Highlights from the Collection (part 4)
Tintypes, also know as ferrotypes, were the snapshots of their day. With an amazingly long run in popularity, they were inexpensive, widely available and relatively "instantaneous" (exposures were probably seconds long rather than minutes) alternatives to the more rarefied daguerreotype. Beginning in 1856 or so they brought photographic portraiture to the middle and lower classes, soared in popularity during the Civil War and eventually found a permanent place at fairs, resorts, and carnivals well into the 20th century.
The daguerreotype was a single, very fragile (and costly) confection of glass, buffed copper and silver--the image produced was shimmering, luminous and mesmerizingly detailed. But what the stolid tintype (which was exposed onto a plate of iron, hence the ferr of ferrotype, not tin) lacked in refinement it more than made up for in its availability, and was often produced in multiples. The tintype allowed soldiers, sweethearts, friends, tourists, babies, couples, and even pets their moment in the spotlight.
Images from top: detail and full image of a young woman c. 1870s; a Gem tintype (approx 1.5" x 2") in handmade and decorated frame, inscription says, "Carrie Sherman 12 years old Feb 11 1896-- this picture taken March 28 1896"; mysterious woman in printed paper frame, tinted cheeks and ribbon, c late 1860s; floppy baby c 1870s; young couple c late 1860s--the woman is almost smiling which is quite rare.