Edwardian Ladies

Portrait & studio photographers in the UK: 19th & early 20th Century

Dating cartes-de-visite and postcards

At one time or another we've all been faced with a photograph of an ancestor and hope against hope that they've been identified on the back. And if there's no writing, is that great grandma or her mother? Fortunately there are several reasonably reliable methods for making progress.

  • Characteristics of the photo: An assessment of a few simple features can give a surprisingly good indication of the date of some types of photograph. The calculator on this site currently handles only two types: the carte-de-visite , which was very popular during the second half of the 19th century; and the postcard print , which was very common in the first half of the 20th century. The results given by the calculators can only be indicative but they should be useful for guiding your assessment of fashions or narrowing down your searches for photographers in directories.

    If the calculator is unable to provide an indicative result then you may find Robert Pols' excellent book Looking at Old Photographs of some help.

  • Searchable databases: The databases on this site and others list information from trade directories, censuses etc which give the years in which a photographer was in business at a particular address.
  • Fashions: Several of the links below signpost guidance on how to judge roughly when a photograph was taken by examining the style of clothes and comparing them with the fashions of the times.
  • Online collections: Roger Vaughan's collection of Victorian and Edwardian photographs offers a practical guide to the evolution of carte-de-visite design and an extensive listing of photographers and studios.

Useful books:

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Links to other sites: