E. M. (Edward M.) Estabrooke.

The ferrotype and how to make it online

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i IHE r.liW YORK




R 1918 L

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1880, by

. E. & H. T. ANTHONY & CO.
In th(3 Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

I ^ • • • .
• • • •

• • •

• • •


CHAPTER II— The Ferrotype,

Its Superiority over all other Positive Pictures.

CHAPTER VI— Collodion, . . . •

How to Prepare Gun Cotton— Proper Solvents for

Gun Cotton— Direction for Selection of Ether

and Alcohol— Excitants— Choice of Excitants—

Bingham's Formula for Double Iodides and



CHAPTER I— Positive Photography, . . U -^

Definition of Term— Characteristics of Positive
Pictures— Reasons for Popularity of the Ferro-
type—Brief History of Photography.


CHAPTER III— The Ferrotype Gallery, . . '2t^28

CHAPTER IV— The Glass Room, '"HJ-^

List of Requisites of Glass Room— Construction
of Glass Room— Top Light, effect of— Side Light-
Advantages of Combined Top and Side Light-
Devices to Exclude Sunlight— Best Method of
Shading Light— The Camera Stand— Camera
Boxes— Care of Plate-holder— Posing Chair-
Head Rests-Curtain Supports— Copying Stand-
Table and Table Cover— Ottomans— Finishing
Stand— Varnish.

CBAPTER V-The Dark Room, . 61-56

Its Contents— Construction of the Sink.



We do not feel that we have any apology to make to the
profession for the publication of this work; on the contrary,
onr only regret is that we did not undertake it a year or
two ago. For the past ten years, so much attention has
been given to the Photograph, that the merits of the Fer-
rotype have been ignored as far as possible. Books have
been issued one after another devoted to the negative, and
printing and toning; and cameras, printing frames, and
apparatus have been constructed especially to aid in pro-
ducing the paper picture. Nearly all effort and thought
has run in this one direction.

About three years ago we observed many signs of dissat-
isfaction with the Photograph. In spite of all declarations
that it would not fade, nearly all that were made for the
public soon lost their value as a likeness or a work of art.
The people began to want something better and more per-
manent, and we found in our orders a strong and increas-
ing demand for Ferrotype goods. Manufacturers of appa-
ratus found it was for their interest to improve the Multi-
plying Camera. New styles and designs of mounting cards
have been introduced. Dealers have found it difficult to keep
sufficient stock to supply the demand. As an evidence
of the amount now in use, we received atone house, but a
short time ago, nearly two tons of plates in one shipment,
and we are selling at this time about as many goods for the
Ferrotype as for the Photograph.

With such a state of affairs, it is apparent to all that a
book of instruction on this subject is greatly needed, and
we claim to be the first who proposed publishing such a


viii Publishers' Preface.

work. Since it has been announced, -we have received so
many orders from all parts of the continent, that we are
more than ever satisfied of the wisdom of its publication.

One word about the delay in its appearance. Our author,
Mr. Estabrooke, was not willing the book should be is-
sued until he had thoroughly worked up the subject in all
its bearings. There was a good deal of unavoidable delay
in getting the early history as complete as we desired it.
Mr. V. M. Griswold, who was preparing an account of his
invention and introduction of the Ferro-plate for this
work, was taken sick and died after a short illness, when it
was nearly completed. We regard the items he contributed
as adding greatly to the value of this work, and believe all
will rejoice that the information he possessed has been
saved. Other parties, who were able to give us interesting
incidents delayed their answers, so that it is the historical
part which has hindered us. This has given the author bet-
ter opportunities to arrange and collate his facts and in-
struction, and we are confident the value of the book is
much increased by the delay. We hope it may greatly aid
and improve the production of the beautiful and enduring





The former editions of this work having been ex-
hausted, the undersigned, into "whose possession the
copyriglit has fallen, have thought it desirable, in view
of the extent to which the Ferrotype is used, to issue
a fonrfh edition, which will be improved to the reader
by means of a concluding chapter, wherein any im-
provements in the art of making ferrotypes will be
detailed. Some remarks in reference to matters alluded
to in former editions, which, in consequence of lapse
of time and subsequent changes, are inaccurate, will
also be found.




