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Rare Uncut Tintypes of Husband & Wife

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Posted 5 years ago


(279 items)

Pickers recently found this set of tintypes during a recent clean-out of a Brooklyn brownstone; the house was then sold and gutted. Uncut tintypes are rare as it is, yet finding a husband and wife set is a treasure. Then again, the kids shown with the parents (the single images) are believed to be their children because these images accompanied the two multi-image tintypes. (And is the girl wearing the same locket as the mom?)

We take a lot for granted these days. When shooting film (remember those days?), reprints were somewhat easy. Just take the negs to a Fotomat (if anyone remembers that business) or some other place. Digital is even easier. Copy the files or share via Instagram or similar. In the early days of photography before negatives, making copies of pictures simply wasn’t an easy option. The oldest processes produced one-off pictures that had to be reshot to make copies.

Imagine sitting in an early daguerrian, collodion, or tintype era studio anytime from the early 1840s to 1890s waiting your turn to be immortalized in silver. Looking around, you notice that the studio is reminiscent of a small torture chamber. The room itself is graced with ominous looking devices and specially built furniture with robust body restraints ensuring that the patron will be as motionless as a statue. In anticipation of sitting for one picture that could last anywhere from seconds to minutes, you begin to feel muscles cramp, even before being positioned into the studio’s head brace. Ahhh …. finished! The sitting felt like an eternity but worth it. But wait, your wife demands pictures for half the free world! If only there was an easier and less expensive way. Unfortunately the conveniences we now enjoy are over 120 years in the future.

The road to inexpensive multiple pictures involved changes to the picture taking process and photographic apparatus itself. A solution was first proposed and created by the Parisian photographer, Andre Adolphe Disderi who devised a way to make multiple images or portraits on a single plate. The plan called for a new type of camera with a shifting back. Each time the back was moved, a different portion of the plate was exposed, allowing several sets of images to be created at the same time. Some cameras used anywhere from 2 to 32 lenses while still others had both shifting backs and multiple lenses. These cameras soon were referred to as Multiplying Cameras and were very efficient at producing large numbers of images in a short period of time. Amazingly, a modified Southworth multiplying camera could produce up to 616 images on a 12” x 15” plate in five minutes! If cost was an issue, then really inexpensive tintypes were they way to go if quality didn’t matter.

The uncut tintypes shown here have the exact same individual image pattern from the camera’s internal partition; as such, the same studio camera made the husband’s and wife’s pictures. The overall size of each 9-image tintype is about 2-1/2 x 2-1/4 inches (actually a section of a larger plate) and the small ‘gem’ pictures are roughly 3/4” x 1”. These plates were then snipped apart and individual gem images were placed into a paper mounts or albums.

In summary, nearly all of those teeny, tiny images you see in individual paper mounts and albums started out as images on a larger multi-image plate. The family remains anonymous, but at least is still together after being saved from a gutted house.

Also shown is a camera in my collection capable of making this type of multi-image tintype.


  1. musikchoo musikchoo, 5 years ago
    The Father in the First Photo reminds me of Lizzy Borden's Father !! Yikes !!!!
  2. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, musikchoo! ... LOL ... another reason why I prefer to be behind the camera.
  3. scottvez scottvez, 5 years ago
    Love the uncut sheets rob!

  4. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, Sean!
  5. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, Scott! ... I'm still looking for more.
  6. filmnet filmnet, 5 years ago
    Gem Tin Types 3/4" by 1" I wondered what these were i have maybe 20 different one. And now i understand this group must have been taken of a family possibly the same day. Does anyone know what years these small ones were made, I have a ton as you have all seen, and this group and glass prints have no names on them? I do have a group of tintypes 2" by 3" of girls all dressed up, I do understand who these girls are from our family. And have remembered their faces in these groups, so i have found Cabinet and cvd prints of the same girls. My problem is going back to tiny Tin Types. don't recognize any faces. Last comment is this very important favor from you guys. In 1849 a captain of a ship from Salem died off France buried at sea. His 4 children were all born then and grew up around here and died in our house all from 1905-1922. They left photo albums and a ton of Glass. Tintypes, Cdv, Cabinet and prints mounted on boards.These must have been expensive to mount, I have 6 8/10s or bigger i know are from before 1873. So would the Captain who died 1849 have tintypes or only glass prints from this year, he was the son of a very famous family who did get shot on all people in family.
  7. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, crabbykins!
  8. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Hi filmnet ... unless there is provenance or other clues in the images, dating tintypes (ferrotypes, melainotype) is very difficult. The process was first described in 1853, and the very earliest melainotype plates usually have manufacturer's identification and patent dates. Tintypes also had a very long life-span and were shot by street photographers well into the 1900s.

    In regards to your question about the ship's captain (if I understand correctly), when he died in 1849 glass plate photography (e.g. collodion) and tintype process had not yet been invented or introduced into the market. Therefore any pictures the captain had in his possession would have to be daguerreotypes (singular images on silver plated copper plates). For example, the wet collodion process (on glass plates) was introduced in the 1850s.
  9. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, vetraio50!
  10. ho2cultcha ho2cultcha, 5 years ago
    'and he told two friends...'

    'and she told two friends...'
  11. scottvez scottvez, 5 years ago
    Rob, take a look at my new posting when you have a chance-- I think a photo guy will appreciate like I do!

  12. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, pops52!
  13. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, mustangtony!
  14. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, Hardbrake!
  15. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    ho2cultcha ... funny and thanks for stopping by!
  16. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, bratjdd!
  17. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, Eric!
  18. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, filmnet!
  19. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, walksoftly!
  20. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, officialfuel!
  21. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, ho2cultcha!
  22. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, Hunter!
  23. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, Kevin (aka AR8Jason)!
  24. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, pops52!
  25. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, musikchoo!
  26. rniederman rniederman, 5 years ago
    Thanks, lisa!
  27. scottvez scottvez, 4 years ago
    Hey rob-- take a look at this one:

    Not as unusual as a 9 photo sheet, but still hard to find.

  28. scottvez scottvez, 4 years ago
    You beat me to it rob!

  29. rniederman rniederman, 2 years ago
    An overdue thanks, Trey!

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