Skip Navigation
Browse: Collections Digital Content Subjects Creators
Log In | Contact Us| View Cart (0)

John and Jane Adams Photograph Collection, 1840-1946 | Special Collections & University Archives

By Amanda Lanthorne

Printer-friendly Printer-friendly | Email Us Contact Us About This Collection

Collection Overview

Title: John and Jane Adams Photograph Collection, 1840-1946Add to your cart.

Predominant Dates:1890-1920

Primary Creator: Adams Photograph Collection (1840-1946)

Extent: 18.73 Linear Feet


I. Paper Prints, 1850-1946

   A.  Mounted Prints, 1850s-1890s

        1.    Cartes de Visite, 1854-1870s

        2.    Cabinet Cards, 1860s-1910s

        3.      Non-standard Studio Portraits, 1880s-1910s

        4.      Non-studio Prints, 1880s-1920s

        5.    Stereo Cards, 1876-1880s

    B.  Unmounted Prints, 1946

II. Metal and Glass Plate Processes

    A. Daguerreotypes, 1840s-1860s

    B.  Ambrotypes, 1850s-1860s

    C.  Tintypes, 1860s-1890s

III. Glass Plate Negatives, 1898

IV. Albums, 1886-1946

Date Acquired: 00/00/1989

Subjects: Collodion process, Photograph albums, Photography--History--19th century

Forms of Material: Photographs

Languages: English, German, French

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The John and Jane Adams Photograph Collection documents the history of photography, including various photographic processes and formats, such as albumen prints, cyanotypes, platinotypes, ambrotypes, gelatin silver prints, glass negatives, carte de visites, tin types, cabinet cards, and more.  In addition, the collection also illustrates the evolution of photographic subject matter and studio advertising.  Highlights include early daguerreotypes, an assortment of unique photo albums, and a wealth of studio advertisements from all over the world dating from the mid nineteenth to early twentieth centuries.  In some cases, this finding aid uses technical terminology to describe the photographic processes and formats, but every effort was made to include laymen's terms as well.  The collection consists of portraits, landscapes, and travel photography, and is divided into four series based on format: Paper Prints (1850s-1946), Metal and Glass Plate Processes (c. 1840s-1890s), Glass Plate Negatives (1898), and Albums (1886-1946).

The Paper Prints (1850s-1945) series documents the various formats and photographic processes requiring paper supports, or bases.  The majority of photographs in this series are black and white, unless they are cyanotypes or are hand painted.  This series is divided into two sub-series:  Mounted Prints (c. 1854-1920s) and Unmounted Prints (c. 1880s-1946).  The Mounted Prints (1870s-1946) consist of paper prints mounted onto board and primarily document popular studio portraiture from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century.  This series is divided into five sub-series: Carte de Visites (1854-1870s), Cabinet Cards (1860s-1910s), Non-standard Size Studio Portraits (c. 1880s-1910s), Non-Studio Prints (1880s-1920s), and Stereo Cards (c. 1876-1880s).  Filed alphabetically by geographic location and arranged alphabetically at the item level by studio name, the Carte de Visites (1854-1870s) primarily consist of portraits from the mid nineteenth century.  Of particular interest are the portraits taken at Matthew Brady's New York studio, a postmortem death portrait of a child (box 3, folder 3), portraits of several little people, and several minorities, which were uncommon subject matter for the time.   The Cabinet Cards (1860s-1910s) are also arranged alphabetically by geographic location and studio.  This sub-series includes full-length and head portraits of men, women, children, and small groups.  The advertisements document changes in photographic technology, such as the introduction of enlarged prints, electric light, multiple prints, and coloring techniques.  This is the largest of the sub-series.  Also filed alphabetically by geographic location and maker, the Non-Standard Size Studio Prints (c. 1880s-1910s) document studio portraiture as well, though these portraits are not in standardized sizes.  These prints date from around the 1880s to the 1910s.  In addition, the Non-Studio Prints (1880s-1920s) contain mounted landscapes, and outdoor portraits of large groups and individuals.  Of particular interest is a striking photograph of a girl standing next to her bicycle, exotic Egyptian landscapes taken by Henri Arnoux, and a photograph of a group of African-American workers outside of the Green River House in Louisville, Kentucky.  The Stereo Cards (c. 1876-1880s) make up the smallest sub-series and include several memorial images, including one for Presidents Lincoln and Garfield.  The Unmounted Prints (1870s-1946) series contains a variety of paper prints in various sizes including albumen prints, cyanotypes, gelatin silver prints, and platinotypes.  This sub-series documents various photographic processes and subject matter such as early twentieth century photographs of California, the old West, National Parks, California missions, and more.  Highlights include set of photographs of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve during the Second World War. This sub-series includes various sizes of prints.