It affords us great pleasure to place before the photo-
graphic public the fifth edition of this work, which has
proved to be one of the most valuable and popular publica-
tions that has ever been issued on any photographic subject.



delicacy of chemical eifect and tone, and, (accord-
ing to the surface on which made,) their compli-
mentary tendency.

The Daguerreotype, to this day, is a marvel of
beanty and delicacy, because of the fine and pol-
ished surface on which it is made, giving brilliant
contrasts of light and shade, and an unapproach-
able delicacy and finish to the whole picture.

The Ambrotype would probably be equal to
the Daguerreotype in all points but for the lack
of brilliancy caused by the absorption of light by
r,ollodion film and the glass on which the pict-
ure is made.

While the Ferrotype, however, approaches
nearer the Daguerreotype in all its points of ex-
cellence than any other picture of its kind, it is
still inferior in brilliancy to the latter, for the
reason that its surface is not finely polished, it is
less opaque, the varnished collodion surface will
not reflect light so perfectly as the polished sil-
ver ; but while it is not equal to the Daguerreo-
type in that respect, it has compensatory advan-
tages which have placed it far in advance of any
other product in positive photography.

The same excellencies that were claimed for
the beautiful productions of Daguerre, are now
claimed for the Ferrotype in conjunction with
other advantages, among which may be men-
tioned rapidity of production, greater portabil-
ity, adaptation to far more extended use, and last
but not least, cheapness — these qualities have


made the Ferrotype the picture for the million,
for while a Ferrotypist can produce pictures
combining and exhibiting all the excellencies
which distinguished the most, artistic productions
of photography, there will not lack the culti-
vated and refined to admire the picture and pat-
ronize the artist — and while a number of such
pictures can be made and finished to the waiting
customer, there will be many hurried business
men, impatient travelers, anxious to catch a
train, friends about to part, and others, to whom
occasions and circumstances render a likeness ob-
tainable, at once, desirable ; keeping the gallery
thronged, and amply rewarding the skillful op-

While likenesses can be produced at a trifling
cost, there will be thousands in the humblei
walks of life desirous of gratifying that univer-
sal passion, the craving to possess some memento
of the passing moment in this world of change.
The desire to perpetuate the face and form upon
which Time is day by day doing its marvelous and
changeful work — so long, I say, as these feel-
ings, desires, and circumstances exist and exert
an influence on our lives, so long will the Ferro-
type be a popular picture ; and ever increasingly
so, as population shall multiply, as time shall
cause separation and changes, as families shall be
broken up and scattered over this broad land, and
in fine, while Death, the destroyer, shall remain
in our midst, taking from us the dear ones we


love, the noble ones we respect, and the great,
who are the pride and admiration of the country.

Time, while working all these changes, shall
increase our knowledge, add skill to the artist,
and improve the artistic taste and judgment of the
people — but it is very doubtful if time shall pro-
duce any other style of portraiture which shall
supersede the Ferrotype, or reduce it to a lower
place than its present high position in popular es-

The productions of Positive Photography are
all of them famous? The Daguerreotype, as the
first, had a brief but triumphant day. It made
its advent as one of the wonders of the world,
and excited as much admiration, perhaps, as did
the telegraph, in the minds of the people; it was
welcomed as a greater boon to the masses than was
the telegraph, but unlike the telegraph, which
remains to us at this day, substantially as the la-
mented Morse sent it, to do its work of annihila-
ting time, the Daguerreotype has passed from
popular favor, has been superseded by other
methods of portraiture as far ahead of it as it
was in advance of the productions of the itiner-
ant miniature painters or silhouette cutters.

