Category Archives: Tintypes

The mystery occupational tintype

Occupational tintype ca 1880's. Private Collection.

Occupational tintype ca 1880’s. Private Collection.

This teen is posing with a CDV size piece of paper in his hand. He’s also sitting on what looks to be a hanging dark oil cloth. He’s resting his arm on some sort of machine behind him. A Difference Machine as was suggested by another collector? I’m not sure but this looks to me like it is photography or plate printing related. The seller thought it was a voting machine. A person suggested it is a balustrade, but I digress…I welcome opinions.  What is it? 


Blue collar cigar smoking duo


1/6th plate tintype. c. 1880’s. Private Collection.

A close-up portrait of two collarless gents smoking cigars. The one on the right looks like he shouldn’t be messed with! By comparison, his friend looks much more approachable. And Mr. Tough has his hand on his friend’s shoulder, a protective and dominant gesture? He comes off as the leader of the two.

They didn’t bother to change into better garbs either, a rip is prominent on the pants. Once again, what their lives were like is mystery, yet one can’t help but wonder.

What a Fine Time


1880s-90s 1/6th plate tintype. Private Collection.

Together we laughed, we cried, we played. We danced!  And we drank, much more than you. We knew all the fine people too.

We tasted joys and pains, early springs and rains. We mourned lost lives, so fragile, more often than you.

Our time did come to an end. We are gone now, that’s true. Of all we felt remains a plated memory once in these hands, for you.

Ah, but what a fine time we had, what a fine time. We made it through! Say, will we meet again, at the call of a baby’s coo?


Click for larger detail

Ribbons, medals and a parasol

Close up of tintype. Four wearing ribbons and medals. Private collection.

These four are definitely Americans wearing ribbons on the chest. One has the two crossed flags with an eagle at the bottom. The other ribbon reads I was sober when I came. :) Two of these gentlemen also wear a medal next to the ribbons. I think this was an electoral or semi formal military event, and the three in light clothes are wearing military uniforms with the black tie tucked in. One’s wearing a fancy black ribbon bowtie I’ve also seen worn with uniforms but seems to have been less common. They’re all wearing the same hat too.

The gent to the back right chose to wear a civilian suit with pins on the lapel, but he looks to have a uniform shirt and tie on under the coat. Maybe this event wasn’t formal enough to require a strict dress code. Interesting too that one of them is wearing a double buckle belt (maybe only interesting to me but worth mentioning…)

The chinese parasol made me laugh; it adds a soft, even humorous touch to this group portrait.

I think this was taken in the 1900s. Finding out what event the ribbon with the flags was for would help date this picture more accurately.

1/6th tintype. Private collection.

Tintype in mat with flap.

The boy with the bowler


1/6th plate tintype. 1880s-90s teen with bowler in hand. Private Collection.

A mid-teens sitter with his bowler in hand.

Hauntingly soulful

The Christ-like farmer. Tintype. Private Collection.

The contemplative worker. Tintype. Private Collection.

This tintype is interesting. It came into a home cut and sewn simple leather frame and is a little over 3.5″ x 4″ (a bit larger than a quarter plate). The seller who does not specialize in vintage pictures didn’t know if it is a repro or not, only that it came from an estate. I was ready to accept the gamble. To my relief (and joy) it is neither new or a reproduction: this photograph has marks from the leather mat bleeding onto the sides and shows the usual scuffs of vintage tintypes. Also it has no dot matrix typical of repros.

Yes, I opened the sleeve from the bottom.

But I can’t date it. This portrait could have been taken anytime between 1890-1960 (using the original method) but I’m thinking 1910s-1920s for some reason. I don’t think it is more recent than around the 60s though; it takes decades to have such side marks from the frame. Yes, that’s quite the window! In a way I like the timelessness of it. I wish I could make out what’s behind him. It looks like some type of construction. There is few if any clue I can use. While dress shirts became the norm for suits around WWI, they were already in use by blue collars much before that and are still in use.  The hair could be from anytime and I don’t know enough of overalls “fashion” (lol). If anyone wishes to chime in on dating this tintype, please do!

edit: after talking with some experts on Facebook, this tintype was most likely taken in the 1970s! 

The back is black and pristine, mostly because this tintype was put in that sleeve right after it was made. But the scuffs on the front and the type of sleeve lead me to want to believe a person may have carried the portrait on themselves for a while.

His eyes look haunting on his soiled face. And with his long hair, this young worker’s expression reminds me of depictions of Christ in art (minus the beard). He’s mesmerizing; there’s depth, tiredness and maybe sadness. I see him being late teens and still growing, his neck awkwardly too long. He reminds me of the rural worker.

So Bummed…

 Tintype. Private Collection.

Man with eye injury and his friend. Tintype. Private Collection.

This unfortunate gent with the injured eye had to wear a bandage wrapped around the head for his portrait picture. He looks so down. Was he in pain and worried he’d lost an eye for good? Let’s hope he fully recovered, otherwise he was going to have to get used to it and looking at his expression he wasn’t in the least thrilled.

His friend is wearing a lucky horseshoe tie stack…I wonder if he was with the other man when the accident happened. They have boutonnieres too, one has it on the coat lapel and the other on the cravat. But if they attended an event that day, this poor lad doesn’t look like he was in the best mood to be social.

Today is not my day…pout.

Also, the backdrop design looks Arabic with a tall waterfall in the background. The right panel looks like a completely separate design, the painted window looking more American with the bottom panel supposed to slide up.

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