Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Photographic Albums

Our ancestors initially used plain paper albums to arrange their photographs with captions written
underneath until commercially manufactured albums became available. These albums figured
prominently in the decorating scheme of nineteenth century parlors and were displayed beside the

family bible for visitors to view. Often, the albums contain the name of the owner.

Mid-nineteenth century photo albums often resembled bibles.

These nineteenth century albums evolved from scrapbook pages to pre-cut albums back to scrapbooks.

As albums lost their formality and amateur photography became popular, albums became a form of personal expression. These albums portrayed family unity and revealed a personal identity. Albums, with their imaginative arrangements, decorative cutouts, and artifacts, are the predecessors of the contemporary scrapbook.

One of the most often asked questions at my presentations on family photographs is what to do with images that are in albums. The first suggestion is to follow the basic rules for extending the longevity of any photographs by placing them in an area that does not experience variable temperature and humidity.

Conservators suggest keeping the album in its original state unless it is extremely damaged.

If your album has been extremely damaged, Preserving your Family Photographs details suggestions for possible restoration.

Paper Prints

All of us are familiar with paper prints. Every year we produce them by the thousands, documenting our family milestones and vacations. The paper prints of our ancestors and the ones we take today are similar, but the chemicals and processes that create the images are different.  The negatives used to produce these prints ranged from paper to glass to contemporary film materials.

Paper prints fall into several categories. In the nineteenth century, two types of paper prints existed: Printing-out papers and developing-out papers.

  • Printing-out papers: light sensitive chemicals applied to paper allowed the image to appear during exposure to light.
  • Developing-out papers: required chemical processing to bring out the image.
There is a revival of nineteenth century printing out processes. Photographers experimenting with these photographic processes are causing a renewed interest in the photographic community.
Also, in the nineteenth century, All prints were contact prints, meaning they were the same size as the negative. When you are looking at an 11 x 14 inch print from the 1870s, the negative was also 11 x 14 inches. Since artificial light was not available until the late nineteenth century, sunlight was a key ingredient of
the photographic process.
By the end of the nineteenth century, card photographs came in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Probably the most common type of nineteenth century photograph in your collection is known as a card photograph. The thin paper used to produce the majority of nineteenth and early twentieth century prints necessitated mounting them to heavy card stock or cardboard to help support the print. These images, regardless of the type of photographic process, came in standard sizes. Some types of card photographs include (with sizes and date introduced to U.S.):
  • Cartes-de-visite – 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 (1859)
  • Cabinet Card – 4 1/2 x 6 1/2 (1866)
  • Victoria 3 1/4×5 (1870)
  • Promenade 4×7 (1875)
  • Boudoir 5 1/4 x 8 1/2 (not known)
  • Imperial (life-size) 6 7/8 x 9 7/8 (not known)
  • Panel 8 1/4 x 4 (not known)
  • Stereograph Either 3 x7 or 4 x 7 (Smaller 1859 Larger 1870)
Preserving Your Family Photographs details identifying and caring for your card photographs.
Until the late 1880s, there were two ways to have your portrait taken. You could visit a professional studio or use the services of the amateur photographer in your family. These portraits lack spontaneity because it was an involved process.
Amateur cameras manufactured by Kodak and other companies allowed our ancestors to photograph their daily lives.
Different types of nineteenth century and early twentieth century prints develop problems based on the chemical processes used in their creation. Each photograph is a combination of photographic chemicals and paper. Both elements can affect the longevity of the print as much as conditions under which they’ve been stored since their creation.
In my book, you learn how to address special concerns for paper prints and avoid common damage to your historical photographs.

Night at the Museum Series: The Star Spangled Banner

Making the Flag

In the summer of 1813, Mary Pickersgill (1776–1857) was contracted to sew two flags for Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. The one that became the Star-Spangled Banner was a 30 x 42–foot garrison flag; the other was a 17 x 25–foot storm flag for use in inclement weather. Pickersgill, a thirty-seven-year-old widow, was an experienced maker of ships’ colors and signal flags. She filled orders for many of the military and merchant ships that sailed into Baltimore’s busy port.

Helping Pickersgill make the flags were her thirteen-year-old daughter Caroline; nieces Eliza Young (thirteen) and Margaret Young (fifteen); and a thirteen-year-old African American indentured servant, Grace Wisher. Pickersgill’s elderly mother, Rebecca Young, from whom she had learned flagmaking, may have helped as well.

Pickersgill and her assistants spent about seven weeks making the two flags. They assembled the blue canton and the red and white stripes of the flag by piecing together strips of loosely woven English wool bunting that were only 12 or 18 inches wide.

