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Dating a full plate Tintype photo

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  • Dating a full plate Tintype photo

    Hi, I have a tintype photo that I am trying to date. The photo measures 6 inches x 8 inches. The thickness of the metal is .013. This photo belonged to a relative (John Evans) who lived between 1864-1924. The gentleman in the photo does not look like John Evans, when compared to several other known photos. So, I assume the photo is of another family member.

    I have read through several web sites on dating old tintype photos. I have a few questions and I'd like your opinion on the photo. Was there a time frame when a larger 6X8 tintype would have been made? The surface of the photo is very smooth over the subject in the photo, except where it is tinted. The background is quite rough and appears to be painted a solid gray / silver color. Does this help with dating the photo? Any ideas on dating the clothes that he is wearing or the scratched inscription on the back of the photo?

    I am doing a family genealogy and it would a big help to be able to date this photo to before or after 1870. I would greatly appreciate help, link to a tintype photo historian and your opinions on my old tintype photo.

    Attached Files

  • #2
    Re: Dating a full plate Tintype photo

    Hi, I'm still looking for help dating this photo before or after 1870. Here's my reason for dating this photo. If it dates before 1870 or at least 1869, there is a possibility that this is a photo of my gg grandfather who was killed in the Avondale Mine Disaster 1869. 110 anthracite coal miners perished on Sept 6, 1869 at the Avondale Mine, Plymouth Twp north east Pennsylvania.

    I'll like your opinion on whether this tintype looks like it is a "brown period" tintype.



    • #3
      Re: Dating a full plate Tintype photo

      Steve - What it looks to me is that it is a tintype of an older image. At the bottom you can see the remnant of the gold border of an oval, and I am assuming that this is part of the original image and not a present border. It was not uncommon to have a photographer take a photograph of an existing image. The original was probably also a tintype as well as they were often placed in a CDV size cardstock with the oval opening and gold border. Then, some sort of backing was attached to hold the tintype in place. Even if made after 1869, it could still be your gg grandfather and this image was made to memorialize him.

      Also, the word "Ives" on the back was likely the name of the artist who did the painting. In my opinion the reddish looking letters above it read "G.O. Ives" and someone, maybe the artist, rewrote "Ives" to be more legible.



      • #4
        Re: Dating a full plate Tintype photo

        I dont know anything about this kind of stuff but in my attempt to read it, the 3rd image to me seems to say:


        Dont know if that is true but hope it helps,


        • #5
          Re: Dating a full plate Tintype photo

          Keven - I think you are right about there being numbers scratched into the surface. I sort of thought earlier that it was 7577, but that just might be a one instead of a 7 at the beginning. might be a 9. There is a little loop at the top, but scratching a curve into the surface was not an easy task. Either way it could be a date.



          • #6
            Re: Dating a full plate Tintype photo

            We all are about 5 months late in answering this request.. hope Steve is not to upset with us and drops back in sometime.. sorry I missed this post earlier!

            Maybe this could have helped some:

            Dating_Period Costume_History_Pictures_TinTypes, ETC
            Victorian and Edwardian Photographs - Roger Vaughan Personal Collection
            Main website

            Victorian and Edwardian Period Clothing, Photos, TinTypes, ETC

            Attached Files


            • #7
              Re: Dating a full plate Tintype photo

              Originally posted by mattie View Post
              I sort of thought earlier that it was 7577, but that just might be a one instead of a 7 at the beginning. might be a 9. There is a little loop at the top, but scratching a curve into the surface was not an easy task. Either way it could be a date.
              I'd agree that it could also be a 7 or 9, But my thought is that if the last two numbers are 7's, The look very similar and near matches. Why would this person have a problem doing the fist 7 (assuming it is one). I also don’t see why the Person would have trouble making a round 9 as they made a near circle right above it.

              My thought was 1 because it looks like the small thing at the top of a one. Like below, all forms of one. Maybe they were trying to make it fancy...but in the end confusing the reader.

              Attached Files


              • #8
                Re: Dating a full plate Tintype photo

                Thanks for the replies. You know, I never thought about it being a photo of an earlier photo. Ok. I'm looking at the photo. The light colored, oval boarder at the bottom does look like part of the photo. The boarder feels smooth and seems to be cut off, on a diagonal straight line, at the left lower side. The entire background of the photo is painted in and has a rough, sandy feel, to it. I'm wondering if the oval boarder continued all the way around the photo. But, is covered up by the painted background.