The Metal and Glass Plate Processes (1840s-1890s) document photographic processes which use metal or glass materials, such as iron, copper, or glass plates for the photographic support or base of a photograph.  The series includes mid-nineteenth century portraits, and is divided into three sub-series: Daguerreotypes (1840s-1860s), Ambrotypes (1850s-1860s), and Tintypes (1860s-1890s).  The majority of daguerreotypes and ambrotypes are encapsulated in small cases, but these cases are often in poor condition, and many of the images contain oxidation.  The Daguerreotypes date from the 1840s to 1860s, and document early studio portraiture using a copper base.  This sub-series consists primarily of head portraits of men, women, and children.  Of particular interest is a rare large size portrait of a family of eight people. The Ambrotypes (1850s-1860s) document the next phase in studio portraiture, using glass as the photographic support.  Highlights include a portrait of a Confederate soldier during the Civil War. The Tintypes (1860s-1890s) also document the evolution of studio portraiture from copper and glass to iron supports in the mid to late nineteenth century, and include portraits of men, women, children, and small groups, including several rare larger tintypes and two albums of early tintype head portraits dating from around the 1860s.  Many of the tintypes still have their original paper mat.

The Glass Plate Negatives (1898) document the glass plate negative process, and the International Mississippi Exposition in Omaha, Nebraska.  The series includes photographs of various scenes and buildings from the 1898 Exposition.

The Albums (1886-1946) series document various people, places, and events, and includes paper-support prints, such as cyanotypes and gelatin silver prints bound in albums.  Several albums, including the albums in boxes 20-22, and box 32 were disassembled and no longer have their original binding.  The majority of photographs in this series are black and white, with the exception of a small number of hand-colored images and several albums that include cyanotypes. This series dates from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries.  Highlights include an album documenting the mining town of Flint, Idaho during 1886 and 1887, and an album which features places in San Diego in 1900, such as the Hotel del Coronado, Mission Valley, and downtown San Diego, as well as a parade in Los Angeles with several photographs President William McKinley in a parade carriage.  Also included are two remarkable albums documenting the evolution of photography, including an album belonging to a photographer in the Bay Area of California.  In his album he writes what type of lens he used, the hour of day, and the exposure time.  In addition, this series also consists of a product album from the Gavaert Company of America, which includes photographs taken and printed on different types of plates and paper.  The customer could then look through the album and decide which papers and plates to order based on the final product displayed in the album.

Biographical Note

The first "photograph" was a paper-based photogenic drawing process invented by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1839.  In 1841, Talbot introduced the calotype, or salted paper print, which became the first two-step photographic process involving the use of a negative. Albumen prints and cyanotypes were also popular mid-nineteenth century paper support processes. Other paper prints include platinotypes, carbon prints, gum bichromate prints, collodion prints, gelatin silver prints, and more. 

Paper prints, which consist of a paper support or base, could either be mounted or unmounted.  In general, most mounted prints were studio portraits that the photographer mounted on embossed board.  These portraits often came in standard sizes, such as the carte de visite and cabinet card.  These cards were traded among family and friends, and collected as a Victorian hobby.  Some photographers even produced cards of well-known politicians and other figures for popular consumption. Carte de visites were invented in the 1850s and remained popular until the 1870s when they were superseded by cabinet cards.  Most carte de visites are albumen prints and measured 2½ × 4 inches.  Cabinet cards, on the other hand, are slightly larger, measuring 4¼ by 6½ inches.  In addition, the advertisements on carte de visites and cabinet cards provide information about nineteenth century advertising and the growth of photography.  Many advertisements often juxtapose artist tools with photographic equipment in order to promote photography as a form of art. 

Gradually, the popularity of mounted studio prints waned as the desire for more candid photographs increased.  With the invention and commercialization of more affordable film and photograph equipment, the general public no longer had to rely on professional photographers and studios for photographs.  Thus, unmounted candid photographs became popular. 

