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    

Nice Civil War Era Tintype - Photo Of General Gorge Custer - 2 1/2" X 3" -excCivil War Cavalry Soldier Tintype Quadruple Armed. Nice Condition.Nice Civil War Era Tintype - Photo Of Lincoln Conspirator Powell - 2 1/2" X 3" Antique Book Form Green Velvet & Gilt Daguerreotype Tintype Case No Reserve1860s Civil War 1/4 Tintype *3 Brothers In Arms* Cavalry Men & Flag In BackdropUs Soldier Colt 1860 Army Pistol Civil War Tintype Photo Gutta Percha Union Case Union Cavalry Bugler Tintype Gilted Leather Case Sword Sgt Civil War Banjo Violin Fiddle Vaudeville TintypeUs Army Soldier Civil War Tintype Photo Infantry Gutta Percha Union Case EagleRare 1/4 Plate British Tintype Postman Man Occupational Otto Dicycle BicycleAntique 1800's Tintype Photo **black Americana** School Graduation Antique 16 Size 17 Jewel Illinois Pocket Watch With Bakelite Case, Tintype, #18Huge Lot Of Vintage And Antique B&w Photographs Tintypes, Snapshot, Cdv, CabinetTintype Civil War Uniformed Soldier Pistol Sword Flag 1/6th Plate Handsome Octagonal Brown Union Dag Daguerreotype Case Excellent TintypesUnusual Antique 19th Century Ambrotype Photograph Man In Hat Polka Dot SleevesOriginal 1860s Black Americana Image In Case Husband Wife Portrait Tintype PhotoAntique 1800's **post Mortem** Photo Antique Tintype Occupational Photo **firemen Firefighters**Original C1910 Nyc-made Pillbox Baseball Cap And A Tintype Of Ball Players~nr1860s Cased ¼ Plate Tintype Of Kiowa War Chief Big Bow Native American IndianTintype Photo 2 Affectionate Young Men Wearing Hats & Holding Hands Gay InterestScarce Union Case W/ Tintype Couple Portrait: Wheel Of Cornucopias, Lp & Co., NrEarly Antique Large Tintype Photo Of A White Cat, Kitty Cat On A BlanketTwo Albums With 141 Tintypes, 4 Cdv's, And One Large TintypeGroup Of 3 Civil War Soldiers Gem Tintype Photograph1860's Frozen Charlotte Gem Tintype PhotographVintage Civil War Veterans Father & Son Drumers Kokomo Indiana Tintype PhotoVery Nice Thermoplastic 1/4 Plate Photograph Wall Frame1860s 6th Plate Cased Image - Texas Law Man, Soldier? - Texas John Slaughter Hat1860’s 9th Plate Cased Tintype Image Of A Fancy Dressed Black Negro BoyAntique Civil War Era Cdv Tintype Album W/ 9 Photos Excellent ConditionVintage Small Brass Easel Frame With Original Tintype Of Ferrotype Free ShipRare Vintage Hunting/dog Hunter With Rifle, Pointer (dog) Sixth Plate No ReserveVery Rare Berg 1-46 "horse Racing" Octagonal Quarter Plate Thermoplastic Case !Tintype: Roughly Dressed 19th Century Cowboy Antique Photograph Gay Interest1800's Western Americana Cowboy Tintype Photo One With Bandana 1860s 3 Outdoor Tintypes - Cowboy & Mule, Man & Child In Carriage, Horse & House 1870s Large Full Plate Tintype Confederate Soldier 15th Virginia Regiment LongsTintype Photograph Lady In Bonnet In Papier-mâché Abalone CaseVintage Small Tintype 1800's? Lot #9Antique Victorian Mourning Pin Tintype Photo Of Young Women4-antique Tintype Photo's Children Posing With Dogs Estate Antique Victorian Tintype Mourning Portrait Pin Brooch Gentleman W/ Hat Vintage Civil War Tin Type Identified Soldier Union Photograph Photo NiceLot Of 36 Tintype Photos Various SizesPicture Album Dated 1867-civil War Carpenters, Mortuary , MoreHunter With His Shotgun And Game SackRare Sixteenth Plate African American Black Man Full Beard Tinted Cheeks Tintype3-antique Tintype Photo's Men & Woman Posing Soldier? With A Dog Antique Tintype Photo Of Pretty Young Lady In Union Gutta Percha CaseAntique Civil War Era Tin Type Picture Of 2 Children In Original CaseUnusual 6th Plate Wood Frame Case With Pressed Design CoverAntique Lot Collection Of 15 Tintype Photographs Couples Group Shots Family 1850's Wolferts Roost 6th Plate Photograph CaseLot Of 100 Daguerreotype Tin Photos & Album Era1800-1900 Men, Women & Children9th Plate Civil War Era Tintype Young Woman Velvet Oval CaseLot Of 12 Civil War Era Tintype Photographs In Small Photo Album 1865 Tin Type1800s Photo Man On Mountain OverlookYoung Rhode Island Civil War Soldier Gem Tintype Photograph