Tintype is the popular moniker for melainotype, which got its name from the dark color of the unexposed photographic plate, and ferrotype, named after the plate’s iron composition (for the record, tintypes contain no tin). Patented in 1856, tintypes were seen as an improvement upon unstable, paper daguerreotypes and fragile, glass ambrotypes. In contrast, tintype photographs were exposed on a sheet of thin iron coated with collodion, which required less time to expose than albumen, but was still inconvenient inasmuch as the photograph had to be taken with the wet material on the plate.

Arriving just prior to the Civil War, tintypes became the favorite way for a soldier to capture his likeness before heading off to battle. Most Civil War tintypes were shot in a studio against a painted backdrop. In fact, so many of these tintypes were produced that the date and studio location of the image can sometimes be identified just because of the design of the backdrop. Tintypes were also popular with tourists at resorts and arcades, so much so that the medium persisted well into the 1930s. Other genres of tintypes include post-mortem photographs (a particularly Victorian preoccupation) and tintypes of paintings and other works of art, which is why tintypes are frequently used by art scholars researching late 18th- and early 19th-century artists.

The raw materials for tintypes were purchased by studios and photographers as 6½-by-8½ inch plates, with brand names like Eureka and Excelsior. These plates were then cut up into smaller sizes based on the whim of the customer. Because this task was performed in the studio or sometimes in the field, the dimensions and uniformity of tintypes can vary, with rounded corners being the most common deviation from pure rectangularity. Many tintypes were also trimmed after the fact by customers, who would gladly sacrifice an edge or two to get their tintype to fit into an existing frame.

The smallest tintypes were called gems for their tiny (½-by-1 inch) size. These tintypes were so small, they were often secreted into lockets and worn by a loved one like a piece of jewelry. More common were what are known as 1/6th-plate tintypes, which are roughly 2¾-by-3¼ inches. Other studios would put your image on a tintype in the standard cartes-de-visites size (2½-by-4 inches), while wealthier customers would spring for ¼, ½, of full-plate tintypes.

The chief disadvantages of tintypes, other than the lack of a negative, was that the images they produced were dark to begin with and tarnished with age quickly. That’s why many tintypes were overpainted later, some in a folk-art style, others simply to brighten up old images. To preserve the images, tintypes were often encased in elaborate frames similarly to ambrotypes. A quick way to determine if an encased image is one or the other is to hold a magnet to the back of the case—if it sticks, you are holding a tintype.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Scrap Album

The Scrap Album

Malcolm Warrington’s The Scrap Album is a handsomely organized site, as you’d expect from an articulate champio… [read review or visit site]