                Onto the back of the photo. The smeared reddish letters above the name"ives" looks like Jones. I'm not familiar with any Jones in my family. So, I'll have to check into that. As I mentioned in my original post, the name of my great grandfather John J. Evans, is written in pencil across the top. Apparently, a lot of my family members had the habit of writing their names on photos that belonged to them.

                The name or word that is scratched into the top right side of the back, sure look like "b?i r or n s. Below are the numbers " 9 or 7 5 77.

                Is there any other info that I can provide to help identify the time period or ID of this tintype?

                Thanks for your help, it's really appreciated.


                • #9
                  Re: Dating a full plate Tintype photo

                  Can you send me a larger file of the original? I see some things but can't be wholy certain without blowing it up and examining it closer.


                  • #10
                    Re: Dating a full plate Tintype photo

                    Maybe this will help.

                    Tintypes are a near relative of the Daguerrotype. The Daguerrotype was made with an emultion of silver halide over a silver or copper plate. Due to the expense of the original Daguerrotype, tintypes quickly took their place. It was virtually the same process, but on tin instead, which significantly reduced the cost of production, and consequently the retail price to the client.
                    However, both had brief life spans. They were ultimately replaced by the Callotype, which, for one, used a negative, and for two, didn't require the same chemical mixtures, the gases of which (in the Daguerrotype/tintype) had killed more than a few careless photographers.
                    By the late 1840s, the albumen page had taken the high seat, along with negatives and gold chloride toning.

                    While it is certainly reasonable to say that a tintype could have been produced at any given point in time (even today), just as a world of digital photography can certainly produce a film-negative image, the reality is that for a normal consumer, with the lower cost associated with the Callotype and other emerging processes, the danger involved in the tintype from the cyanide gas byproducts, and the sheer popularity of the albumen page by the 1850s, a tintype wasn't typically the sort of image one would have chosen to have produced.

                    Your tintype very likely predates 1870. In fact, it probably predates 1850. To have produced a tintype after 1870 would be like someone using an Instamatic or Brownie today. While any of them can certainly be used or produced, it's not reasonably plausible without a justifiable excuse.


                    • #11
                      Re: Dating a full plate Tintype photo

                      The process was first described by Adolphe-Alexandre Martin in France in 1853, and patented in the United States on February 19, 1856 by Hamilton Smith, professor at Kenyon College, in Ohio. William Kloen also patented the process in the United Kingdom in the same year. It was first called melainotype, and then ferrotype (by a rival manufacturer of the iron plates used); finally came the name tintype. All three names describe both the process and the resulting photograph.[1]

                      [edit] Ambrotype
                      The ambrotype was the first wet-plate collodion process, invented by Frederick Scott Archer in 1851 and introduced in the United States by James Ambrose Cutting in 1854.

                      [edit] Success of the tintype
                      While the ambrotype remained very popular in the rest of the world, the tintype process had superseded the ambrotype in the United States by the end of the Civil War. It became the most common photographic process until the introduction of modern, gelatin-based processes and the invention of the reloadable amateur camera by the Kodak company. Ferrotypes had waned in popularity by the end of the 19th century, although a few makers were still around as late as the 1950s and the images are still made as novelties at some European carnivals.
                      that's from wikipedia.

                      and this is from another site on the history of photography, :

                      First, see Ambrotype. The tintype, also known as a ferrotype, is a variation on this, but produced on metallic sheet (not, actually, tin) instead of glass. The plate was coated with collodion and sensitized just before use, as in the wet plate process. It was introduced by Adolphe Alexandre Martin in 1853**, and became instantly popular, particularly in the United States, though it was also widely used by street photographers in Great Britain.

                      intypes were eventually superseded by gelatin emulsion dry plates in the 1880s, though street photographers in various parts of the world continued with this process until the 1950s; the writer well remembers being photographed by one of these street photographers in Argentina, when he was a boy. Eventually, of course, 35mm and Polaroid photography were to replace these entirely.
                      so, if what you have is a tintype/ferrotype, then it dates to rougly 1853 to roughly 1880/90 or so... usually, with the exception of the novelty tintype, which lasts to this day. i have tintypes at home. mine date to around 1880, give or take a year or so. mine are clearer than yours. yours also seem to have had an additive paint for colorizing. this could have been done much later than the shot itself or shortly after the shot. so, the paint doesnt help much. i would also suggest that those numbers ending in 77 might well be a date, whether it's 1/9/77, 7/9/77, or something else, this would date your photo to 1877. but, as suggested by mattie, above, this could be a tintype of a tintype, or even a tintype of a deguerotype, which makes for an interesting twist and that could mean the 'date' as i'm calling it, could be when the duplicate was made, if it even is a date yeah, it can get confusing.

