Photo-Multigraphs: The Mirror and the Camera

“It was the purpose of the author to describe a number of novel and curious effects that can be obtained by the aid of the camera, together with some instructive and interesting photographic experiments.”—F. R. Fraprie, 1922

5._MultiMnCab2
A photo-multigraph cabinet card by A. M. Lease of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, circa 1895.

By Beverly Wilgus

In 1893, H. P. Ranger was granted Patent No. 505,127 for a “Mirror For Use In Photography.” This was a device comprised of two adjustable mirrors set at an angle. When a subject was placed in front of it, his or her image was reflected in each mirror and that reflection was again reflected, resulting in five or more figures—the number of figures determined by the angle of the mirrors.

1._MirrorPatent

The above schema is from an article published in Scientific American in the 1890s that was included in the 1896 book Photographic Amusements by Frank R. Fraprie and Walter E. Woodbury. My husband and I own a copy of the 1931 edition that still contains the original illustrations.

2._mirror_top

Also from the book is the illustration above: “Diagram Showing The Method Of Production Of Five Views of One Subject By Multiphotography.”

3._mirrors_setting

This drawing from Photographic Amusements shows a photographer’s gallery arranged for multiphotography.

4._mirrors_standing

This image from the book illustrates the multiphotographing of a full-length figure. In the 1970s, when we started to build our photographic collection, we found a number of photo-multigraph real photo postcards from the early 20th century, but we knew that the style dated from the late 19th Century, so set out to find earlier examples. Within the last year, we have obtained six cabinet-card photo-multigraphs and one tintype. We are now hunting for an example of a standing model, as is shown in the illustration above. We also hope to find an example where the subject is facing the camera rather than the mirrors.

7._Multi-Cab2
Photo-multigraph cabinet card by B. D. Jackson of Grand Rapids, Michigan, circa 1900.

We now own a photo-multigraph tintype that is especially interesting because it shows some the studio wherein the image was taken, including a raised platform and large mirrors that would certainly be capable of showing a standing subject. This gives us hope of finding a full-length photo-multigraph in the future.

9._MultiTintype
A 3-1/2″ X 5″ tintype photo-multigraph of a seated women, photographer unknown, circa 1900.

The majority of photo-multigraphs we have collected or seen are real photo postcards dating from the first three decades of the 20th Century. Identified galleries were most often in Atlantic City and New York City, although there are other cities represented and a number of images with no gallery identified.

10._CardsMulti
A photo-multigraph real photo postcard of a man playing cards with himself by Myers-Cope Company, Atlantic City, New Jersey, circa 1910.
11._ManPupX5
Photo-Multigraph Real Photo Postcard of a man posing with a small dog, unidentified studio, probably from the 1930s.
12_multiLongHair2
A photo-multigraph real photo postcard by Dittrich Studios, Atlantic City, circa 1915. The sitter is identified as Grace Schultz Myer.
13._MultiSchulzMyer
This image, also by Dittrich Studios, shows a woman who is likely the mother of Grace Myers, circa 1915.
14._MultiPhotg
A photo-multigraph Real Photo Postcard of a young boy with the reflection of the unidentified photographer at right edge, circa 1920.
15._MultiFurLady
A photo-multigraph real photo postcard by Dobkin Studio, Atlantic City, of a woman wearing a fur-trimmed coat, circa 1930.

Ω


All images from the Jack and Beverly Wilgus Collection.

Author: Ann Longmore-Etheridge

Writer, journalist, editor, historian.

2 thoughts on “Photo-Multigraphs: The Mirror and the Camera”

  1. Fascinating! Reminds me of when I was a child and visits the department store with my mother and grandmother. The changing rooms had angled mirrors in which you could see yourself at different points of view.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so neat, never seen this before. I wonder why it stopped as a practice. Love the dude with the puppy.

    Like

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