Regimental Album of the 24th Massachusetts
Although tintypes and ambrotypes were both used to capture images of soldiers, by far the most popular form soldier portraits took were cartes-de-visites. Unlike the former two processes, whose glass and metal foundations made them delicate, bulky, and unreproducible, cartes-de-visites were inexpensive albumen paper prints mounted on cardstock, copies of which could easily be handed out and mailed to family and friends.
Like scrapbooks, cartes-de-visites became a way for soldiers and those at home to record their experiences. The cheapness, portability, and reproducibility of the prints meant that people collected cartes-de-visites not only of their personal loved ones, but also those of celebrities, military officers, and even famous artwork. All of these different types were often compiled into one album, giving a broad sense of how people were consuming and using media to make sense of life and war.
Although carte-de-visite albums often featured a mixture of public and private pictures, sometimes they were intended to tell a specific story. The carte-de-visite album here is full of thirty-eight portraits of soldiers and ranking officers primarily from one regiment, the Twenty-Fourth Massachusetts Regiment. Albums of this type were not only mementoes of the soldiers on the front, but also often served as a way to keep a history of a regiment, adding notes of battles and casualties in the album or on the cartes-de-visites. Most portraits in this album are identified on the cartes-de-visites, and some are signed with the autographs of the men depicted. Other images are heavily annotated on the versos with the rank of the man depicted and his fate during wartime. Many photographs were taken in Boston, but photographers from Philadelphia and Beaufort, South Carolina, are also included.
The entire album can be viewed here.