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Antiques Considered - December 22, 2010

 This photograph album comes from a gentleman who purchased it at an antique shop in Georgetown over 50 years ago.  The shop, known as “Miss Melinda’s Antiques” was on K Street, underneath the elevated Whitehurst Freeway.  It bears the name, “Harding’s Patent Photograph Album” with patent dates of March 8th, 1853, May 14th, 1861, which was extended in 1868.

The producer was William W. Harding, located at 630 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia.  The buyer paid $1.00 for it, probably about the same amount it cost new.  A stick-on label bearing the name of  E. W. Conkling and Co. indicates where it originally was sold.
The condition is excellent, and the two different pictures on the cover and reverse of the two children, although worn and faded, still are clear.  Each leather cover has the original four porcelain buttons on the corners and on the latch, as well as elaborate gold-leafing on each as well as the spine and page edges.  The spine is in tact, but loose.
Inside the pages are designed to hold Daguerreotypes, or tintypes, the early photographs on tin sheets.  It came empty, but the owner has inserted some of his family pictures.
This album is a great example of mid-Victorian bookbinding.  From all sides the artistry of the album is most impressive.  The etched brass latch is quite nice, and the porcelain buttons are unusual in being still together after nearly a century and a half.
The 1950’s dollar that the buyer spent for the album was in line with that period when nineteenth-century bookbinding artistry did not receive the public appreciation it now does.  Given the present pristine condition, the album is worth $75.  I suggest keeping it in a secure plastic box to preserve its current state, and consider having the spine professionally re-attached by a book restorer.  Do not attempt to glue it back on your own, lest you make a larger problem than the partially detached spine presently presents. Happy antiquing!
Lisa and Henry Hull operate Commonwealth Antiques and Appraisals, Inc. at 5150 Jessie DuPont Hwy. 22570. (P.O. 35). Wicomico Church, VA 22570. Write to them or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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