This portrait is a beautiful early example of tin buttons the Chicago based Columbia Portrait Company used to make. The three founders Thomas J. Ogara, Thomas J. Durkin, and C.M. Stumcke incorporated in 1893 and the company was successful for nearly half a century before closing its doors in 1940. The name of the company was inspired by the Chicago’s World Fair of 1893 where they must have made their introduction. They made fine oil reproduction portraits and framed button “bubble” photographs they then began to sell on the road across the country.
So let’s talk about this young gentleman. I believe his portrait is very likely the reproduction of a cabinet card/cdv/tintype. The picture is sharp and he was dressed to impress. His tie stack is impressive too, is this a large gemstone set with smaller ones? (I’m tempted to say they’re diamonds). The button is a smooth matte; unlike the later celluloid examples I’ve seen which have a plasticity or “bubble” effect to them. This portrait looks more like a tintype. I wonder if the young man was at the fair and had it done then and there.
When I saw this button portrait I knew I had to have it. I was thrilled to find a tintype-like photograph in this format, with the sitter easily fitting in this collection. It needed quite a bit of cleaning up too. I usually keep originals alone but I’m looking to find out how to renovate the frame and cover a few age stains.