Top of page

Civil War Photography: New Technologies and New Uses, a Teacher Primary Source Set from the Library of Congress

Share this post:

An ivorytype photograph from the Library's new Civil War photography primary source set
An ivorytype photograph from the Library’s new Civil War photography primary source set

Can you imagine a photograph made of metal? A picture book made with egg whites? A wood-and-glass device that lets you see 3-D images? In the 1850s and 1860s, these were all cutting-edge photographic technologies.

The Civil War era was a time of breathtaking photographic innovation. The Library’s newest primary source set, “Civil War Photography: New Technologies and New Uses,” immerses students in the new methods and formats that emerged in the decades around the war. Ambrotypes, tintypes, ivorytypes, cartes de visite, stereographs and bring viewers face to face with battlefields, the aftermath of combat, and the everyday men and boys who fought in the war. They also give students a glimpse into the changing visual culture of the time.

Viewing a stereograph
Viewing a stereograph

The set includes a background essay that describes each of the photographic technologies and formats included in the set, along with teaching ideas that help students explore the role photographs played in people’s understanding of the war, as well as the ways in which photography has and has not changed in the decades since.

“Civil War Photography: New Technologies and New Uses,” was developed by Sam Klotz, the Library’s 2014 Liljenquist Family Fellow. To learn more about the Liljenquist family and the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs, read this essay.

Which of these photographs do you believe will raise the most interesting questions for your students?


Comments (2)

  1. Thank you for this great overview. I’ve used the Lilljenquist photos in my US History survey and Civil War classes since I had the opportunity to learn about them in a class through the LOC education department. They have become a window into the soldiers lives, and a foundation for discussions in social history and photography technology.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. Nice work Sam!

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.