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Tanenbaum Photographic Case Collection

Donated in 2022 by Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, the Tanenbaum Photographic Case Collection comprises 756 thermoplastic and leather cases made to house and protect fragile nineteenth-century photographic media. The industry for Union cases, as they came to be known, flourished in New England during the 1850s and 60s. These durable enclosures, made with a thermoplastic compound and produced in quantity, quickly replaced the hand-made wooden versions available previously. The Tanenbaum Collection features representative examples of the large variety of case sizes and shapes produced during this period, which corresponded to the dimensions of common metal photographic plates, and were made available to the consumer in rectangular, octagonal, oval, or circular formats. The exterior covers of photographic cases illustrate the wide array of artistic decorative motifs standardized by various manufacturers. These include classical, mythological, religious, geometric, floral, and patriotic designs, as well as more generic, quotidian patterns.

While the Tanenbaum Case Collection was conceived specifically as a comprehensive compendium of the photographic cases in circulation, most also house nineteenth-century daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, or tintypes. The majority of the images are portraits of individuals or groups, and the collection includes examples of such subgenres as “hidden mothers” and occupational portraits, as well as rarer exterior views of landscapes and cityscapes. Some of the cases still contain personal items from their one-time owners, such as newspaper clippings or locks of a loved one’s hair, placed inside for safe keeping according to Victorian custom. These intimate and complex storehouses of memory have many stories to tell.

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Fig. 1

Case: Littlefield, Parsons and Company; die engraved by Frederick B. Smith, Hermann Hartmann, and unidentified maker; Washington Crossing the Delaware (recto), Scroll/Geometric (verso), 1857–1866, Union whole-plate thermoplastic case. Image: Unidentified photographer, Untitled [Man at Niagara Falls], ca. 1858, ambrotype. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0002)

Fig. 2

Case: Holmes, Booth, and Hayden; die engraved by Henning and Eymann; The Vision of Ezekiel (recto and verso), 1857–1869, Union half-plate thermoplastic case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0012)

Fig. 3

Case: Attributed to Holmes, Booth, and Hayden; die engraved by Henning and Eymann; The Holy Family (recto and verso), 1857–1869, Union half-plate thermoplastic case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0013)

Fig. 4

Case: Littlefield, Parsons and Company; die engraved by unidentified maker; Sir Henry Havelock (recto and verso), 1857–1866, Union quarter-plate thermoplastic case. Image: Unidentified photographer, Untitled [Portrait of R.E. & Z.W. Potts], 1850–1860, daguerreotype. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0021)

Fig. 5

Case: Littlefield, Parsons and Company; die engraved by unidentified maker; The Two Lovers Going to the Well (recto and verso), 1857–1866, Union double ninth-plate, triple sixteenth-plate thermoplastic case. Images (clockwise from top left): Unidentified photographers, Untitled [Portrait of a Man], 1851–1870, ambrotype; Untitled [Portrait of a Man], 1860-07-18, daguerreotype; Untitled [Portrait of a Man wearing a Top Hat], 1850–1860, daguerreotype with applied colour; Untitled [Portrait of a Woman], 1850–1860, tintype with applied colour. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0033)

Fig. 6

Case: Littlefield, Parsons and Company; die engraved by unknown maker; The Flower Bier (recto and verso), 1857–1866, Union double sixth-plate thermoplastic case. Images: Unidentified photographers, Untitled [Portrait of Child holding a Violin], and Untitled [Portrait of Man holding an Accordion], 1858–1869, tintypes. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0084)

Fig. 7

Case: A. P. Critchlow and Company; die engraved by unidentified maker; The Changeable Cubes (recto and verso), 1856–1857, Union sixth-plate thermoplastic case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0095)

Fig. 8

Case: Peck and Halvorson; die engraved by unidentified maker; Ten Dollar Gold Coin (recto and verso), 1855–1869, Union sixth-plate thermoplastic case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0107)

Fig. 9

Case: S. Peck and Company; die engraved by unidentified maker; The Daguerreian Gallery (recto and verso), 1851–1857, Union sixth-plate thermoplastic case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0136)

