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Tin Type Treasure Trove

Discussion in 'General Technical Discussion' started by TexIndian, Apr 9, 2007.

  1. My mom passed away a couple years ago and I'm still trying to get through all those boxes of stuff. I swear that woman never threw anything out.

    But this evening, I stumbled across 7 tin type photos. They were just stacked on top of each other and piled in a box of the usual photos of people I'd never seen. They obviously are showing the signs of abuse, but these are the only tin types I've ever actually held in my hand.

    Since they're not wearing buckskins, I assume these are my dad's ancestors. The men do look kinda like my dad. They came from Belfast to North Carolina, and left there after the Civil War and moved to Oklahoma. I'm guessing these were taken before that move. Here's a couple:

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    View attachment 89811

    Does anyone have any experience with these. Other than putting them in the usual protective sleeves, I don't have a clue about storing them, much less about any restoration work that might be possible. Most of them are very dark, as if they continued to 'develop' over time, or were reacting to ambient light (just guessing here).
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 9, 2007
  2. Tintypes (actually they were made of thin iron sheets) appeared in the mid-1850s and were popular until about 1900.

    To put them in historical perspective, Daguerreotypes (silvered copper) were produced from 1839 to about 1860, Ambrotypes (glass) from about 1851 to around 1866, and various paper processes from the 1850 to today.

    They are difficult to date unless they came in a case or had some sort of verifiable documentation. In general the silvery ones were probably better made and exposed and are earlier than the later darker ones, which sometimes run to a chocolately color. Many street venders and itinerant peddlers made tintypes and they are often poorly exposed and finished. You have evidence of that in your group. The top one is actually quite nice isn't it?

    They do not have to be sleeved to be stored, just treat them carefully and keep them dry.
  3. Thanks, Mike. The metal these emulsions are laid on seems to be pretty heavy in lead content, at least based on the color and softness. A couple are crumpled quite a bit simply because of abuse mixed with lack of stiffness. The ones pictured above are the two largest (4"x6 roughly), while some of the others are only about 2 inches across. There doesn't seem to be any 'standard' in size or perspective ratio among them. This is one reason I was already thinking they were from a street vendor rather than an established portrait shop. Plus, that side of the family was poor dirt farmers for the most part.
  4. Gr8Tr1x

    Gr8Tr1x Guest

    Very cool, thanks for sharing.
  5. 6x8 was called a full plate
    4x6 is a half plate
    3x4 is a quarter plate

    There were also smaller sizes called 16th plates and gems.
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