Musings on optics, physics, astronomy, technology and life

Looking for more information about various types of mid-19th-century photographic technology for my next feature article — details to follow, I promise!

Ohio History Connection Collections Blog

Recently a number of patrons have contacted us asking how to identify and care for tintypes they found in their famiy photograph collections. Read more to find out if you might have a tintype of your own.

When were they introduced?
They were patented by Hamilton L. Smith of Gambier, Ohio in 1856 and quickly became a popular photographic format. Early tintypes were often presented in cases to resemble the more fragile daguerreotypes and ambrotypes. While daguerreotypes and ambrotypes needed the protection provided by cases, tintypes were far more durable.

How long were they made?
They became popular during the Civil War because they were cheaper and lighter weight than daguerreotypes and ambrotypes. Though most popular in the 1850s and 1860s, tintypes could still be purchased in the U.S. as late as the 1930s, particularly in touristy places like amusement parks and fairs.

Why are they called tintypes?
The name…

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