Floor Plan of Mary Pickersgill’s House
The huge 30 by 42–foot flag overwhelmed the cramped rooms of Pickersgill’s house. She moved the operation across the street to the more spacious Claggett’s brewery. There they assembled the pieces of the flag and placed fifteen cotton stars on the blue canton.

Night at the Museum Series: The Star Spangled Banner

A Moment of Triumph

By the “dawn’s early light” of September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key, who was aboard a ship several miles distant, could just make out an American flag waving above Fort McHenry. British ships were withdrawing from Baltimore, and Key realized that the United States had survived the battle and stopped the enemy advance. Moved by the sight, he wrote a song celebrating “that star-spangled banner” as a symbol of America’s triumph and endurance.

Night at the Museum Series: The Star Spangled Banner

A View of the Bombardment of Fort McHenry

Print by J. Bower, Philadelphia, 1816. One of
the soldiers who was in the fort during the 25-hour
bombardment wrote, “We were like pigeons tied by
the legs to be shot at.”


 America’s future seemed more uncertain than ever as the British set their sights on Baltimore, Maryland, a vital seaport. On September 13, 1814, British warships began firing bombs and rockets on Fort McHenry, which protected the city’s harbor. The bombardment continued for twenty-five hours while the nation awaited news of Baltimore’s fate.

Night at the Museum Series: The Star Spangled Banner

The Capital Captured

Angered by British interference with American trade, the young United States was intent on reaffirming its recently won independence. Instead, a series of defeats left Americans anxious and demoralized. They were stunned when, on August 24, 1814, British troops marched into Washington, D.C., and set the Capitol building and White House ablaze.

Restoring Damaged Photographs

Unless you are extremely fortunate to have a collection in mint condition, at least a few of your family photographs will need to be professionally restored or conserved. There is a lot of confusion about these two processes.

Digital restoration is not conservation. The two terms are not interchangeable. Restoring an image is the process of re-creating the appearance of the object.

Conservation includes several steps such as object examination, scientific analysis, research, and evaluation of the object’s condition. All conservation work involves treatment to prevent future deterioration.

Both conservation and restoration are time-consuming processes. Unless you are a trained chemist with a background in photographic conservation or a specialist in photographic restoration, you will want to hire a professional. A professionally-trained photographic conservator should handle your conservation work. Your attempts to remove damage could destroy your images.

Learn more about Preserving Your Family Photographs in my newly updated and revised book. 

Night at the Museum Series: The Star Spangled Banner

The War of 1812

Although its events inspired one of the nation’s most famous patriotic songs, the War of 1812 is a relatively little-known war in American history. Despite its complicated causes and inconclusive outcome, the conflict helped establish the credibility of the young United States among other nations. It fostered a strong sense of national pride among the American people, and those patriotic feelings are reflected and preserved in the song we know today as the U.S. national anthem.

Britain’s defeat at the 1781 Battle of Yorktown marked the conclusion of the American Revolution and the beginning of new challenges for a new nation. Not even three decades after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which formalized Britain’s recognition of the United States of America, the two countries were again in conflict. Resentment for Britain’s interference with American international trade, combined with American expansionist visions, led Congress to declare war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812.

In the early stages of the war, the American navy scored victories in the Atlantic and on Lake Erie while Britain concentrated its military efforts on its ongoing war with France. But with the defeat of Emperor Napoléon’s armies in April 1814, Britain turned its full attention to the war against an ill-prepared United States.

Does anyone have pictures of the War of 1812 veterans in their family?  I’d love to see them. Email me at

Do You Recognize any of the Men in this Photograph?

AN HISTORIC photograph has been discovered showing the workers who helped create one of North Yorkshire’s most beautiful buildings.

As a £150,000 English Heritage project to revive their work at Manor House, Mount Grace Priory, near Northallerton, is currently under way, the modern day team has recreated the fascinating photograph.

The picture, which has been handed in anonymously by a local man, dates back to the 1890s and shows artisan workers employed by priory owner Sir Isaac Lowthian Bell.

To read the rest of the story Click HERE

Night at the Museum Series: The Star Spangled Banner

For the Next 12 weeks I will be doing a blog post series based on the Star Spangled Banner. Stay tuned every Saturday for a new piece of the story provided by the Smithsonian.

On September 14, 1814, U.S. soldiers at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry raised a huge American flag to celebrate a crucial victory over British forces during the War of 1812. The sight of those “broad stripes and bright stars” inspired Francis Scott Key to write a song that eventually became the United States national anthem. Key’s words gave new significance to a national symbol and started a tradition through which generations of Americans have invested the flag with their own meanings and memories.