What Are Tintype Photographs?

If you’ve ever been to an antique store, you’ve likely seen a tintype. This format was prolific in the mid-to-late 19th Century, and is only overcome by the Cabinet Card and Carte de Visite.

While the most accepted and known name is “tintypes,” they are also known as Melainotypes or Ferrotypes.  They began gaining popularity in the late 1850s, and were wildly popular in the 1860s.  This is largely due to it’s comparison against it’s predecessors the Ambrotype and the Daguerreotype.

Unlike the earlier forms the tintype was very durable.  It did not require a protective case or glass, and could easily be carried in one’s pocket.  A lot of tintypes came in decorative paper frames, some of which were beautifully embossed with decoration.

They were also much cheaper and convenient. A photographer could create a finished tintype in a matter of a few minutes, and the varying offerings of plate sizes also allowed them to create multiple images at once.

Although they tintype was largely surpassed in overall popularity by the 1870s, its use continued on well into the early 1900s.  They were very popular at carnivals and tourist attractions

For more in-depth reading on the subject, check out these great sources:

The Tintype

Phototree – Tintype