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Dating Old Photos
Dated Imprints
Public Domain

NOTICE: A greatly expanded and PROFUSELY ILLUSTRATED version of this material is being prepared as an ebook - watch this space for availability announcements.

Resources on ClassyArts.Com For Dating Old Photographs

The Photographer Database

Our database of historic photographers is, so far as we know, the largest such database in existence. There is a large database compiled at the George Eastman House and formerly available by telnet, but now not easily searchable, that includes modern photographers -- the pre-1950 portion seems to be smaller than the ClassyArts database.

Our datase lists photographers found in various sources, including online lists, census records, city directories, imprints on photographs, printed compilations, historic newspaper notices and advertisements, etc. Every citation includes a reference to the source of information, so that the original may be consulted if desired. Virtually all citations include a location and date or date span -- when and where the photographer worked. For the names from imprints on photographs, the date span is often estimated, but the vast majority of sources give a specific date or range. When provided, the date of birth and death for the photographer are included, along with comments and observations, including notes on kinship, activities, etc.

Due to the varied sources, the record-count shown on the search page somewhat exceeds the number of photographers listed, since some people are listed several times. Using the database software to count the distinct names shows that about 79% of the listings are distinct. Since one name may occasionally be found in multiple forms (J Smith, James Smith) and there may be more than one photographer with the same name (common in multi-generational lines of photographers, as well as for common names), it is impossible to tell exactly how many different people are represented, but we think it is about 75% of the listed number of records.

The above link to this database allows internet users to search by surname or full name, and returns the number of occurances for that name, along with the country, state and city of activity. Subscribers to get access to the full record, with street address when available, source citation, notes, etc.

When compiling this database we have concentrated on photographers, more than studios -- the the studio name is included when known. Obvious names with the photographers surname in them are not listed individually, but are included in the notes -- such as Brady's National Portrait Gallery. If the surname is not part of the gallery name, then the gallery is listed on its own and under the operator's name, such as Premium Sunbeam Gallery in York PA, which can also be found under F James Evans.

The Public Domain Photograph Collection

The Photograph Collection is based primarily on digital images collected from online auctions. These images mostly disappear into private collections when the auction ends, so we are rescuing them from obscurity.

Such images can serve a variety of useful purposes, including historic information, artistic inspiration, material for graphic arts, examples of images from specific times, locations and studios, etc. When the subject is identified, they are of interest for genealogical purposes as well. Some of them are dated, and those of course provide important clues to help date similar images.

The online list of images indexed so far can be viewed by title (includes the photographers name and location if known) or by viewing thumb-nail versions of the images. Many of the card photographs have images of the back-sides in the database, but thumbnail images for those are not included. subscribers can get large versions of these images, including all the parts available, such as backs or close-ups. Since the images are in the public domain, there are no restrictions on how they are used.

The Dated Imprints Collection

This is something new on this site, and still being constructed. The dated imprints come from our collection of thousands of dated images, and includes imprints embossed on cased-image mats or linings, but primarily has printed imprints from CDVs and Cabinet Cards. Only imprints from 1920 or earlier will be included, to ensure there are no copyright conflicts. We plan to include every legible imprint from collection, except exact duplicates having the same photographer and year.

The online page linked to above lists the available imprints by name, city and date. Full location addresses (when available), and the images of the imprints themselves, are available to subscribers. Since most photographers changed their imprints every few years, this is an invaluable resource for dating photographs.

Other Resources

NOTICE: A greatly expanded and PROFUSELY ILLUSTRATED version of this material is being prepared as an ebook - watch this space for availability announcements.

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