Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

You know I clearly have a love for the photographs of the past and what they can tell us about our predecessors. If you had not guessed, I also love photo albums. Maybe because I work on my own photo albums, I always think they can tell us a story if only we know how to read the clues. Over the past year I have been collecting antique photo albums with the intent of blogging them here, as I did most recently with the still-mysterious Dobb Long Book.

I am now in possession of six “new” antique photo albums, four of which I am going to show you now, with the intent of scanning the photos promptly so we can play with the clues. The remaining two are in terrible condition and I really need to consider how best to handle them, so that is a task for another day.

Here we have the “red album” which I found to be enticing with its hints at the Victorian whimsy.

The red velvet cover reveals its status as an important and loved object through the wear and tear. The ornate emblem that once proclaimed “Album” has long since fallen off and the velvet is worn through. It can hold 24 standard cabinet cards, 2 elongated cabinet cards and 28 CdVs. In truth it holds 12 cabinet cards and 17 CdVs.


Each span of pages is a different color and the openings vary in shape from oval to rectangle to arched rectangle.

Among the CdVs are some exciting and (new to me) finds having to do with the subject and the mounts of the photos. So far I have not taken any of the photos out to see if there are names. We may find ourselves on yet another photographer hunt.

Next we have another long book. The cover is ornately tooled leather and still in fine condition.  The immediate facing page upon opening the book holds my fascination pairing a boy and his dog with a distinguished and bearded gentleman.


Even better, several of the photos have been identified. This album can hold 64 cabinet cards although it has been pillaged by family and only holds 45. That is plenty to work with!

The next two albums are the type that gave rise to the term “cabinet card” as they are like a cabinet, standing up to display the photos rather than laying a book down on a table.

Cabinet number one in green linen with a fan decoration on it folds open to reveal pages for 30 cabinet cards.


Nearly every space is used, many with early 20th century photos. I expect it was not uncommon to use a photo album well into the 20th century as I have seen this in other albums as well.

Cabinet number two is larger than number one, as it holds two photos side by side in each page. Although you cannot tell, this album has two Liberty Bell emblems on the cover and a mirrored bell shape decoration. It is terribly faded and used to be dark green on a light green background! It also has significant cigarette smoke stink to it (I don’t know if it will ever come out) and the nasty gold color could be attributed to that as well.

Once folded open you see the green color around the mirror. Interesting! I don’t know why there was a mirror there, maybe just for visual interest. The pages are made to look like burl wood.


The album features many turn-of-the-century photographs and some lovely ones with a beautiful embossed decoration around the photo opening of the mounts. I believe they are post 1900, but we will take the time to research and learn as we progress through the photos.

Take a minute and vote….which album’s mysteries should I try to unlock first?

5 thoughts on “Treasures uncovered

  1. IntenseGuy says:

    Wow – you hit the mother lode! Each of these “albums” look facinating. I don’t think it matters too much which you start with, as they will all be marvelous to look at – but if I can vote, I will! The boy and his dog album! and if Fido had any offspring, maybe we can find them!!


  2. IntenseGuy says:

    As for the “smelly” album – you can get rid of the musty smell in old books and photo albums by placing a clothes dryer sheet (like Bounce) in between the pages.


  3. Auntie Kat says:

    I’m interested in the “green” album. That wedding picture looks fabulous. On the album with the liberty bell, here’s a thought… Maybe the original owner lived in Philly? Or, maybe it was a souvenir album from a visit to Philly? It will be interesting to find out what you discover.


  4. albums are my thing too! I just love these! One of these days ill get the rest of mine up. All so unique, each of theses album covers and design. love love love thanks for sharing!


  5. My goodness six new albums..I am fairly jealous. I only have one more to present..with no names whatsoever..only a location. I am saving it for next winter! I have seen the ones with the burl wood..beautiful. Yes, put that smelly album in a plastic bag with dryer sheets between the pages and leave it inside the bag for awhile:)


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