Stevengraphs Bookmarks and Postcards

Stevengraphs Bookmarks and Postcards

Malcolm Roebuck's tribute to the ornate silk picture bookmarks and postcards ('Stevengraphs') produced by Thomas St… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Sixth Plate Image Of Triple Armed Civil War Cavalryman With Sharps CarbineC1870 Western Americana Tintype Photo Buffalo Hunter Guide Texas Jack OmohundroInteresting Civil War Tintype Of Union Soldier Western Theater W/ SombreroQtr. Plate Image Of Bugler & Id'd Comrades 2nd Ny Cavalry-wia Five Forks Va Original Civil War Id'd Tintype, 79th Ohio, Sharpshooter ?? W Flintlock Ca. 1860's 2 X Armed Union Cavalry Soldier Civil War 6th Plate TintypeAntique 1870 Occupational Tintype Photograph Inventor Folding Cloths Drying RackCivil War Soldier Revolver Sword Buckle Tin TypeAntique 19thc Occupational Tintype Photograph, Clarinet Salesman, No Reserve!"union Forever" Civil War Gutta Percha Ninth Plate Case - ExcellentIncredible Lot Of 26 Daguerreotypes Tintypes Ambrotypes - Prominent D.c. Family!Original Antique Tintype Photograph Circa-1900 Bicycle ... No Reserve!Civil War Soldier With Weapon Arms Full Dress Tintype Bright Gold Rosy Cheeks.Antique Civil War Union Soldier Photo Rare Four Color 1/6 Tintype Nh Regiment? Circa 1860's Civil War 1/4 Plate Tintype Pair Of Union SoldiersAntique Lot 1/6,1/9 Ambrotype, Tintype, Daguerreotype & Case Parts For Repairs*** Very Nice Civil War Tintype Union Soldier *** Ca. 1860's Civil War 6th Plate Tintype Armed Union Cavalry SoldierOriginal Civil War Union Soldier Full Plate Tintype 8 1/2"x6 3/8" Framed *rare*Antique Civil War Musket Armed Soldier Tintype 1/6 PlateId'd Ca 1860's Civil War 1/9 Plate Tintype William Warnock 126th Il InfantryAntique Vintage Family Photo Album Victorian Tin Types Genealogy Lot Of 2 Nr!Antique Tintype Photo Civil War Union Soldier American Flag Sword Belt BuckleRare Civil War Confederate Tintype Photograph Photo Cs Southern 1/6th Plate CdvGreat Tintype Of A Young Hunter With Game Bag, Musket And Dog.2 Antique 1/4 Pl.size Ruby Ambrotype Tinted Lady & Tintype Couple In Union CaseAntique 1870s Tintype Musicians Photograph 2 Dapper Men With Cornet & TrumpetCivil War 1/6 Plate Cased Tintype Of Civil War Union Soldier Nice Clear ImageAntique Gold Framed Photo Ambrotype? Daguerreotype? Boy & Dog*no Reserve* Antique Miniature Gem 80 + Tintype Photo Album 1 Back Of Girls HeadAntique Civil War Soldier Tintype W/sny (state Of New York)buckle & BayonetAntique Ferrotype Tintype Photo Civil War Union Soldier Unusual Oval Velvet CaseCivil War Tintypes And Cdv Of Two Brothers In The 127th New York InfantryAntique 1870-1880's Tintype/cdv Album,full,girl On Tricycle,groups,children,babyVtg Tintype Photo 2 Stylish Ladies Painting One At Easel Other W Palette PaintJunk Drawer Lot - Tintypes, Sterling, Antique Keys, And More! - Free ShippingGutta Percha Octogonal Union Case With Id'd TintypeTwo Couples & Fishing Net Captured Brides? Gem TintypeVintage Schuco Micro Racer Volkswagen Vw #1046 Tin Type Car Unopened PackageCivil War Tintype Photo Soldier Rare Daguerreotype Tin Type Littlefield ParsonsSplendid Lot 20 Tintype Photographs - Cute Girls , Siblings , A Hidden MotherTintype-3 Women With Heads Through Flower BackdropTintype Baltimore City Policeman W/ Clearly Visible Badge, First Issued In 1862!Tintype Shirtless Bare Foot Teen Boy In Nice Studio Backdrop Setting Vtg PhotoEarly 5 1/2" By 4 1/4" Tintype Group Of People In Guide Boats On River Or LakeDaguerreotype Tin Type Photographic Album New York With 35 PlatesAntique Photo Album Tintypes & Cdv PhotosAntique Victorian Mourning Pendant Fob Locket Gold Filled Tintype Intricate!1/6 Plate Tintype Of 4 Gentlemen Holding Pirate Flag All With Mean Faces. 1860'sC1850s Military Theme Union Photo Case W/eagle, Flag, Ships & Cannon W/portrait Tintype-paper Moon With Five People PosedTintype-4 Women, 3 In Head Only Pose-what Is The Fourth One Doing?2 X Antique Tintype And Ambrotype Framed Photographs Victorian Scarce Patriotic Case For A Civil War Ambrotype Or Tintype Tin Type Primary Cover,derby,inspection . For Harley Shovelhead Panhead Custom Civil War Era Tin-type Soldier In Uniform With Early Gold Floral FrameAntique Occupational Tintype Of Harness Maker ? Leather Worker With Wood ViseStout Terrier Mix Dog Sitting On Chair, Antique Tintype PhotoVictorian Hand Painted Mop Inlay Case With Tintype Husband & Wife Photo1879 Antique Tintypye Cartoon Image Man Holding Shot Gun W/ Rabbit Hunting Dog