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    

Antique Cased Tintype Armed Civil War Soldier Kepi Musket Cartridge Box Union UsExcellent Civil War Musical Tintype Of A Confident Young Horn Playing Officer !!Superb Civil War Era Named Officer's Memorialwith Tintype-framed-11h Penn. Magnificent Armed Standing Confederate Rebel Soldier Civil War ¼ Plate Tintype !Antique 19thc Miniature Tintype Photograph In Gutta Percha Case Nr AVictorian Leather Photo Album W 70 Pics Cabinet Card Tintypes Ohio Mid WestAntique 19thc Miniature Daguerreotype Photograph Of Man, Gutta Percha Case Nr BCivil War Soldier Tintype In Uniform With KepiCivil War Soldier Veteran Outdoors Tintype Photo Uniform Musket Gar Medal5 Antique 19thc Gutta Percha Miniature Tintype Photograph Oreo Cases ... NrAntique Tintype Photo 1865 Man In Buffalo Robe CoatCivil War, Double Armed Union Army Calvaryman,iowa, Guta Percha Case4 Antique 19thc Cw Period Miniature Round Gutta Percha Tintype Photograph Cases6 Antique Civil War Period Gutta Percha Oreo Cases, Round Tintype Photographs FAntique 1868 Authentic Presidential Political Seymour & Blair Tintype PhotographVictorian Photo Album Tintypes Cdv's Soldier In Uniform W/ Rifle Civil War ?Charming Tintype Photograph Children With Pit Bull Staffordshire Terrier DogMiniature Tin Type/brooch Of Abraham LincolnVintage Fairy Album 24 Small Tin Type Photographs In Clasp BookLarge Antique Union Case 4 Tintype Photos Woman Long Hair Boy Man Woman UnusalAntique Photo Large Tintype Miner Comstock Lode Nevada Occupational Tall Boots Vtg Old 1/6 Plate Tintype Photograph Soldier Dress Uniform Copper Embossed FrameCivil War Tintype In Union Case-soldier In White Glove1860s 1/6 Plate Postmortem Tintype, Mother & ToddlerVintage Tintype Photo Of Man With High Wheel Boneshaker Bike Velocipede1800's Ohio Family Photos Album Civil War Era Soldier Tin Types Cabinet CdvVintage 1865 Hardings Photo Album W/ 18 Tin Type PhotosAntique Tintype Of Two 'pards' - Young Union Soldiers Off To The Civil WarRare Antique Tintype Men Holding Hands Pards 1800s Gay Interest Image Vintage UsC1890's Full Plate Tintype 6 Women Posed As 3 Loving Couples - 3 Dressed As Men12 Rare Antique Vintage Black Americana Tintypes & PhotosAntique Victorian Photo Album W/ 31 Cdvs And Tin Types 1800'sTintype Affectionate Hat Man W Friend Reclining In Studio Pose Vtg Photo Gay IntGenuine Union Case And Tintype Soldier Photo In Rarer Style Case! Nr Mint Shape!1/6 Plate Tintype Rare Woman W Stereoview Magnifying Glass Abstract ReflectionCivil War Tin Type - Young Boy In Uniform W/ SwordOld Type Photo Man Gold Framed For Old Cardboard Case Nice5 Old Tintypes1860-1960 Estate Lot 1,360 Photographs/tin Types Cabs+/steamers Planes Autos++Gem Photo Album Full Of Miniture TintypesTintype Of Bearded Civil War Soldier With Side HolsterAntique Victorian Photo Album, 1880s,for Cdvs/tintypes,small, LeatherAntique Post Mortem Tin Type With Pressed Tin Piece SurroundingLionel Postwar O-ga 2457 Prr N5 Tintype Caboose "477618" - Nice ConditionOld Tin Type Photo Of Young Woman In Print Dress Old Cardboard Case NiceTintype, Vintage Photos,lot Of 9, Asstd Men/women,/kidsLarge Full Plate Tintype Wealthy Twin Boys W Books And Fringed Chairs-6.5 X 8.5 Fine Victorian Leather Photo Album W/ 44 Photos & TintypesAntique 1873 Hubbard Bros Leather Bound Domestic Bible W/ Photographs & TintypesAntique Tin Type Photograph1/6th Plate Tintype 4 Men Big Hats Loose Shirts Boots Workmen - Old Vintage Antique - Tintype Photo Girl In Large BonnetAntique Tintype Photo Exceptionally Beautiful Young Woman Long Braid Plaid DressSixth Plate Tintype - 3 Children Brother Sisters Black Lab Labrador RetrieverTintype, Vintage Photo,very Pretty Young Woman, Curly HairOld Cabinet Type Photo Woman Framed Gold No Case1936 Japanese Bronze Table Medal Imperial Prince Emperor Medallion Ww2 Coin VtgAntique 50 Tintypes Leather Photo Album All FullLot Of Antique Victorian Era Tintypes & DaguerrAntique Estate Lot-tin Type Photographs-families-ladies-gents & Children