Cutting Patent Ambrotypes

I recently purchased these two ambrotypes from Ebay. Granted they were a good price for a pair but what drew me to them was that the are produced using the Cutting Patent process.

These are the only two Cutting Patent ambrotypes in my collection and I wonder how common they are in the UK. The seller had no other information.

James Ambrose Cutting was an American photographer and inventor, sometimes he’s called the inventor of the Ambrotype photographic process. I’m not so sure why that gets confusing as its well documented that the wet plate collodion process was invented by Frederick Scott Archer in 1851, maybe its just semantics. What Cutting did do was successfully apply for three patents on “improving” the collodion positive process. I use “” in this case as the deterioration in these two plates call that into question, and seems to be a common problem with this patented version.

The Patent Numbers 11,213, 11,266 and 11,267: Awarded to James Ambrose Cutting of Boston, Massachusetts in 1854 were for creating collodion positive photographs on glass. Although F.S.Archer has been documented as making collodion glass positives (ambrotypes) as early as 1854. The first and second of these patents refer to the specific chemicals & handling being used in the collodion process, while the third describes a method for sealing the finished collodion images sandwiched between layers of glass using balsam – a so-called Cutting’s Patent Ambrotype.

It is suggested that Ambrose named the process after himself, but there is evidence that it was first used by Daguerreotypist, Marcus Aurelius Root some years earlier. I also think if James Ambrose Cutting was to name the process after himself he may have used “Ambrosiatype” 🙂

You can see a great deal of balsam separation in both plates, what damage there is to the actual emulsion I do not know.

I deemed it worth risking opening the worse off of the two, and removed the rear cover to find the sitters details and date, similar is found on its partner ambrotype. I was also keen to see the structure of a balsam sealed ambrotype. Sorry I didn’t take a pic, just two thicker than usual pieces of glass stuck together with some dark brown/black fabric behind.

 Mr and Mrs Dumbull, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America 1856.

Taken expressly for my only child/daughter Emily.

The front brass cover mounts are both stamped with J. Briggs, Artist, 123 WASHN ST. and Cuttings Pat July 4 & 11 1854. I can’t find anything for J Briggs as of yet, maybe some of my American friends will have more luck. Let me know if you do.

I’m pleased to now have these two “improved” Cutting Patent ambrotypes in my collection.


Jesse Briggs

Daguerreian and ambrotypist, Barnstable and Boston, Mass. He first advertised in Barnstable in 1853. About the same time, he reportedly learned how to make ambrotypes from James A. Cutting. He was listed in Boston, at 123 Washington Street, from 1856 to 1860. One directory for 1856 listed him in partnership as Briggs and Knapp (A.H.). Briggs advertised he had purchased the right, title and interest for Cutting’s Ambrotype patent for the U.S., Great Britain, and France, at a cost of $10,000. He also purchased the right to use the Bromide Patent in making ambrotypes. Following the purchase, he associated himself with Knapp and the pair opened the new gallery. Probably also the Jesse Briggs listed in 1856 as an ambrotypist in New Bedford, Mass., at the gallery of E.S. Dunshee. Information corrected to November, 1997; © 1996, 1997 John S. Craig

From Wikimedia