It is unnecessary that any account of the or-
igin of the Daguerreotype process should be given
in this connection, but it might furnish interest-
ing matter for thought to readers ; therefore we
copy the following from an authentic English
publication, which occupies on the shelves of our


libraries, the place of greatest convenience and

Photography may be said to date its origin
from the time of Baptista Porta, who invented
the camera obscura in the 16th century. Between
this period and the time of Wedge wood and
Davy, only a few isolated facts bearing u])on the
subject were brought to light at intervals. It
would profit but little to notice these in the order
in which they occurred, but it is nevertheless in-
teresting to observe in all great discoveries how
small are the beginnings, as will be seen by the
perusal of the following account of AVedgewood^s
discovery. The property possessed by the salts
of silver, when decomposed by the action of light,
was well known to the earlier chemists, and M.
Charles, a well known French physician, exhibited
in his lectures at the Louvre, a paper capable of
taking silhouette figures by the action of solar
light, but he has left no account of his process. Mr.
Wedgewood, therefore, was undoubtedly the first
person who recorded his attempts to use the sun-
beams for Photographic printing. In the year
1802 he published a paper in the Journal of the
Royal Institution, which he described as '' an ac-
" count of a method of copying paintings upon
"glass, and making profiles by the agency of
"light upon nitrate of silver; with observations
" by H. Davy/^ a gentleman afterward better
known as Sir Humphrey Davy. From this pa-
per the earliest we are acquainted with, in which


the discovery of these processes present them-
selves, the following extracts are taken : ^' White
paper, or white leather moistened with a solu-
tion of nitrate of silver undergoes no change
when kept in the dark ; but on being exposed to
the daylight, it speedily changes color, and after
passing through different shades of gray and
brown, becomes at length nearly black. The al-
teration of color takes place more speedily in
proportion, as the light is more intense. In the
direct beam of the sun, two or three minutes are
sufficient to produce the full effect, in the shade,
several hours are required, and a light transmit-
ted through different colored glasses act with dif-
ferent degrees of intensity. Thus it is found
that red rays have very little effect upon it ; yel-
low and green are more effective, but violet or
blue produce the most powerful effects.

" When the shadow of any figure is thrown
upon the prepared surface, the part concealed by
it remains white, and the other parts speedily be-
come dark. For copying paintings on glass, the
solution should be applied on leather, and in this
case, it is more readily acted on than when pa-
per is used. After color has been once fixed on
the leather or paper, it can not be removed by the
application of water, or water and soap, and it
is in a high degree permanent. The copy of a
painting or the profile immediately taken, must
be placed in an obscure place; it may, indeed,
be examined in the shade, but in this case, the



exposure should be only for a few minutes ; by
the lights of candles or lamps, as commonly em-
ployed, it is not sensibly affected. No attempt
that has been made to prevent the uncolored
parts of the copy or profile being acted on by the
light, have as yet been successful. They have
been covered by a coating of fine varnish, but
this has not destroyed their susceptibility of be-
coming colored, and even after repeated washings,
sufficient of the active part will adhere to the
white parts of the leather or paper to cause them
to become dark when exposed to the rays of the
sun. Besides the applications of this method of
copying that has just been mentioned, there are
many others, and it will be useful in making de-
lineations of all such objects as are possessed of
a texture, partly opaque and partly transparent.
The woody fibers of leaves, and the wings of in-
sects may be pretty accurately represented by
means of it, and in this case it is only necessary
to cause the direct solar light to pass through
them, and to receive the shadows on leather.

" The image formed by means of a camera ob-
scura have been found to be too faint to produce
in any moderate time, an effect upon the nitrate
of silver." To copy these images was the first ob-
ject of Mr. Wedgewood in his researches on the
subject, and for the purpose he first used nitrate
of silver, which was mentioned to him by a
friend as a substance very sensible to the influ-
ence of light, but all his numerous experiments


as to their primary end proved unsuccessful. " In
following these processes, I have found that the
image of small objects, produced by means of the
solar microscope, may be copied without diffi-
culty on prepared paper. This will probably be
a useful application of this method ; that it may
)e employed successfully, however, it is necessary
that the paper be placed at but a small distance
from the lens."

