Centennial Photographic Company Albumen Prints

Title

Centennial Photographic Company Albumen Prints

Subject

Centennial Photographic Company
Albumen prints
Historic buildings - Virginia - Williamsburg

Description

Some of the earliest pre-restoration photos held in the library's archives are albumen prints. Dating to circa 1875, the photos were produced by the Centennial Photographic Company in conjunction with the celebration of America's Centennial. Edward L. Wilson, a photo editor, and William Notman, a Scottish-Canadian photographer, served as the chief officers of the Centennial Photographic Company and directed its efforts after winning the license to take and market souvenir photos of the Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia. The company also sold keepsake photos of former Civil War battlefields and the towns located near them. This set of photos is thought to be part of the Civil War series and documents some of the colonial era buildings still standing in Reconstruction Era Williamsburg, as well as earthworks remaining just outside of town that bear witness to Civil War battle maneuvers.

The quiet, backwater town that had lost its prominence after the state capital was moved to Richmond in 1780 suddenly began to attract some historical attention again due to its associations with the Battle of Williamsburg in 1862 and subsequent Union occupation. As photographers entered the area to commemorate these events, they discovered remnants of stirring colonial history via extant buildings such as the Courthouse of 1770, the Powder Magazine, Bruton Parish Church and cemetery, and the Wren Building at the College of William and Mary.

Invented by French photographer Louis Desire Blanquart Evrard in 1850, the albumen print became a dominant photographic process between 1855-1895. A wet-plate process, it involved sensitizing salted paper in a silver nitrate bath, drying it, and then placing the paper in a frame that could then be put in contact with a glass-collodian negative. When exposed to daylight, the photographic image would begin to appear on the paper. An egg white binder aided in distributing the light sensitive particles in a smooth manner across the paper. This binder is what helps give albumen prints a glossy surface and their trademark yellow or reddish brown cast.

Collection Items

D2010-BTL-0322-1134.jpg

Centennial Photographic Company ca. 1875
D2014-SC-0003.jpg

Centennial Photographic Company ca. 1875
D2014-SC-0002.jpg

Centennial Photographic Company ca. 1875
D2010-BTL-0322-1140.jpg

Centennial Photographic Company ca. 1875
D2010-COPY-0302-2010.jpg

Centennial Photographic Company ca.1875
D2010-COPY-0302-2015.jpg

Centennial Photographic Company ca.1875
D2010-BTL-0322-1129.jpg

Centennial Photographic Company ca.1875
D2014-SC-0004.jpg

Centennial Photographic Company ca.1875
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