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Collecting Antique Dog Photos
Artistry and history—without the sticker shock of paintings.
Sleeping dog: A carte de visite or CDV, c.1860, from the collection of Nancy Chwiecko.

People love collecting. Go to any garage sale, estate sale or antique show and you will see avid collectors carefully inspecting items in vendors’ booths on tables or in boxes. As antique shows gradually become a thing of the past, the Internet provides a major outlet for finding antiques and collectibles. It is especially helpful when what you collect is not common or easy to find.

 

Collecting dog-related items has become increasingly popular during the past 10 or so years. Dog objects are fun items that dog lovers can use to personalize and decorate their spaces. The possibilities for collecting dog-related items are endless. Today, there are dealers who specialize in dog art, objects, books and photographs.

 

While many people collect specific breeds or specific items, my collection is eclectic and includes different breeds and media. It consists of wood, metal and dog figurines, prints, paintings and photographs, with photographs constituting the primary focus of my collection.

 

I have always loved old paintings of dogs but realized that most were beyond my budget. I started collecting photographs eight years ago when I found a framed photo of a Chihuahua sitting on a chair. I paid about $10 for it and my collection began. There weren’t many photos for sale at antique shows, so I was certain that it would take me years to build up a moderate collection. This pace would surely be better on my budget. I soon discovered E-Bay and an endless source for photos. My collection grew exponentially.

 

I was drawn to photographs for several reasons. First, as I mentioned, they are much easier on my budget than paintings. Second, they are more portable and ship easily and inexpensively. Third, I was intrigued by the fact that 100 or more years ago so many people cared about their dogs enough to have them photographed by a professional in a studio setting. Often the dog is seated or lying on a piece of furniture or in front of a fake backdrop of woods, water, mountains or a grand interior. I primarily collect photos with only a dog or dogs in them but occasionally I buy one with a person or people in them.

 

Within the field of photography there are many different types based on format and technology. Examples include daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, cartes de visite (CDVs or visiting cards), cabinet cards, stereographs, albumen prints, dry plate, silver prints and real photo postcards.

 

Although I collect black and white photos that span between 1850 and 1950, I am partial to three types: CDVs, cabinet cards and photo post cards. CDVs were introduced in 1854 and were made until about 1905. They are albumen prints mounted on a 2 1/2-inch by 4-inch card. They are often printed or embossed with the photographer’s or studio name.

 

Cabinet cards were introduced in 1863 and were made until the early 1920s. They are made using a wet-plate negative on albumen paper that measures 4-inches by 5 1/2-inches and mounted on 4 1/4-inch x 6 1/2-inch mount. The size of the mount can vary for either type of photo. Both CDVs and cabinet cards were produced in photographer’s studios.

 

Photo postcards were first introduced in 1900 and remained popular through the 1940s. They are real photographs that are developed onto photo paper the size and weight of a postcard with a postcard back. Postcard photos were created by professionals and amateurs alike.

 

Care and Preservation

Without proper care photos will not last. They need to be stored or displayed out of direct light in dry, temperate spaces. Learn more about collecting and caring for photographs at the International Museum of Photography in Rochester, N.Y., The American Museum of Photography (virtual museum) and Collector’s Guide to Early Photographs by O. Henry Mace.

 

Some museums, antique dealers and art galleries specialize in animal related items, far fewer specialize in dogs. Here are a few that do: William Secord Gallery, Genesee Country Village and Museum, AKC Museum of the Dog and The Cobblestore.

 

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Nancy Chwiecko is an associate professor of interior design at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y. She is co-author of the book There's a Dog in the House: a practical guide for creating today's dog friendly home. Nancy and her husband live with three dogs in a home that they designed and built. A version of this post originally appeared on the HomeDesignforDogs blog. homedesignfordogs.com
CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Carolyn | January 19 2011 |

It's fun to look at these old photos and know that the dog must have been very important to its family and wonder about its name and its life with them.

Submitted by Julie | March 4 2011 |

I'm a journalist - my next column will be on collecting antique dog related stuff. If you have any advice you would like to share and woulnd't mind being quoted - send to my email please: celuloid@frontiernet.net

Thank you,
Julie

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