The painted background, as a piece of photographic equipment, has rarely bee studied apart form its decorative function in portraits. This thesis addresses the history, construction, and use of the painted background within studio portrait photography during the latter half of the nineteenth century as revealed from examining advertisements for painted backgrounds.
1,096 advertisements for painted backgrounds were reviewed in nine periodicals published in the United States of America from 1856 to 1903, all taken from the Richard and Ronay Menschel Library at George Eastman House. This material has been compiled into a comprehensive index revealing an increase in the use of painted background within portrait photography during this time period. The analysis of this research also provides information about the history of painted backgrounds, companies advertising backgrounds, sizes, styles, and costs of backgrounds, and ways companies shipped their backgrounds throughout this era.