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    

1860's Civil War Tintype Photograph Of Union Soldier In Oreo Gutta Percha CaseCivil War Era Performng Bear Circus Act 1860s Animal Trainr Occupational TintypeCivil War Tintype Soldier Named Rifle 1st Regiment Ohio Heavy Artillery CorporalArmed Civil War Soldier Musket Saber Bayonet ¼ Plate Tintype Content Rich StudioCivil War Era Tintype Photographs Soldier Victorian Hinged Frame Stunning Haunting Civil War Era Tinted Tintype Photo Half Case Girl Boy ChildrenUnusual Tintype Cute Gray Cat Studio PortraitAntique Identified Photo Album Civil War Soldiers Cdv Tintype Girl W/ Cat Ny NjTintype Full Plate Photo Civil War Confederate Colonel Heros Von Borcke WoundedAntique Civil War Soldier Tintype Photograph In Gold Filled Victorian FrameGreat Full Plate Tintype Store Sign Barber Shop Cigars Chewing Tobacco News Antique Tintype Of 6 Sisters Stephenson Clan Ohio Civil War EraOld Patriotic Us Civil War Soldier Photo Union Case Tintype 1/4 Plate Flag EagleCivil War 9th Plate Tintype Photo Union Cavalry Soldier Hardee Hat ThermoplasticOdd Unusual Strange Tintype Of Back Of Head*very Nice Tintype Image Of Union Artillery Soldier With Corps Badge Medal*Antique Photo Album Cdv Tintypes Upstate Ny Ca 1860's 67 Images Children Dog ++Lot Of 5 Tintype Photos Photo In Cases Must SeeAntique Photo Album Tin Types, Cdv's, Soldiers, Blacks, Etc. 9" X 12" Total 111Xmas 1864 - Antique Photo Album - Contains 46 Images: 4 Civil War; 2 Tin TypesQuarter-plate Union(gutta Percha) Photo Case With Tintype Of A Man And WomanTintype Photo Of Young Woman / Girl With Extremely Long HairBrilliantly Tinted Tintype Of Handsome Dude In Fur Hat & Red Plaid Miner's ShirtAntique Photo Album Civil War Era Cdvs Tintype 1800's Soldiers Uniforms WomenAntique Photo Album Cdv Tintype Upstate Rush Ny Monroe Co Identified Names 1860sNinth-plate Oval Union Photo CaseTintype & Daguerreotype Antique Victorian Photo Lot Of 4 Gutta Percha Vtg RareRare Civil War Era Unframed Tin Photo Of Man With Cigar & Big Dog Civil War 1/6 Plate Tintype Injured Union Soldier W/bandaged Hand!Antique Photo Album Cdv Tintypes Upstate Ny Potsdam Ca 1860's Children ++Wonderful Id'd Farming Tintype Of John & William W. Merrill W/ Cradle & Rake !!!Abraham Lincoln Tintype/ Ferrotype Trade CardVtg Antique 1/4 Plate Whitehurst Daguerreotype Tintype Fancy Woman W/rosy CheeksTwo Sixth Plate Tintypes Young Men And Women Striking Unusual PosesAntique Leather 50 Tintypes Photo Album Various Subject Matter All FullVtg Antique 1/4 Plate J. Whitehurst Daguerreotype Tintype Woman W/rosy Cheeks #4Antique Arcade Tintype Photo Comic Guy Pals Buck Wagon Butch N Sundance ?Antique Photo Album Cdv Tintypes Upstate Ny 1860's Children ++Antique Tooled Leather Photo Album 43 Cdvs 4 Tintypes Some W/ Unusual BordersAntique Tintype Photo Two Children Seated Side By Side Very Cool Tintype Photo African American ? Indian ? Woman In CaseAntique Civil War Era Daguerreotype Tin Type Photo Young Man Mourning Brooch NrCivil War Tintype In Half Case Union Soldier Likely New York RegimentMiniature Antique Photo Album With 93 Miniature Tin Type PhotosAntique 1800's Ambro Type Photo Gutta Percha Union ? Frame M42African American Tintype Well Dressed Black Man In Hat & TieNearly Full Plate Tintype Two Women With Bicycles In Long Dresses Circa 1890Vintage Tintype Photo Of Three Men L@@k1/6th Plate Tintype Photo - Gentleman & His Antique Bicycle W/ Racing Pedals Antique Miniature 1 3/4" Red Leather Tintype Photo Album With 20 TintypesPennsylvania Spanish American War Soldier Cabinet Photo & Tintype Devils Den ?Antique Photo Album Cdv Tintype Upstate Rush Ny Monroe Co Identified Names 1860sAntique Vintage Estate Junk Drawer Lot Tintype Photos Bracelet Pins PendantsAntique Us Civil War Photo Gilt Gold Frame & Case Tintype Ambrotype 1/6 PlateAntique Ninth-plate Tintype Photographic Image Of Gentleman In Union Case Gold1800s Antique Photo Album Tintypes Cdvs Works Of Art Victorian Portraits RareMan Showing Vintage Timepiece Antique Pocket Watch Cased Tintype U.s. Tintype Soldier With ShakoVintage Tintype Picture In Gold Filled Victorian FrameAntique C1860 Woman & Child Ambrotype Photograph In Mop Token Case, + Tintype