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Female Photographer Cabinet card?

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Posted 4 years ago


(831 items)

The smile says it all in this 1890s cabinet card: a woman proud of her accomplishments.

On the stand sits a large framed certification: "Certificate of Membership, Photographer". Above the wording is a studio camera of the era inside a photographer's studio.

I am not sure if the certificate is for an amateur photographers organization or membership in a professional photographers organization.

Maybe someone on here is familiar with or has seen one of these certificates before?

Any and all help is appreciated.

Reproduction of these images in any form is prohibited.


Unsolved Mystery

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  1. vetraio50 vetraio50, 4 years ago
    Nice one ScottV!
  2. scottvez scottvez, 4 years ago
    Thanks much vetraio-- any thoughts on the certificate?

  3. scottvez scottvez, 4 years ago
    Thanks much rob-- have you seen any similar certificates in your camera collecting?

  4. vetraio50 vetraio50, 4 years ago
    Might be Alida Fenwick?
    R Fenwick, Photographer,
    408. North Main St. Bloomington Ills.

    "The photographer of this image is Richard Fenwick. He was born in England in 1845. He appears in the U.S. Census in 1870. He was living in a Bloomington boarding house and working as a laborer. The 1880 census finds Mr Fenwick (age 35) married to Alida Fenwick (age 30). The couple was married in 1875 and were living with their two children. Richard Fenwick had a 1 year-old daughter (Adda) and a 9 year-old step son (Rush Downey). Fenwick was working as a photographer. The 1900 census reveals that Fenwick still worked as a photographer and his step son, Rush, filled the manager role in the photography studio. Research reveals that between 1866 and 1875, Fenwick was associated with the Cook and Fenwick studio."


    Cook & Fenwick, photographers, Southwest Corner of Square, Bloomington, IL (1866-1875)
  5. scottvez scottvez, 4 years ago
    Thanks for the research/ links vetraio!

    Did you find anything to suggest that his wife was ever part of the business?

  6. rniederman rniederman, 4 years ago
    There were two national organizations in the U.S. early on. The National Photographic Association (NPA) traces its origins - believe it or not (believe it) - to the controversial patent issued to James Ambrose Cutting ... ironic that this discussion doesn't go away easily! Cutting's patent detailed a formula for a specific collodion negative formula to shorten exposures. Most photographers ignored the licenses and believed the patent was invalid. It's a longer story than that, but a first convention was gathered in 1864 to argue Cutting's patent and dismiss it as illegal and unjust. From these roots, the NPA's early charter documents noted its purpose as 'education'; the knowledge and sharing of materials, process and techniques of photography. It looked like a labor union to help photographers from business point of view and regulate employment. There was also a slogan: "Elevate Your Art and It Will Elevate You" - obviously for professionals. In 1870, the NPA attempted to pass a resolution that after three years of study, the Committee on Apprenticeship would grant a trainee a certificate to work for another NPA member. Although adopted, it was a short run because the NPA couldn't manage or regulate tintypists and other itinerants.

    By 1880, the NPA had vanished and was replaced by the Photographers' Association of America; a form of which still exists today as the Professional Photographers of America. I haven't studied this in detail, but like most other trades getting a certificate would be meaningful.

    The NPA and PPA had their own monograms logos or whatever you want to call them. That is not to say other less successful organizations might have been around at the same time, but the NPA and PPA were the two most dominant.
  7. scottvez scottvez, 4 years ago
    Yep, I have familiarization with those two organizations but have never seen a certification (nor do I see anything in the photo to suggest either) nor do I know if they ever issued a certification.


  8. rniederman rniederman, 4 years ago
    I have a poor reproduction of an actual certificate, but it's not the fancy graphic shown in the framed picture. The round symbol in the lower right corner of the framed certificate looks like some type of organization's logo or similar. But it's now something we're aware of and will be on the lookout for ... very cool from that point of view.
  9. scottvez scottvez, 4 years ago
    Thanks again rob. Let me know if you ever find a similar looking logo!

  10. scottvez scottvez, 4 years ago
    Thanks for looking leah!

  11. scottvez scottvez, 4 years ago
    Thanks for looking tom!


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