First introduced in the 1860s, cabinet card photographs were similar to cartes-de-visites, only larger. Measuring approximately four inches by six inches and mounted on cardstock (similar to cardboard), cabinet card photos got their name from their size—they were just the right size to be displayed on a cabinet.

Although some cabinet cards depicting landscapes can be found, most featured Victorian-era portraits of individuals or families—it was popular to mail cabinet cards to friends and family living abroad. Early cabinet cards were sepia-toned; in later years, the majority of them were printed in black-and-white.

Many cabinet cards feature the name and location of the photographer printed on the front of the card underneath the picture. Some have fancy backmarks advertising the photographer (this trend increased towards the end of the century when advertising became commonplace), whereas some have no markings at all.

Cabinet cards reached their peak of popularity in the 1870s through the 1890s. They continued to be made into the 1900s, albeit less frequently. With the introduction of the real photo postcard in the early 20th century, cabinet cards fell almost completely out of favor in the U.S., and only managed to hang on for a little longer in Europe.

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