Fig. 10

Case: Scovill Manufacturing Company; die engraved by Frederick C. Key; Geometric and Scroll with Cameo Centre (recto); Geometric/Scroll (verso), 1842–1857, Union sixth-plate thermoplastic case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0155)

Fig. 11

Case: Littlefield, Parsons and Company; die engraved by unknown maker; The Faithful Hound (recto and verso), 1857–1866, Union sixth-plate thermoplastic case. Images (from left to right): Unidentified photographers, Untitled [Portrait of Man holding a book]; Untitled [Portrait of a Child and a Woman holding a Book], 1860–1870, relievo ambrotypes. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0185)

Fig. 12

Case: Peck and Halverson; die engraved by Frederick C. Key; The Medallion of George Washington, with Motto (recto and verso), Union sixth-plate thermoplastic case, 1855–1869. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0189)

Fig. 13

Case: Unidentified manufacturer; die engraved by F. Goll; Voyage of Life, The Launching 1 (recto and verso), 1852–1869, Union sixth-plate thermoplastic case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0261)

Fig. 14

Case: Scovill Manufacturing Company; die engraved by Unknown maker; The Liberty Cap, Flags, and Shield (recto and verso), 1842–1857, Union ninth-plate thermoplastic case. Image: Unidentified photographer, Untitled [Portrait of a Civil War Soldier], 1861–1865, ambrotype with applied colour. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0359)

Fig. 15

Case: Littlefield, Parsons and Company; die engraved by unidentified maker; The Chess Players (recto and verso), 1857–1866, Union ninth-plate, octagonal thermoplastic case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0594)

Fig. 16

Case: Littlefield, Parsons and Company; die engraved by unidentified maker; The Meditating Monk (recto and verso), 1857–1866, Union sixteenth-plate, oval thermoplastic case with a lock of hair. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0622)

Fig. 17

Case: Unidentified manufacturer; die engraved by unidentified maker; Grape Bunches (recto and verso), 1852–1869, Union oreo thermoplastic case. Image: Unidentified photographer, Untitled [Portrait of a Woman], 1858–1910, tintype with applied colour. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0662)

Fig. 18

Case: Littlefield, Parsons and Company; die engraved by unidentified maker; Geometric/Scroll (recto and verso), 1857–1866, Union ninth-plate, oval thermoplastic case. Image: Unidentified photographer, Untitled [Portrait of a Child with a Hidden Mother’s arm], 1858–1910, tintype with applied colour. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0710)

Fig. 19

Case: Unidentified manufacturer; die engraved by Robert Milne (Canadian); Untitled [Floral] (recto and verso), 1850s, quarter-plate leather case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0739)

Fig. 1

Case: Littlefield, Parsons and Company; die engraved by Frederick B. Smith, Hermann Hartmann, and unidentified maker; Washington Crossing the Delaware (recto), Scroll/Geometric (verso), 1857–1866, Union whole-plate thermoplastic case. Image: Unidentified photographer, Untitled [Man at Niagara Falls], ca. 1858, ambrotype. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0002)

Fig. 2

Case: Holmes, Booth, and Hayden; die engraved by Henning and Eymann; The Vision of Ezekiel (recto and verso), 1857–1869, Union half-plate thermoplastic case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0012)

Fig. 3

Case: Attributed to Holmes, Booth, and Hayden; die engraved by Henning and Eymann; The Holy Family (recto and verso), 1857–1869, Union half-plate thermoplastic case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0013)

Fig. 4

Case: Littlefield, Parsons and Company; die engraved by unidentified maker; Sir Henry Havelock (recto and verso), 1857–1866, Union quarter-plate thermoplastic case. Image: Unidentified photographer, Untitled [Portrait of R.E. & Z.W. Potts], 1850–1860, daguerreotype. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0021)

