Tintypes

10 Jun

tintype

The above photograph of a house is in the Goochland County Historical Society collection. It is undated and unidentified but the process used to create the photograph can at least be identified. It is a tintype, a very popular form of photography that was spanned from the 1850’s to the 1930’s. The peak of popularity was the 1860’s and 1870’s. Today, it is still used to create souvenir pictures at carnivals and theme parks.

Also known as melainotype and ferrotype, tintypes are thin sheets of metal that are coated with chemicals, exposed to light and could be ready in as little as 60 seconds. As with most types of early photography, toxic chemicals were used. The “fixer” for the image on tintypes was usually potassium cyanide, a highly dangerous chemical and deadly poison.

Due to the lack of exposure time, tintypes were the most widely used form of photography of its time. The tintype was very portable and could be housed in ornamental cases, made into jewelry or simply carried around in paper sleeves. They were durable and not prone to breakage like the main competitor process, ambrotype, which is fixed on a glass plate.

Tintypes are very collectible today and the Society has a few that are very beautiful. If anyone can identify the house or its location, please let us know.

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