Besides paper prints, metal and glass plate support processes were extremely popular for portraiture during the mid-nineteenth century.  These processes include daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tin types, and primarily consist of positive images transferred onto these supports using collodion, silver, or mercury.  These metal and glass plates were almost exclusively used for small portraiture.  Daguerreotypes, which first became popular in the 1840s, have a mirror effect from highly polished silver on a copper base.  When looking at a daguerreotype in different light, the image can appear as a positive or negative image.  Ambrotypes, on the other hand, were invented in the early 1850s, and consist of a negative image on a glass base with either black varnish or black fabric placed behind the plate to create a positive image.  Daguerreotypes and ambrotypes came in decorative, velvet-lined cases.  For daguerreotypes, the case protects the copper plate from tarnish, while the case for ambrotypes protects the varnish or fabric backing on the glass plate from deterioration.  The tintype, in contrast, often came in paper mats.  This process used a laquered iron plate as a support for the image material, which consisted of silver and collodion.  The tintype was invented in the mid-1850s, and remained in use until the early twentieth century. 

In contrast, glass plate negatives were a popular negative process throughout the nineteenth century.  These plates preceded the invention of modern flexible film, and were in many ways more stable than their successors.  The glass negative process used silver salts on a glass plate to create a negative image. The negative image was then transferred to a paper support, where it became a positive image photograph.  Although flexible film eventually superseded glass plate negatives in the early twentieth century, the process remained in use until the 1980s.

Over the years, the John and Jane Adams, former San Diego State professors, collected many photographic prints, tintypes, ambrotypes, daguerreotypes, glass plate negatives, and photo albums. The Adams assembled the photograph collection from photographs purchased from dealers, auctions, estate sales, and antique stores.

Subject/Index Terms

Collodion process
Photograph albums
Photography--History--19th century

Administrative Information

Repository: Special Collections & University Archives

Access Restrictions: This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions: The copyright interests in these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creators of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of historical archival and manuscript collections is such that copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine.  Requests for permission to publish must be submitted to the Head of Special Collections, San Diego State University, Library and Information Access. When granted, permission is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical item and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder(s), which must also be obtained in order to publish. Materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials.

Acquisition Source: John R. and Jane Adams

Related Materials:

San Diego Photograph Collection

San Diego Scrapbook Collection

University Archives Photograph Collection

Louise Patterson Scrapbook

Preferred Citation: Identification of item, folder title, box number, John and Jane Adams Photograph Collection, Special Collections and University Archives, Library and Information Access, San Diego State University.

Finding Aid Revision History: Processed in 1990.  Revised in 2005.  Reprocessed in 2010.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Paper Supports, 1850s-1946],
[Series 2: Metal and Glass Plate Processes, 1840s-1890s],
[Series 3: Glass Plate Negatives, 1915],
[Series 4: Albums, 1886-1946],

