Category Archives: Tintypes

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.


That nagging woman again!

1880s tintype. Private Collection.

“I’m just going to pretend she’s not here.” 1/6th plate tintype. Private Collection.

In fact, posing like this I’m sure these two had the best of relationships. They weren’t going to pose like all the others; too boring! I think this is a small horse whip she’s teasingly tickling him with from behind the tree, or is it an arrow? But what is he reading, a love letter? For his own sake it better be hers!

How would you caption this one?


A flashy smile on a tintype

A particularly flashy smile on a tintype. Private Collection.

A particularly flashy smile on a tintype. Private Collection.

These two dapper gents in their 30s are posing in front of a cloudy and hilly backdrop all smile! The people with them must have said something really funny for them to look this entertained! This tintype seems late period, maybe around 1910. Their popularity dropped in the first decade of the 1900s, but they were still fairly common with travelling photographers until the 20s.

The glare is from a small bend in the middle reflecting the scanner light. Unfortunately many tintypes have such bends through decades of handling.


Student and Mentor

1/6th plate tintype. Private Collection.

Were they? The more mature gentleman has on his right hand (reversed) a round stone ring on display, and his striped pair of pants! They remind me of circus ringmasters. The photographer added gold tones to the younger gent’s triple chain.

They’re both resting their elbows on the small table between them; a pose at professional distance, and they do not look related to me. Business partners or student and mentor? We will never know for sure, but they looked respectable.


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