-Spirit Photographs in our collection - Cabinet Cards

Cabinet Card Spirit Photographs

Cabinet cards, about 4 1/4 X 6 1/2 inches, are the most common size and style of photographs from the later part of the 19th through the early years of the 20th century. This was a fertile period of interest in spiritualism and cabinet cards are a major component of our collection.
-Boursnell Photographs

We have four cabinet cards that we attribute to Robert Boursnell, British medium/photographer of note. In his 1911 book, Photographing The Invisible, Coates devotes two chapters to Boursnell. The two cards on the right and the first in the row below are dated 1902. The two on the right are self portraits of Robert Boursnell with spirit extras.

Both the photograph below and the first one on the right carry the notation of Feb 2, 1902 - 4 while the photograph on the far right is labeled March 2 1902 - 7 in the same hand.

The card below is unusual because it shows a cabinet card on a table surrounded by spirits.

Robert Boursnell Spirit Photograph 1
Robert Boursnell Spirit Photograph 2
Robert Boursnell Spirit Photograph 3
Robert Boursnell Spirit Photograph 4

Boursnell Spirit Photograph 6

The photograph on the left shows a bearded man with a young "colored boy's spirit" taken, according to the label on the back, in 1895-96. This image is identified in the 1988 edition of Photographing the Spirit World by Cyril Permutt, as a photograph by Boursnell of the spiritualist, J. H. Evans with a spirit child.

-Other Cabinet Card Spirit Photographs
The cabinet card below is on a mount that is very similar to the Boursnell but has no identifying information. We will continue to research and update if we are able to identify the photographer. The card below is a standard size on a heavy black mount. There is no photographer's name or studio but "Olivia Sheppard" is written on the back. There are references in literature of the period to a feminist/spiritualist named Olivia F. Shepard of Foxboro, Mass. It seems possible that there was an error in spelling the name. The "spirits" include two men, an Arab, and two American Indians. Below is a 4 X 5 1/2 inch image mounted on a 6 X 9 inch embossed card. The more dramatic lighting and larger mount suggests the teens of the 20th century. It is also unidentified.
Spirit Photograph  man Spirit Photograph  Cabinet 2 Spirit Photograph  Cabinet 3

The card on the left shows a man with "extras" of the Virgin Mary and two images of Christ. Why would Christ appear in two different forms if we were expected to be convinced by this card? The mount is marked "W. H. Whittaker" or "Whillaker" and Elwood, Ind.

The unmarked Cabinet Card on the right shows a man with extras that are not departed family members. They include an American Indian, two sages with white beards, Jesus or a Saint, and the body of a woman wearing long gloves. These may be spirit guides and he may be a medium.

*Note: In October, 2007 this section of our site was expanded and rearranged. If an image is not in an expected place, please try one of the other pages from the list below.

Spirit Photographs: How our collection started/Brewster & Mumler
Spirit Photographs: A Tintype Spirit Photograph *added 10/07
Spirit Photographs: Carte-de-visite spirit photographs
Spirit Photographs: Cabinet card spirit photographs < You are Here
Spirit Photographs: Post card spirit photographs
Spirit Photographs: Post cards of unknown mediums
Spirit Photographs: Doyle and the Spirits *added 10/07
Spirit Photographs: How to make a fake spirit photograph
Spirit Photography: Bibliography & Links

Related interests of the Victorian Era and early 20th century in our collection:
Memento Mori - Remembering the departed: post mortem and memorial photography in the 19th and early 20th century
Mesmerism - "Flint the Mesmerist"
Phrenology - The study of human personality from the shape of the head

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**NOTE** All items on the Collection of Collections web site are in our private collection and are NOT for sale. From time to time duplicate items from our collection will be offered for sale in the Do You Remember This? shop on the GoAntiques cyber mall. Visit the Do You Remember This? inventory page for photographica and toaster related collectibles.

Please feel free to write us if you want to chat or share information about areas we collect but we will NOT give appraisals.

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Updated on 1/2009