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~  The Transition to Photographic Trade Advertising.  ~


The advancing art of photography with its versatility and cost effectiveness forced a change in illustrative mediums as used in American steam locomotive manufacturers advertising.

When the first photographic trade cards were issued by locomotive builders ca. 1860, the issuing of new lithographs essentially stopped with only a couple of firms delaying total change until around 1872.

The earliest image known to the author is a daguerreotype made at the Schenectady Locomotive Works in about 1855. While the use of this medium was a first, the fact that it could not be used to distribute multiple images prevented common usage for trade advertising. With the development of collodion negatives and inexpensive albumen positives In the late 1850’s, photography became a viable alternate to stone lithography for advertising. The earliest albumen prints used for promoting locomotive sales were produced by M. W. Baldwin & Co. in 1859 and by Rogers Locomotive & Machine Works in the same year.

The Baldwin photos were first produced using the stereograph format that allowed the viewer to “see” the object in three dimensions. The viewer saw the machine as though he was actually there. While this style produced clear detailed pictures especially when used to show close-up details of the machinery, it required the use of a stereoscope, which, at best, was a cumbersome way to view photos. So, within a year or two, Baldwin started to use a larger format like Rogers was issuing. As with the lithographs, the photos were accompanied by information regarding the firm and technical details of the machines printed on the verso of the stereos and on the front for the larger prints.

Following the lead of Baldwin and Rogers, other builders quickly issued their own larger format cards. Some even followed the most up to date styles with fancy passe partout frames suitable for hanging as a wall display, as shown in the image on the right.  

The ease with which the photographer could  re-position his camera permitted photographing the machine from any desired angle and thus allowed choosing the best from several shots.The advantage over stone lithography with its image fixed as drawn is obvious.



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