Here we have the first indication of this great
discovery. Subsequently, about the years 1810-
11, Seebeck made some interesting discoveries as
to the production of color on chloride of silver by
solar radiations; the violet rays rendering it
brown, the blue producing a shade of blue, the
yellow preserving it white, and the red constantly
giving- a red shade to the salt.

Berard's Discovery. — In the year 1812, M.
Berard, brought the result of some valuable re-
searches before a commission, composed of MM.
Berthollet, Chaptal, and Biot, who state in their
report that M. Berard had discovered that the
chemical intensity was greatest at the violet end
of the spectrum, and that it extended as Ritter,
and Wollaston had previously observed, a little
beyond that extremity where he left substances
exposed for a certain time to the action of each
ray: he observed sensible effects, though with an
intensity continually decreasing in the indigo and
blue rays. Hence, they considered it as ex-
tremely probable that if h(! had been able to em-


ploy agents still more sensible, he would have
observed analogous effects. To show plainly the
great disproportion which exists in this respect
between the. energies of different colored rays, M.
Berard, concentrated by means of a lens, all that
part of a spectrum which extends from the green
to the extreme violet; he also concentrated by
another lens all that portion which extended
from the green to the extremity of the red ; this
last pencil formed a white so brilliant that the
eyes were scarcely able to endure it, yet the ni-
trate of silver remained exposed more than two
hours to this brilliant point of light without un-
dergoing any sensible alteration. On the other
hand, when exposed to the other rays, which were
much less bright and less hot, it was blackened in
less than six minutes. After some further re-
marks on the importance of M. Berard's experi-
ments they proceed as follows : '* If we consider
solar light as composed of three distinct sub-
stances, one of which occasions light, the other
heat, and the third chemical combinations, it will
follow that each of these substances is separable
by the prism into the infinity of different modi-
fications like light itself; since we find by ex-
periment that each of these properties is s})read,
though unequally, over a certain extent of the
spectrum, and we must suppose on that hypothe-
sis, that there exists three spectrums, one above
the other ; namely, a Calorific, a Colorific, and a
Chemical Spectrum. We must likewise admit


that each of the substances which compose the
three spectrums, and even each molecule of un-
equal refrangibility which constituted these sub-
Btances is endowed, like the molecules of visi-
ble light, with the property of being polarized
by reflection, and of escaping from reflection in
the same positions as the luminous molecules."

From that time numerous experiments were
conducted bv several eminent researchers, includ-
ing the discoveries of the more celebrated MM,
Niepce and Daguerre.

Daguerre and Niepce's Discovery. — To
the inventive genius of these gentlemen we are
indebted for the first application of this great dis-
covery, but, like most great conceptions of the
human mind, this art, as we have seen, advanced
by slow steps, and was indicated from time to
time by the isolated facts we have briefly al-
luded to.

The researches of M. Niepce were commenced
in 1814, but it was not till 1826 that he was
made aware by the indiscretion of an optician
employed by both, that M. Daguerre was pursu-
ing the same course of experiments. A corre-
spondence between the two philosophers was the
result, and henceforth their researches were pur-
sued in common, and, some years later, resulted
in the discovery of this branch of the art, since
known as the Daguerreotype.

In 1833 M. Niepce died, having communicated
all his discoveries to M. Daguerre, and in 1839


that gentleman, with a most laudible abnegation
of self, communicated his discoveries to the pub-

As is well known, the Daguerreotype picture
receives its name from one of its discoverers; it
is taken on a copper plate with a silvered surface.
We have seen that the paper process and after-
ward the glass-plates, coated with various or-
ganic substances, have greatly su})erseded the
silvered plate, especially in this country; but as a
branch of photographic art it forms an interest-
lu^ chapter.

The beautiful process by which the Daguerreo-
type picture is obtained was published to the
world in July, 1839, after the French Govern-
ment of the day had rewarded M. Daguerre with
a pension of 6,000 francs, and M. Isidore Niepce,
the son of Daguerre's colleague in the discovery,
with another of 4,000 francs, with a reversion of
one-half to their widows ; a liberal endowment,
worthy of imitation on the part of any enlight-
ened government.

