Ambrotype portrait of a bearded man in unpressed clothes. Date and taker are  unknown (soft image is due to my poor scanning practice).

Toronto. The “next big thing” in photography, after its announcement,  was the wet plate process developed by Frederick Scott Archer of the UK in 1851. Interestingly, the new process did not ‘catch on’ with all Daguerreotypists immediately. A few years later around 1854, an American James Ambrose Cutting, patented the Ambrotype process.

An Ambrotype was similar to a Daguerreotype in that it was a one off image. BUT being exposed on glass, it was much cheaper to make,  yet being cased it fit right in with a Daguerreotype.

To make an Ambrotype, an underexposed glass wet plate was reversed by a bleach bath that turned the black areas of the plate white. A black backing made the negative’s light areas appear black  completing the reversal to a positive image. After about a decade, the Ambrotype was replaced by the even cheaper tintype which was usually uncased and could be mailed without risk of breakage. Just in time for the soldiers in the US Civil War!

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