The MHS Photograph Collection consists of approximately 120,000 photographs that span the development of photographic technology. The bulk of the collection consists of portraits of individuals and family groups that support work in the Society's manuscript collections. The collection includes more than 550 daguerreotypes, 100 tintypes, 200 ambrotypes, 4,000 cartes-de-visite, 200 cabinet cards, and 5,000 glass plate negatives.
The Society holds many striking examples of daguerreotype photography, including portraits of Annie Adams Fields, ca. 1853, and Daniel Webster, 1851, both taken by Southworth and Hawes of Boston. The daguerreotypes also include views, such as Joslin Gilman's Faneuil Hall, Boston, Mass. (1840).
There are also more than 2,000 images that document people, places, and events of the abolitionist movement and the Civil War, with an emphasis on Massachusetts regiments and personnel. Among the most notable are tintypes of members of the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the first African-American regiment raised in the North.
How to Find Photographs
Daguerreotypes and ambrotypes are cataloged individually in ABIGAIL, the library online catalog. While the remainder of the photographs in the collection are not cataloged as individual items, 50,000 photographs located within collections are described in online collection guides and in ABIGAIL. Please contact the reader services staff if you do not find a specific photographic item in the online catalog.
Information on ordering reproductions of photographs is available on the Reproduction Services web page.
View a selection of photographs online.