Victorian Photo Parlor Maps

This project began as I started collecting CDVs and noticed the backstamps on the cards that served as photographers’ advertising and identification. After amassing a few cartes from certain cities, I got curious to see where the studios were located, as I noticed they often had similar addresses. Plotting them out helped me get a much better understanding of what was going on – photographers were following an age-old business practice of setting up shop next door to one another, creating little “photo districts” in each city, just as there would have been booksellers’ districts, furniture makers’ districts, dressmakers’, and so on. Here are the maps to my collection of Victorian Photo Parlor addresses in Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York City. I think you’ll find it interesting the relative geographic concentration of the studios in each of the cities – in DC, around Pennsylvania Avenue east of the White House; in Philadelphia, along Arch and up and down 8th east of Broad; and in New York, in lower Manhattan centered around Broadway. In all cases, these locations mimic the concentration of population, and in New York, you can see the migration of population uptown over time as studios that were previously located closer to Wall Street opened new locations further and further up Broadway as the city’s population grew and the wealth moved uptown toward Central Park.

Washington DC Photographers’ Map

Philadelphia Photographers’ Map

New York Photographers’ Map

5 thoughts on “Victorian Photo Parlor Maps”

  1. I’ve started to do the same with my old photos – find the modern location and attempt to find images of the original 19th century location. Sometimes it is a surprise or a shock, but always interesting. Thanks for the article and the inspiration.

    1. I noticed that you teach a class in photo history. Do you have a particular reference that you use? My husband and I are both retired and are cataloging our collection. I am learning how to use the internet to find photos and photographers during the CW- and post CW era, and I can always use new resources.

      1. I don’t have a specific resource for finding people – I’ve just been concentrating on a couple specific geographic areas (Washington DC, Philadelphia, and New York) and whenever I see a CDV or cabinet card, be it in an antique shop, at an auction, or on Ebay, I note the photographer’s name and the address given on the card. There can be challenges with mapping the studios, as addresses and addressing systems are prone to change from time to time. Some of the Washington DC street addresses, for example, if plotted on today’s streets using today’s addressing scheme, don’t make sense for the 1860s, as those parts of town were not developed either commercially or residentially, or would have the building on the grounds of the US Capitol, for example. In New York, there are some of the studios whose addresses can be documented with a little careful web research, but the street no longer exists due to early 20th century urban renewal schemes in Lower Manhattan.

  2. My Great great grandfather John S Shipman had a studio at 146 Court Street in Brooklyn from ~ 1860 – 1890 I have been able to acquire a few CDVs of his. I am always interested in hearing more about him or seeing other examples of his work.

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