Roundup Breaking Camp-1905-1920

Reticulated pattern of a collotype

Collotype: There is a great deal of confusion regarding the Huffman collotypes. By far the most common question we hear is - "What is a collotype?" Following is our typical response:

A collotype is a print which, under magnification, has a reticulated or grainy pattern. The image in mid tone appears to be a mosaic of irregularly shaped cells where the inking is not continuous. They are of high quality and "look like photographs". They were produced mechanically and, for large editions, were less expensive and time consuming than photographs. By comparison, a photograph is a continuous tone image with no evidence of a grainy pattern. Photographs are made one at a time after exposure to light through a negative, and, after about 1900, were developed in a darkroom.

American Heritage Dictionary:
    Collotype - 1.  A printing process utilizing a glass plate with a
    gelatine surface carrying the image to be reproduced. Also
    called "photogelatin process"  2.  A print made by this process.

According to the "Encyclopedia of Photography", first published in 1911, collotypes first came into use in the 1860's. It states, "although the process is still largely worked, its commercial success has been much retarded of late years by the progress of halftone, photogravure, and other etching methods."

We're not sure where Huffman had his collotypes made; probably Chicago or New York, possibly Minneapolis, as he did business with photographic firms in each of those cities. We also don't know how many were made. Although none are common, some are much more scarce than others. It's possible that part of the scarcity could be due to lower production figures for some images. It is not uncommon to see a collotype offered for sale in the marketplace as an original photograph. This can have financial consequences as, all things equal, a photo should have much greater value than a collotype.

L. A. Huffman produced collotypes of more than 40 of his images during the period 1905 - 20. Most of them are relatively scarce and are often confused with original photographs. Because of the vintage process and their high quality, collotypes have become collectible on their own merit.

©2014 Gene & Bev Allen Back