Series 4: Albums, 1886-1946Add to your cart.
Box 20Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Album #1, 1914-1915Add to your cart.
Unidentified photographer's disassembled album of Northern California.  Includes scenes from San Francisco, Eldridge, Del Monte, Stockton, surrounding farmland, Jack London's estate, a carnival, street scenes, railways, Golden Gate Park, self-portraits, and more.  Photographer often includes chemical formulas, lens type, type of light, time of day, and exposure time on the back of photographs.
Folder 2: Album #1, 1914-1915Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Album #1, 1916-1918Add to your cart.
Folder 4: Album #1, 1914-1918Add to your cart.
Box 21Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Album #1, 1914-1918Add to your cart.
Folder 2: Album #1 - Reprints, 1996Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Album #2, 1915Add to your cart.
Disassembled album of Maria Montessori's school in Italy.  Includes images of Montessori and other teachers with students.  Creator unknown.
Box 22Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Album #3, circa 1920sAdd to your cart.
Disassembled album of an unidentified family, possibly from Kansas, on a fishing trip.  Also includes a few photographs not related to fishing, including the family's house and the Fisher School House.  Only identifiable names are Jessie May E. Kent and Maud Henderson.
Folder 2: Album #4, 1900-1910sAdd to your cart.
Unidentified family photographs.  Includes family portraits, tombstones, and scenes of farm life, such as feeding chickens, horses, and the barn.
Folder 3: Album #5, 1930-1931Add to your cart.
Two unidentified young couples.  Both the young men appear to be in the Navy.  Photographs show the young couples together drinking, laughing, and have a good time.  A small black leather billfold is with the photographs and reads "Dr. E.C. Mann" on the cover.  The inside reads "Compliments from the Davis Undertaking Co."
Folder 4: Album #6, circa 1930Add to your cart.
Unidentified Navy man's album.  Includes photographs of life on a Navy ship, and scenes of San Diego, Los Angeles, Hawaii, and Japan.    Some sailors are identified by first name. Family photographs are also included.
Folder 5: Album #6, circa 1930Add to your cart.
Box 23Add to your cart.
Item 1: Album #7, circa 1880s?Add to your cart.
Accordion album of Hawaii with scenes of the Hawaiian Palace, the opening of the Legislature, J. B. Atherton's House, the Historical Procession, Papanese Consuls Residence, Queen's Hospital, and Castle and Cooke, Ltd.  Creator unknown.
Item 2: Album #8, circa 1900sAdd to your cart.
Photographs, all cyanotypes, of the Kansas Co-operative Refining Company in Chanute, Kansas.  Includes images of train tracks, railway cars, company buildings, oil wells, crude oil still and condenser, distillation tanks, oil tanks, and employees.
Item 3: Album #9, circa 1898Add to your cart.
Album of the Spanish-American War's aftermath in the Philippines.  Includes images of destruction, the local population, Spanish prisoners, and sites of interest with accompanying captions.  Creator unknown.
Box 24Add to your cart.
Item 1: Album #10, 1926Add to your cart.
Travel album - "Cruising to the West Indies on the 'California.'"  Creator unknown.  Consists of images of the West Indies including Trinidad, Venezuela, Cuba, St. Thomas. the Bahamas, and Jamaica. Also includes photographs of other passengers such as the Mr. and Mrs. Nervis, as well as tickets, brochures, postcards and other paper souvenirs and ephemera.
Item 2: Album #11, circa 1890sAdd to your cart.
Album has inscription "From Aunt Hattie. To Jennie, George and Dot."  Travel album with photographs of Coney Island, Passaic Falls, Sleepy Hollow, Saratoga Lake, Hudson River, Quebec, Cooperstown and more.  The photographs are accompanied by lines of poetry.
Box 25Add to your cart.
Item 1: Album #12, 1896-1897Add to your cart.
Travel album compiled by an unidentified woman.  Beginning of album includes photographs of New York, Washington, D.C., a group of African-American boys in Missouri, and a judge in San Francisco.  The second half of the album consists of a page of pressed flowers, and numerous photographs of Germany.  Many of the images have descriptive captions.
Item 2: Album #13, circa 1930sAdd to your cart.
Small accordion album of Japan.  Includes hand-painted photographs of Nikko, Nara, Kyoto, Tokyo, Miyanoshita, Yokohama, geisha, women in kimonos, shrines, and more.
Box 26Add to your cart.
Item 1: Album #14, circa 1900s or 1910sAdd to your cart.
Group of unidentified young women during the summer.  Photographs include the women outdoors, swimming, sailing, standing in a field, sitting around a campfire, performing a play in Japanese clothes.  Also includes several images of Columbia University's Teachers College, the Union Theological Seminary, and several family photographs, including a set of photos of a young boy dressed as an Indian.
Item 2: Album #15, 1893Add to your cart.
Travel album possibly belonging to W. Woodruff.  Consists of photographs of New Orleans; Galveston, San Antonio, and El Paso, Texas including the Alamo and "Mexican Adobe Huts;" Indians in Yuma, Arizona; the Painted Cave; Santa Monica, Riverside, Santa Cruz, Big Tree Station, Monterey, San Francisco, Del Monte, Soda Springs in Napa Valley, California; and several places in Colorado.  Also includes photos of Salt Lake City, Utah, including several Morman Temples, as well as a ticket to the Salt Lake Temple Dedication Services.
Box 27Add to your cart.
Item 1: Album #16, circa 1910sAdd to your cart.
