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April 18, 2021

Identifying Ancestor Photos: Tintypes

Genealogists often have old family photos in their possession or they find some in Great Aunt Matilda's attic. But how do we know when the photograph was taken? One method is to determine what type of photograph it is. 

Photography arrived in the United States in 1839 thanks to Samuel F. B. Morse, an American artist and inventor.The earliest type is the Daguerreotype. Ambrotypes followed, coming into use circa 1854. By 1855 Tinytypes had begun to replace Ambrotypes

Tintypes (circa 1855)

The Ferrotype process (tintypes) was introduced in the United States in 1855. It substituted an iron plate for glass and was even cheaper than the ambrotype. Because tintypes were placed in albums along with CDVs, they were often trimmed at the sides and corners.

Tintypes were produced in various sizes
  • Full plate 6 1/2" x 8 1/2"
  • Half plate 4 1/2" x 51/2"
  • 1/4 plate 3 1/8" x 4 1/8"
  • 1/6 plate 2 1/2" x 3 1/2"
  • 1/9 plate 2" x 2 ½"
  • Gem approximately 1/2" x 1"
Examples of Tintypes

Gem Tintype

9th plate Tintype

Watch my video on Five Types of Early 19th Century Photographs

Read more about Tintypes on Lost Faces website

1 comment:

Elise Ann Wormuth said...

Thanks for your post. I have a beautiful tintype of my grandparents that was hand painted on top of the photograph. I treasure it.