I have a lot of tintypes, and I should know more about their technical background and archival requirements (here's a place to start, from a Google search that offers many more resources). And as for what they can disclose as documents... I've often focused my interest on the risible and the bizarre, but it strikes me that tintypes offer something else: they record fashion pretty crisply, and the opportunity to look through a large set may provoke insights that aren't readily available in looking at one or two.

Hand-coloring seems to have been a means to deal with the low contrast and corpselike pallor...

Anyhow, on this page I'll put some of the most interesting of my tintype hoard, with open-ended comments that I may folllow up later. I notice that there's quite a collection of tintypes on Flickr, and I really should add these to the set.


Photoshop allows me to recover obscurities, via adjustment of brightness and contrast. Sometimes this reveals details that are pretty difficult to see in the originals.


Many tintypes are about 3 x 4 (and some as small as 1 x 1), but I have a few that are larger. This pair of 6 x 8s has been hand-colored:
Tin couple

The original of this one is about 7 x 9:

This one is also about 7 x 9, and shows pretty much every pore:

The original of this one is so dark that it's difficult to make out the expression. A bit of Photoshop magic reveals depths of sadness that (combined with the clothing) confirm the initial diagnosis of 'widow' (original at left):

I don't know how to diagnose the bedraggled Liza Dolittle mien of this one:

The detail can sometimes be very crisp. In this one, the fur is in perfect focus, but the child is a bit blurry:

Even the smaller tintypes were retouched to make the subjects more lifelike:


Another property of tintypes is the rather frozen appearance of the subjects, because of the long exposures required by the medium. There's a lot of leaning and questionable hand placement:



let me just lean on you...

buttons and hand

Hard to say whether the beard is more or less regrettable than the hair:
more bad hair

Plaid as fashion accessory:

Some do look ill:

Others are simply natty, and maybe a tad crosseyed:


Fashions change, and it's a good thing:
plenty of ruffles

still more ruffles


...but this gentleman's garb isn't so very different from contemporary soup-and-fish attire:

Sometimes the age is hard to guess:
indeterminate age

Sometimes the details are the important thing. Consider the unbuttoned suspender... and the eyes communicate that the soul is being stolen:

Which twin has the Toni?
same dude twice