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History, Conservation, and Repair The history of photographic prints, and how best to care for and repair them.

A very old photograph

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  #1  
Old 06-24-2005, 09:12 PM
Craig Walters's Avatar
Craig Walters Craig Walters is offline
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A very old photograph

i wasnt sure where to post this, but this forum seemed the most appropriate. if not, could a moderator please move it to where it would be.

this is, what i think, a photo of a photo. the original is apparently lost, but someone made a re-photo before the original was destroyed or lost...i think. and that's why i'm posting this. i'd like folks to analyze this also and give me your evaluation of what this might be.

the picture is of my great, great, grandmother, who died circa 1889. that means the picture was taken some time before that, maybe around 1880.

i can tell you a bit about the photo you may not be able to tell from the image. there are no studio markings or writing of any kind on the front or back, except where on the back my mother has penned who this was and a tiny bit of data about her. it is done on a very stiff piece of something resembling compressed cardboard, roughly 1/16th of an inch thick. the back is naturally faded and dirty and there was no frame with the picture.

ok, the other reason i'm posting this is just because i think it's an interesting picture. i've been going through my mother's BOXES of old photos and picking out some gems to retouch. i've run across about a half dozen tintypes so far and have scanned those already and some real great period pieces that i might post later if anyone has an interest. these are delightful. the clothing, cars and so on are really quite a study

Craig
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Old 06-27-2005, 01:28 AM
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Craig Walters Craig Walters is offline
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well, i solved part of the mystery! i found another old tintype of which this photo is from! someone, at some point, apparently made a photograph of just this woman. in the original tintype there are actually two women. someone either made another of just the one woman or made one of both and cut the one out and pasted it onto a piece of pressed cardboard. fascinating!

i'm going to guess that they were trying to save the tintype, or rather the content of same. the tintype is fairly dark. i've scanned it and am in the process of cleaning up the scan.

does anyone know when tintypes were prevalent? i'd like to try and date this more precisely.

Craig
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Old 06-27-2005, 08:10 AM
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CJ Swartz CJ Swartz is offline
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There are sites with info about the history of photography, and info about tintypes, cabinet cards, etc. -- we used to have a couple of people here with knowledge about those areas, but I'm not sure that they still visit the site.

Here's a start:

http://www.rleggat.com/photohistory/history/tintype.htm
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Old 06-27-2005, 09:29 AM
Jaime Jaime is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kraellin
does anyone know when tintypes were prevalent? i'd like to try and date this more precisely.
Craig
Tintypes: introduced in 1856. Peak years: 1860-1863. Waned: 1865-1867. Tintypes marks the end of the cased images. At the beginning of the Civil War started to be placed inside of carte de visite sized sleeves.
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Old 06-27-2005, 09:32 AM
MaryLynn MaryLynn is offline
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Kraelin, my reference books date tintypes from 1856 into the 1930s. The fact that they were less expensive and more durable made them very popular.

We'll have to rely on the dress style to date this photograph. The close fitting bodice and knife pleat bottom of the skirt are good representations of late 1870s to mid 1880s so your estimate of 1880 is pretty good. A scan of the original tintype showing the other person might be helpful in dating.

The dark background of the cabinet card, the cardboard you describe, might also help date the reproduction. I'll have to do a little more study later.

Hope this helps, and good for you in going through those old photographs. Aren't they amazing?

MaryLynn
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Old 06-27-2005, 04:08 PM
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thank you all!

well, i know it's not later than 1889. she died then according to the markings on the back of the copied image. there are no markings whatsoever on the tintype image. it's quite small, about 2 inches by 3 inches or so. the 'paper' is clearly steel and it's a bit bent here and there and quite dark, but the detail is remarkably good in my estimation.

i've converted the original scan that was in .bmp format to .jpg to post here. the compression wasnt too bad so most of the detail is still there.

and yes, i love this stuff. my mother has a ton of this stuff, tintypes, old pressed cardboard types and more. i could spend the rest of my life just working on her stuff. i've also found pictures of some of her old boyfriends and am currently working on a blackmail scheme... much to her dismay... and amusement

also, i dont normally ask this of pictures i post on retouch, but i'd prefer these not be copied or distributed, other than for your own personal practice or posting here.

Craig
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Old 06-28-2005, 10:22 AM
MaryLynn MaryLynn is offline
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Kraellin, what a marvelous image! I downloaded the tintype and did a levels adjustment so I could see the clothing and hairstyle better and think we might push the date back to the mid to late 1870s.

Have you identified the younger woman? This might help in dating as well.

Did you crop the tintype when you scanned it? The first image you posted showed a pleated ruffle on the skirt that is not showing up here. Looks as if there was some high-tech retouching going on when they produced the cabinet card.

Don't worry, your image will go no further than my "things to work on" folder. I enjoy the challenge of dating these old photos and learning more about the people in them.
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Old 06-28-2005, 01:56 PM
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sadly, i have no other information about the picture(s). these were handed down to my mother from my grandmother and my grandmother passed away a number of years ago. my mother knows only what is printed on the backs of the various pictures she obtained. we know the woman sitting was my great-great grandmother and her name, but not who the other woman is.

and i hadnt even noticed the difference in the skirt before. good catch. as far as i know or can tell from the tintype, there is no evidence to support the addition on the skirt. the scan was fine and nothing left out. in fact, i even scanned this one twice. the first time i did a batch scan of several of these and then did this one all by itself at 300 dpi. whoever did the cabinet card (ok, so that's what that's called), must have added that in, or, the tintype was cut off at the bottom at some point. i'll have to look at it again to see if that was what happened. i've already returned it to my mother.

1870's... interesting and thank you if you find out anything more i'd love to hear it.

also, if you'd like to see more of these, i have a whole batch of these which i'm looking at to restore. i've already scanned some and returned them, but i've a whole folder not even scanned yet and my mother has BOXES full of photos of various sorts and ages ranging from the older tintypes to photos hand colorized by the studio where they were taken, to studio shots of a cute distant relative, to a bare-bottomed picture of herself as a baby, to marvelous period stuff like old cars and clothing, to, well, just about anything and everything. quite a treasure trove i could quite literally spend the rest of my life JUST working on all this stuff. so, if there's something of particular interest, such as the period clothing, let me know.

and thank you for respecting my wishes. i've posted what i've posted more or less with my mother's permission, but more like tacit consent and a raised eyebrow

Craig
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Old 06-28-2005, 06:21 PM
MaryLynn MaryLynn is offline
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Of course! The tintype you have was cut off at the bottom from a larger original! The cabinet card was made from the larger original.

Tintypes are actually iron but got the name of tintype because they were cut with tin shears or tinsnips. They came in several sizes, the majority were 6 1/2" by 8 1/2". When cameras with multiple lenses were invented, identical portraits could be produced in one sitting. Source: Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs by Maureen Taylor.

It sounds as if you indeed have your work cut out for you. At first you will be drawn in by their unique nature but soon you'll be noticing family characteristics. Then you'll get out the magnifying glass to compare noses, eyebrows and earlobes. Or, with image software you may be layering one image on top of another to see if they match.

Btw, don't be afraid to talk to great great grandmother while you're working on her picture. She just might reveal some of her personality!

I will caution you though; if you aren't careful, you could become a genealogist! One little fact about someone makes you want to know more.

Please feel free to private message me if there are images you would rather not post. I have several books that I use for dating photos from 1840s into the 1920s and as I said before, I love the challenge.
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Old 06-28-2005, 09:35 PM
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Quote:
The tintype you have was cut off at the bottom from a larger original! The cabinet card was made from the larger original.
maybe... i'll try and verify this tomorrow.

well, these are quite small then. i just measured one. it's 2 3/8 x 3 5/8. and most definitely metal, though i dont really know if iron or steel. they are fairly thin, being about the thickness of maybe two business cards put together. i have five of these currently in my possession and on the backs of each there is a black to reddish-black glossy coating, like an emulsion that is hardened and streaked a bit on some. there are no text markings on any of them. no etchings of any kind either. and each one is slightly different in size, though all fairly close in size.

is there any way to tell what the metal type is for sure? shld i scratch the back side as a test maybe? i'm guessing that that coating on the back is perhaps to keep them from rusting...perhaps.

hehe, well, so far great-great grandmum hasnt said much and my dad's the geneaologist, not me. i'm the restorer though, i do admit, there is one of a gentleman that sort of looks like ulysses s. grant that i'm curious about.

ok....d'oh! i still have the one of great-great grandma! it was still in the scanner! lol. and it wasnt cut off at the bottom at all.... the image is so dark that apparently the scanner read it as part of the absorbsion pad! hang on, i'm going to scan it again with a piece of paper around it.....

ok, we'll chalk that one up to getting older

here's the new scan:

boy, now i have to start over on the restoration... lol.

Craig
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