The first appearance of photographs in class albums at Harvard University occurred in 1852, beginning a tradition that has continued to the present day. The albums include photographic portraits of the graduating college classes, faculty, and staff as well as views of the campus. The class photographers, including John Adams Whipple, James Wallace Black, and George Kendall Warren, created salted paper prints for the albums from 1852 until 1864. The collection of early class albums was recently surveyed, as part of a larger initiative undertaken by Harvard Library’s the Weissman Preservation Center to preserve and enhance access to salt prints throughout the University. The albums have provided in many respects an ideal case history of the evolution of the new medium as they illustrate year by year how photographers perfected the salt print process and produced clearer, sharper images with greater definition and tonal range. The survey has allowed for the characterization of a large body of prints that has led to a more nuanced understanding of the underpinnings and evolution of this seminal photographic process.

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