Gavaert Sensitized Photographic Products album of Gavaert Company of America, Inc., New York, New York.  Product book for Gavaert with portraits and photos of exotic places.  Each photograph lists the plates used for the photo and the type of paper the photograph was printed on.
Item 2: Album #17, 1925Add to your cart.
Travel album of the Panama Canal, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Arizona, New Mexico, and New Orleans.  Creator is possibly Thomas Tavenor, a first-class passenger from New Rochelle, New York.  Traveled on the S.S. Finland from New York City to San Francisco.  Most of album features Santa Monica and includes photographs of the Santa Monica Pier, the Brentwood Country Club, the Santa Monica Swimming Club, Pacific Palisades, Venice Beach, Magnetic Hill, various movie studios, Hollywood Bowl, and movie star homes.  Also includes images of Stanford University, the Apache Trail, the Luna Consolidated Mining Company in New Mexico, and "Mexican homes."
Box 28Add to your cart.
Item 1: Album #18, circa 1920sAdd to your cart.
Album cover with a colored cloth and suede image of the U.S.S. Tennessee.  Does not contain any photographs, but has a Neptunus Rex sailor certificate.
Item 2: Album #19, 1925Add to your cart.
Album with suede and color cloth image of the U.S.S. Seattle.  Bottom cover reads "In remembrance of Maneuvers at Hawaii - Australia - New Zealand." Includes images of Navy life, sailors, scenic photographs of Hawaii, New Zealand, and  Australia, as well as humorous photographs and sailors in costumes.  Also includes family photographs.  Creator unknown.
Item 3: Album #20, 1913Add to your cart.
Album of a group of female students at Oberlin College, possibly compiled by Nadine Cole.  Includes photographs of football games, group photographs, the girls' house, graduation pictures, and outings.  Also includes dance cards, tickets, notes and other paper ephemera as well a set of loose photographs not pasted into the album.
Box 29Add to your cart.
Item 1: Album #21, 1939-1946Add to your cart.
Album of unidentified military family.  Includes photographs of a Civil War reenactment, scenes on the U.S.S. Indianapolis depicting ship life, military tents in Puerto Rico and Nicaragua, family photographs in Lyons and Aquaia, Virginia.  Also includes many images of the family dog, Kingspot, family photographs taken in Samoa, local Samoans, Flag Day, a hurricane, the Fita Fita Native Guard, the Panama Canal, the Marish Brothers School in Samoa, R.L. Stevenson's home and grave, Quantico, Virginia, and photographs of several family weddings.  Also includes several loose photographs.
Item 2: Album #22, 1903Add to your cart.
Album of various military forts and barracks, camps, regiments, cavalry units, and squadrons across the United States. Includes the 7th Regiment N G New York at Peekskill, New York; Camp of the District Columbia Militia in Leesburg, Virginia; Fort Sam, Houston, Texas; Fort Clark, Texas; Plattsburg Barracks, New York; 28th Battery Field Artillery at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; Fort Reno and Fort Still, Oklahoma Territory; Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont; Fort Sheridan, Illinois; and Fort Hamilton, New York.  Photographs depict tents, camp buildings, and regiments in full uniform.
Box 30Add to your cart.
Item 1: Album #23, circa 1920sAdd to your cart.
Disassembled album of hand-painted images of Japan.  Includes iimages of Japanese professions and people that appear to be staged, perhaps because the album was intended for the foreign market.  These professions include, samurais, rice makers, firemen, carpenters, prisoners, Buddhists priests, tea gathers, actors, and more.  Also consists of images of Hakone, Mt. Fuji, Yokohama, Hakodate, Nagaski, and cherry blossoms.  There are short captions printed onto most images.
Item 2: Album #24, circa 1930sAdd to your cart.
Large accordion album of Japan.  Includes color images of Yokohama, Miyajima, Moji, Tokyo, Nagasaki, geisha, women in kimonos, unidentified landscapes, and scenes of local life.  Includes printed captions on many of the images. Probably made for foreign market.
Item 3: Album #25, circa 1930s?Add to your cart.
Woven grass cover Japanese bound album of Japan.  Includes hand-painted images of scenic landscapes at Nikko and Nagasaki.  Includes printed captions for many images.  Images probably taken for the foreign market.
Box 31Add to your cart.
Item 1: Album #26, circa 1930sAdd to your cart.
Includes photographs almost exclusively of men, possibly businessmen, standing in front of or on boats and trains.  Also includes several photographs of loggers and logging.  Creator unknown.
Item 2: Album #27, 1900-1901Add to your cart.
Album possibly belonging Carl Kaland of Kaland & Col.  Includes photographs of downtown San Diego, El Cajon, Mission Valley, Coronado, Hotel Del and its monkey, the San Diego Mission, Eucalyptus Pass, and a fire on 6th Street.  Also includes photographs of San Francisco, Santa Monica, a circus parade, and a parade in Los Angeles with President William McKinley.
Box 32Add to your cart.
Item 1: Album #28, circa 1930sAdd to your cart.
Disassembled album of Naval destroyers such as the USS S.P. Lee, USS Marcus, and the USS Selfridge.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Paper Supports, 1850s-1946],
[Series 2: Metal and Glass Plate Processes, 1840s-1890s],
[Series 3: Glass Plate Negatives, 1915],
[Series 4: Albums, 1886-1946],

Page Generated in: 0.128 seconds (using 197 queries).
Using 8.44MB of memory. (Peak of 8.75MB.)

Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-3
Copyright ©2017 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign