsky's death occurs in Answers to Correspondents, The British Journal of Photography, Vol. 48 no. 2151 (26 July 1901), p.479. ⏪ Back to footnote 52 in the text

53. Notes, The Photographic News, Vol. 36 no. 1780 (14 Oct 1892), p.658. ⏪ Back to footnote 53 in the text

54. Notes, The Photographic News, Vol. 36 no. 1778 (30 September 1892), p.626. ⏪ Back to footnote 54 in the text

55. Notes, The Photographic News, Vol. 37 no. 1805 (7 April 1893), p.210. ⏪ Back to footnote 55 in the text

56. Brighton Beach Committee Minutes DB/B20/2 (28 August 1893), East Sussex Record Office, Lewes. Note also Pritchard, op. cit., p.72: National Photographic Co. Ltd. 7 Union Ct. Old Broad St EC, 1895 - 1898. ⏪ Back to footnote 56 in the text

57. Notes, The Photographic News, Vol. 38 no. 1870 (6 July 1894), p.417. ⏪ Back to footnote 57 in the text

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