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A few simple observations can help narrow the timeframe of an image.
Mats give us some wonderful clues as to a daguerreotype's (and ambrotype's) original date.
The preserver is a brass frame that wraps the glass, mat, and image.
Early daguerreotypes were protected by only a mat and glass, and then placed in a case.
In about 1859, preservers with reinforced corners and more elaborate artwork were introduced.
General Rule: An image with a preserver dates after 1847.
This complete package was then placed into a wooden or thermoplastic case for protection and presentation.
An exploded and assembled view of a ca 1850 daguerreotype.
The cases themselves were called 'union cases', not in reference to the 'Union' side of the civil war, but the union of different materials that were used in the composite.
The Daguerreotype in America Once the daguerreotype process was published in Paris in 1839, it spread rapidly to America.
At the height of daguerreotype popularity in 1853, there were reportedly 86 studios in New York City.
Usually the image, mat, and glass were then taped together around the edges.
Beginning about 1847, a brass frame called a 'preserver' wrapped around the taped assembly.