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 rectangles. Many tintypes were also trimmed after the fact by customers, who would gladly sacrifice an edge or two to fit their tintype 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    

~ Civil War Soldier Image W/ Inscriptions In Small Oval Union Case ~1856 Neff’s Patent Cased Tintype Militia Or Band Soldier Company D Parade HatSweetheart Locket Civil Confederate Soldier & Wife TintypeArmed Civil War Soldier Tintype Image In A Case Antique Soldier Tintype - Ephraim Jones 11th Corps Civil War Teamster W/ HorseCased Civil War Tintype Photograph Soldier Wearing CoatCivil War Soldier Tinted Tintype In Union Case, Quarter Plate 5-cent Tax StampCivil War Tintype Of Two Soldiers, Studio Backdrop With IdAntique Cabinet 85+ Photo Album Moses W/ Unpublished Poetry Henry W. Longfellow1860s Gutta Percha Small Oval Case W Bearded Man Tintype PortraitCivil War Soldier Tinted Tintype With SwordAntique Photo Album Book 1800s Cdv Tintype Victorian Dress Child Civil War Era Tin Type Of Dog Standing On Hind Legs Front Paws Up Tintype Photo PhotographClemson Agricultural College Cadet Tintype Photograph Antique Tintype Photograph Of Civil War Soldier In Miniature Hinged CaseGreat 1800s Tintype 3 Firemen 1 With Gar Ribbon Civil War Veteran1/4 Plate 1860s Photo Case W Tintype Of Victorian Women Hand Colored JewelryOrig 1860s Black Americana Image Two Women Portrait Tintype Photo Orig 1860s Black Americana Image Young Girl On Swing Portrait Tintype Photo Orig 1860s Black Americana Image Three Sisters Portrait Tintype Photo Antique Tin Type Photo Quirky Weird Mustache Man Slick Hair Scary Beady EyesAmerican Windmill Farm Carriage Barn Cupola Rare Large Tintype In FrameGood Looking Young Navy Officer Gem Tintype PhotographRare 1850's 6th Plate Daguerreotype - Stripe Vested Young Man & Flower Shew CaseAntique Family Photo Album Includes 51 Tintype's Victorian PhotographyOrig 1860s Black Americana Image Well Dressed Woman Portrait Tintype Photo Orig 1860s Black Americana Image Young Girl W Table Portrait Tintype Photo Oval Union Case With Tintype Of CoupleOrig 1860s Black Americana Image Young Man W Chair Portrait Tintype Photo Outdoor Tintype Of Dad, Child And Dog In Wagon1860s Photo Case W Double Tintype Images Of Victorian ChildrenGreat Lot Of 5 Fancy Cased Tintype Photographs No ResAnother Awesome Victorian Photo Album With 47 Great Photos. No ResOrig 1860s Black Americana Image Woman W Seascape Portrait Tintype Photo Civil War Era Soldier Tintype Photograph - 44734Antique 19th Century Small Tintype Gem Photo Album 25 Photos Of ChildrenVintage Occupational Tintype Occupational- Man With A Belt Of Bells No ReserveLarge 5" X 3 1/2" Half Plate Antique Tintype Photo Of A Lovely Tree Lined Street1890's Period Sweetheart Tintype Image Of Young Woman Cavalry Kepi Swords1860s Miniature Book Style Photo Case W Tintype Japan Varnish W Mother Of PearlGreat Antique Wild West Tintype Of A Latino Looking Cowboy Sitting In StudioTinted Tintype Photograph Pretty Young Girl Large Size 6 1/2 X 8 1/2"Vintage 1800's 1/6th Plate Tintype Of (hidden Assistant) W/little Girl W/attitudGreat Civil War Soldier Tin Type Photograph In Case Double Armed 1/6th Tintype Soldier Bowie Knife, Rifle, C On Hat. Reg. Id ?Militarytintype, Huge Bearskin Shako, RifleAnother Awesome Victorian Photo Album With 75 Victorian Photos. No ResFull Plate Tinted Tintype Of A Young Child C.1870s'Another Awesome Victorian Photo Album With 52 Victorian Photos Some Post Mortem6th Plate Thermoplastic Photograph CaseAntique Border Tintype Photo Boy Soldier Gold Border 3 Cent Washing. 1865 StampCivil War Era Soldier Tintype Photograph - 447331/4 Plate 1860s Photo Case W Tintype Of Victorian Man Portrait#19- Lot Of 8 Victorian Antique Victorian Tintype Photos - Civil War Era - Ca. Stamp Case "compliments Of Keefer House Hillsdale, Mich" Stamp, TintypeAntique Tintype Photo Portrait Of A Beautiful Young Woman With Big Hair Antique Tintype Photo In Frame-darling Girl,fashion Dress,chair-id'd Jen HartmanRare Antique Leather Tintype Photo Album 50 First Settlers Pond Mountain N.c. Id'd Tintype Civil War Soldier 71st Ovi Oh OhioMiniature Tintype Album With 52 Tintypes.