Fig. 5

Case: Littlefield, Parsons and Company; die engraved by unidentified maker; The Two Lovers Going to the Well (recto and verso), 1857–1866, Union double ninth-plate, triple sixteenth-plate thermoplastic case. Images (clockwise from top left): Unidentified photographers, Untitled [Portrait of a Man], 1851–1870, ambrotype; Untitled [Portrait of a Man], 1860-07-18, daguerreotype; Untitled [Portrait of a Man wearing a Top Hat], 1850–1860, daguerreotype with applied colour; Untitled [Portrait of a Woman], 1850–1860, tintype with applied colour. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0033)

Fig. 6

Case: Littlefield, Parsons and Company; die engraved by unknown maker; The Flower Bier (recto and verso), 1857–1866, Union double sixth-plate thermoplastic case. Images: Unidentified photographers, Untitled [Portrait of Child holding a Violin], and Untitled [Portrait of Man holding an Accordion], 1858–1869, tintypes. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0084)

Fig. 7

Case: A. P. Critchlow and Company; die engraved by unidentified maker; The Changeable Cubes (recto and verso), 1856–1857, Union sixth-plate thermoplastic case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0095)

Fig. 8

Case: Peck and Halvorson; die engraved by unidentified maker; Ten Dollar Gold Coin (recto and verso), 1855–1869, Union sixth-plate thermoplastic case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0107)

Fig. 9

Case: S. Peck and Company; die engraved by unidentified maker; The Daguerreian Gallery (recto and verso), 1851–1857, Union sixth-plate thermoplastic case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0136)

Fig. 10

Case: Scovill Manufacturing Company; die engraved by Frederick C. Key; Geometric and Scroll with Cameo Centre (recto); Geometric/Scroll (verso), 1842–1857, Union sixth-plate thermoplastic case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0155)

Fig. 11

Case: Littlefield, Parsons and Company; die engraved by unknown maker; The Faithful Hound (recto and verso), 1857–1866, Union sixth-plate thermoplastic case. Images (from left to right): Unidentified photographers, Untitled [Portrait of Man holding a book]; Untitled [Portrait of a Child and a Woman holding a Book], 1860–1870, relievo ambrotypes. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0185)

Fig. 12

Case: Peck and Halverson; die engraved by Frederick C. Key; The Medallion of George Washington, with Motto (recto and verso), Union sixth-plate thermoplastic case, 1855–1869. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0189)

Fig. 13

Case: Unidentified manufacturer; die engraved by F. Goll; Voyage of Life, The Launching 1 (recto and verso), 1852–1869, Union sixth-plate thermoplastic case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0261)

Fig. 14

Case: Scovill Manufacturing Company; die engraved by Unknown maker; The Liberty Cap, Flags, and Shield (recto and verso), 1842–1857, Union ninth-plate thermoplastic case. Image: Unidentified photographer, Untitled [Portrait of a Civil War Soldier], 1861–1865, ambrotype with applied colour. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0359)

Fig. 15

Case: Littlefield, Parsons and Company; die engraved by unidentified maker; The Chess Players (recto and verso), 1857–1866, Union ninth-plate, octagonal thermoplastic case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0594)

Fig. 16

Case: Littlefield, Parsons and Company; die engraved by unidentified maker; The Meditating Monk (recto and verso), 1857–1866, Union sixteenth-plate, oval thermoplastic case with a lock of hair. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0622)

Fig. 17

Case: Unidentified manufacturer; die engraved by unidentified maker; Grape Bunches (recto and verso), 1852–1869, Union oreo thermoplastic case. Image: Unidentified photographer, Untitled [Portrait of a Woman], 1858–1910, tintype with applied colour. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0662)

Fig. 18

Case: Littlefield, Parsons and Company; die engraved by unidentified maker; Geometric/Scroll (recto and verso), 1857–1866, Union ninth-plate, oval thermoplastic case. Image: Unidentified photographer, Untitled [Portrait of a Child with a Hidden Mother’s arm], 1858–1910, tintype with applied colour. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0710)

Fig. 19

Case: Unidentified manufacturer; die engraved by Robert Milne (Canadian); Untitled [Floral] (recto and verso), 1850s, quarter-plate leather case. Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2022 (RIC.2021.0001:0739)