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Elaborate Photographic Trade Card

Issued by the Premier 19th Century West Coast Photographer

I. W. Taber was one of the most prolific and ambitious of the pioneering California photographers. He started his photographic career making daguerreotypes in 1854, and was involved in a variety of photographic businesses and partnerships before being invited by the San Francisco firm of Bradley and Rulofson to relocate to California to work for their gallery. By 1871 he was operating his own gallery, having bought out the photographic department of Nahl Brothers' Art and Photographic Gallery. When John Jay Cook foreclosed on Carelton Watkins while the latter was away from San Francisco, Taber was able to purchase virtually the entire inventory of Watkins' Pacific Coast Views negatives. The present photographic trade card, which mentions the Pacific Coast Scenery series, was issued at the height of Taber's career, with his gallery location given as 8 Montgomery Street, corner of Market, over the Hibernia Bank. 

This wonderful photographic trade card is in the form of a cabinet card format. The composite photographic image shows a plethora of photographic portraits arranged around a photographically illustrated announcement of the Burlington Route of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. The portraits include U.S. Grant, Leland Stanford, King David Kalākaua (1836–1891), the last king of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi (and one of Taber's loyal customers), and several other robber-baronish-looking bearded gentlemen.

This photographic trade card is a prime example of Taber's marketing acumen. According to Gary Kurutz's introduction in the book, Taber: A Photographic Legacy, 1870-1900, by Linda and Wayne Bonnett:

Taber [was] a man of remarkable marketing skill...[he] also realized [photography's] advertising potential and the compatibility of mixing photographs with text.

Never one to waste the blank spaces on a photographic mount, Taber has filled the card mount on the present photograph with letterpress extolling his "extensive Photographic Parlors."

Below the mounted photograph, printed on the mount, appears the following text:

To Visitors of the Pacific Coast. The world wide reputation of Taber's Photographs is the fruit of over twenty years labor and study on the part of the proprietor, aided by the extraordinary advantages the climate of California affords that art of Photography, and a careful selection of the latest improved instruments, materials and accessories. We cordially invite you to visit and inspect our extensive Photographic Parlors. Obediently yours, I. W. Taber. 8 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, Cal. 

Verso of mount has the printed caption: 

Special Notice to Australian and New Zealand Passengers.

The verso of the mount is completely filled with printed text, being testimonials dating from 1881-1882, mostly from prominent New Zealanders and Australians: J. L. Butterworth, of Dunedin, New Zealand; Hon. James White; M. L. C., Cranbrook, Syndey, N. S. W.; W. K. Thomson, of James McEvan & Co. Iron and Metal Merchants, Melbourne, and Lombard Street, London; Moss M. Levy, Auckland, N.Z., R. A. Withers, accompanying Sir Henry Parkes, K. C. M. G., Premier and Colonial Secretary, New South Wales, and others.

Condition Description
Original albumen photograph (cabinet card format). Some minor dust soiling to verso of mount. Photograph image in excellent condition.
Peter E. Palmquist and Thomas R. Kailbourn, Pioneer Photographers of the Far West: A Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865, pages 538-541.