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Dating Cabinet Card Photographs – Reverend Burelbach

This week’s photograph is an early cabinet card of a young man wearing a plain double breasted coat and what appears to be a clerical collar. There is no crucifix or other jewelry. On the back is handwritten Rev. Burelbach. On the front, the photographers imprint is very small and in simple print, identifying the photographer as Miss Garrity, Wabash and Jackson, Chicago. The card has plain straight cut edges. No border is seen.


In past posts, we have looked at dating guidelines for the cart de visite (CDV). This time, let’s revisit the website for some help in dating cabinet card photographs. This type of photograph was introduced in 1866 in Great Britain but was not popular in the United States until the mid-1870s. Like the CDV, the photographs were albumen prints on very thin paper and were mounted on cards.  The cabinet card was larger than the CDV, usually 6 ½ by 4 ¼ inches with some variations.

The following are general guidelines. Remember that not all apply to all cards. See for more details.

Photographers imprint Card border Card edge
Small, simple 1866-1884 None 1866-1900 Plain 1866-1890
Artistic 1882-1900 Thick gilt 1878-1886 Beveled 1892-1900
Foil stamped 1890-1900 Single thin line 1884-1900 Scalloped 1886-1900
Embossed 1894-1900 Embossed pattern 1894-1900    
    Artistic underscore 1886-1896  

Based on all these guidelines, we can estimate the card is an early version, up to the mid-1880s. Next search was for the photographer to try to narrow the date further.  Since Miss Garrity is not a local photographer, using the photographer database in the Members Section of the South Bend Area Genealogical Society ( will not help this time, so I turned to Langdon’s List of 19th & Early 20th Century Photographers online at There was no listing for Miss Garrity at Wabash and Jackson, Chicago, but a listing is found for Misses Garrity in Chicago on N. Clark corner of Elm in 1885. Miss Garrity then relocated to Louisville, Kentucky in 1886.  These seems to confirm our date estimate as before 1885.

Plugging in last name Burelbach, Chicago in 1885, with keyword Reverend in the Ancestry search engine, we find a passport application for Rev. Francis Burelbach, born 12 March 1864, Chicago. His father, not named, was listed as naturalized. At the time of the application, April 1904, Rev Burelbach was living in Melrose Park, Illinois and following the occupation of Catholic Priest.  There was no photograph. He was described as having an oval face with high forehead.  At that time, he was heavily whiskered, a change from our fresh faced young man.

Now that we have a first name and birthdate, following Father Burelbach across the country is a fairly simple task using U.S. Federal census and local city directories. Francis was born in Chicago, the son of Peter born in Prussia and Agnes born in Bavaria. He is seen in the 1870 and 1880 U.S. Census, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois although in 1800, Francis is erroneously listed as female/daughter.  In the 1890 Chicago City Directory, Francis was assistant pastor at St Mary’s German Church.  In 1898, he was the pastor at Holy Trinity, still in Chicago. In the 1920 census, Francis was 46, listed as a clergyman, Catholic Church. The 1912 Brawley City Directory lists him as Acting Rector at an unspecified Catholic Church. In the 1920 census, Francis is listed as head of household in the St Francis Orphanage in Santa Cruz, California. The other adults and all the children were listed as “boarder + lodger” indicating Reverend Burelbach was probably the senior priest and in charge of the orphanage.  By the 1930 U.S. census, he was retired and living in San Diego. In 1935, we find Rev. Burelbach in the San Diego City Directory, with no church listed. Reverend Francis Burelbach died 10 April 1938 and was buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in San Diego, California. (California Death Registry, Find a Grave record 71808658)

I have not been able to find any descendants of the siblings listed with Francis Burelbach in the 1880 census. His sisters both died young and unmarried. Josephine died in 1894 at the age of 24, and Clara died in 1904 aged 27. Michael, brother of Francis, married Gertrude and died in 1946.  No children were seen.  The final sibling, Peter junior was seen in the Chicago City Directory as a reporter in 1889 at the same address as Peter, his probable father, but no additional records were found.


I did find records of a Reverend Peter Burelbach of the correct approximate age, but he was born in Wisconsin in September 1870. Our Peter was 2 years old in the 1870 census in Chicago.

Rev Burelbach will just have to join my other orphan photographs waiting to find an appropriate home. At least he was able to teach us some more about dating cabinet card photographs!

Submitted by Alice Clark, SBAGS President,


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