Then follows a very lengthy and minutely par-
ticular account of the })rocess for making Da-
guerreotypes, which would prove of no interest
to the readers of this work.

Of the Ambrotype, it is not necessary to say
more than that it, like the Ferrotype, is made by
the collodion process — the first on glass, the lat-
ter on Japanned iron — the history of the inven-
tion and manufacture of which is given else-


where as being in harmony with the purposes of
this book.

As it is the intention of the writer that the be-
ginner shall find in these pages every thing that
may be useful for him to know, in order that he
may produce good work, we shall proceed to a
careful description of the pr(5cesses and manipu-
lations pertaining to the Ferrotype in the next



From the time of the introduction of the col-
lodion process and photography on glass by
Messrs. Archer and Home of England, no one
invention or discovery has given a greater impe-
tus to the art, than the introduction of the Me-
lanotype or Ferrotype plate in the years 1856-57,

The Ambrotype, which at that time held the
field, was not calculated for a very extended use-
fulness, from the heavy, brittle nature of the
substance (glass) on which it was made. In
fact, Ambrotypes were only suitable for cases and
small frames, not at all for many of the pur-
poses that make the chief demand of the Ferro-

The brittle character of glass, also unfitted it


as a vehicle for a picture, which, however little
it may have cost originally, there are so many
contingencies under which its value to the owner
might become incalculable, not in money or other
earthly dross, but as the last memento of one, in
whose existence might have centered the hopes
and aspirations of many tender hearts, and upon
whom may have been lavished the holiest and
tenderest feelings of our nature.

Again, glass, besides being brittle in its nature,
is heavy and bulky, and, in consequence, was
not suitable for other than small miniatures,
such as were destined to be put in small cases or
frames, to be carried on the person or to lie on
the parlor table or mantel-piece. How many a
happy home there is, upon whose table may be
found these tokens of friendship or love, and
how much better would it be if those Ambrotypes
could be transformed into the imperishable Ferro-
type, and placed in the elegant parlor picture
album, thus placing them almost above the power
of accident or the possibility of loss.

Many of the readers of these pages, who, like
the writer, made Ambrotypes on white and after-
ward on colored glass, will recollect how rapidly
the glass plate gave way before the advancing
popularity of the Ferrotype, which, in a short
time, entirely superseded its older rival, and at
this present time bids fair to excel every other
branch of the art in the amount and magnitude
of the interests involved in its j)roduction.


The Ferrotype, when first introduced, merely
took the place of the Ambrotype and other posi-
tive pictures; that is, they were made and fitted
in cases and frames, etc., in precisely the same
manner as the Ambrotype, Daguerreotype, etc.,
had been before, but for the Ferrotype there
were possibilities of usefulness and ap})lication
that were not open to its less fortunate predeces-

♦There soon began to be a demand for them for
other purpose? than to enclose in cases, frames,
etc. The lightness of the plate and the ability
of the finished pictures to resist the effects of
light, of dampness, and of friction, without any
protection to the surface other than varnish,
fitted them to be carried on the person witliout
cases, and made it possible to send tliem to
friends at a distance through the Post-office, for
which purpose many were made and called
*' Letter-types." They also became very popular
as miniatures for lockets, ])ins, rings, etc., for
which purposes the extreme thinness of the plate
made them peculiarly well adapted, while the
brilliancy and beauty of the picture gives them
the first place in adaptation to such purposes.

In the shape and size of the ^' cartes de visite"
or album picture, they also soon became im-
mensely popular — in this size and also that of
the larger card, the '^ Imperial," the most beauti-
ful and brilliant effects are capable of being pro-
duced; so much so, that when on the occasion of


the meeting of the ^^ National Photographer's
Convention," in Philadelphia, in 1871, the writer
exhibited in a very quiet manner an album full
of his productions in these two sizes they ex-

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Online LibraryE. M. (Edward M.) EstabrookeThe ferrotype and how to make it → online text (page 1 of 10)