Tin Types / Ferrotypes (1854-1930)

The invention of the tintype in 1854 brought the reality of photography closer to the mass population. A Tintype consisted of a thin iron ( not actually tin ) plate coated with a wet collodion emulsion. Once developed the tintype exhibited crisp detail on a varied gray background. The average tintype was about 2.5 x 3.5″ however many other sizes were produced, including miniature tintypes the size of postage stamps. Initially presented in ornate cases with pressed metal boarders similar to that of the Daguerreotype, most tintypes were housed in decorative card sleeves, specially designed albums or often left loose. While certainly more robust than a Daguerreotype, the tintypes emulsion was sensitive and often scratched due to careless handling. While sharing the one off nature of the Daguerreotype the tintype was more simple and economical to produce. The portrait studio business boomed with the introduction of the tintype, and a portrait sitting fell well within the reach of the average family. Studios often used cameras mounted with several lenses enabling them to produce up to a dozen exposures on a single plate. One could now share a copy of their portrait with family and friends, even those abroad. With the rapid advances in photography the tintype was mostly superceded by the 1880’s, however they remained an available novelty from traveling and “street photographers” into the first quarter of the 20th century.