Notice the beautiful decorated border on this cabinet card. Photographers often printed their studio name and address on these borders to advertise their business. Today, this information allows us to track the history of commercial photography in Brooklyn. For example, the back of this photograph reads, “Kempf’s Photo-Art Galleries. 185 Myrtle Avenue, 627 Myrtle Avenue. Brooklyn.” I discovered that Charles L. Kempf was a German-born photographer who established his Brooklyn studio around 1870 and operated it until at least 1905. The lifespan of his studio reflects the rise and fall of the cabinet card—it came into popularity in the 1870s and eventually declined in the late 1890s, partly due to the introduction of the Kodak Box Brownie that made photography portable and affordable for the masses.
The photo of the week comes from the Burton family papers and photographs collection comprised of papers of William W. Burton and family, and 189 photographs including cabinet cards, carte de visite, tintypes, and prints with portraits of the Burton family. To view more photographs from this collection, check out this online image gallery.
Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. firstname.lastname@example.org