                      my next question would be, what type of metal is it on?

                      and my next question would be, what was your gg grandfather's name? it was very common to name a son after a father, so if your grandfather was john evans, it's also possible that your gg grandfather was john evans.

                      my best guess on this, without actually holding the tintype is, 1865 to 1875 or maybe as late at 1877 if that date is right. it could still be 1880 or later, but my gut feeling is not, unless it is a tintype of tintype, in which case the original was as i've dated here and the duplicate, whenever.

                      one thing you can also look at closely is, the veneer/varnish/emulsion of the image. look at this very closely under the best magnifier you can get your hands on. generally, the more cracking and darkening, the older it is. this might be the clue to determining if it was a tintype or a tintype of a tintype. the latter wouldnt be as severely crackled, though that can be a very relative and iffy thing depending on how the image was handled over the years.

                      also, i shld warn you, wear white, dust-free gloves when handling these images. the oils in your hands can hurt the surface.

                      and, if you're truly demanding of finding a more exact date on this, find a good conservatore and have them date it for you. you can also research clothing from the period on places like google images. here's a site on men's clothing that might help get you started:


                      • #12
                        Re: Dating a full plate Tintype photo


                        The photo is made out of a ferrous metal. The photo sure seems to be a tin type of an earlier tin type. There are two distinctly different surface textures on the photo. The subject's head, coat and hands have a very smooth and shiny appearance. They seem to have been colorized on the original photo. In contrast, the colorization on the subject's shirt, tie and the entire background are dull and have a rough texture. This texture difference is very apparent, when you look at the photo on an angle. It is colorization paint on top of a smooth finish. Also, the bottom oval boarder is smooth and looks like it was a part of the original. The finish on the lower right corner is cracked and some parts have deteriorated.

                        As far as, the subject. My g grandfather was John J. Evans (1863-1924). He wrote his name in pencil, across the top of the photo. Apparently, there were some issues of possession in his lifetime, because he wrote his name somewhere on every photo that he owned, no matter who was the subject. We have other photos of John J for comparrison and it is not him in the photo. His father John D. Evans (1836-1869), came to America from Wales, June 1865 and died in the Avondale, Pa. Mine Disaster, Sept. 6, 1869. He was 33 years old when he died. As I mentioned, if this indeed is a photo of John D Evans, then it is the only known photo of any of the 110 disaster victims. I belong to several local historical societies and this year, marked the 140th anniversary of the disaster. We placed a bronze plaque at the grave site of 61 Avondale victims, who are buried in Scranton, Pa. The event was covered by the local newspapers and tv station. I'm also involved in preserving the original Avondale Mine site, which is in rough shape.

                        I've attached a couple new scanned copies of the photo, which may show some better details. Also, I can email larger files of the photo, to anyone interested in helping date the tin type.

                        Thanks again
                        I appreciate all the help and comments on dating this tin type and the subject in the photo, before or after September 1869.

                        Attached Files


                        • #13
                          Re: Dating a full plate Tintype photo

                          Here's a pic of the tin type, taken on an angle with a digital cam. I do know that without personally seeing the tin type, it is still hard to see the difference in colorization textures, even this cropped section. But, this pic shows it better than a flat scanned image.


                          Attached Files


                          • #14
                            Re: Dating a full plate Tintype photo

                            It's not likely that it would be a tin-type of an earlier tin-type. There are two likely scenarios. (1) The original tin-types' coating could have been done in two separate applications, thus yielding the smoother finish in one area. It was common for tin-types to be hand colored. The problem with hand coloring was that often the coating available to one photographer was not always compatible with his coloring. So, he may have coated the surrounding area with something different. [In fact, coatings were a work in progress. Sometimes, the coating was experimental.] (2) The tin-type was damaged at some point in time. Another photographer either removed part of the coating to recolor it, or recoated the surrounding area to repair it.

                            Either way, you may be seeing differences in texture due to variations in the coating. All of the above may or may not make it more difficult to date. It is probably safe to assume that the tin-type has not been altered from its original form, under all the coatings. So, focus on the size, metal content, clothing, and other particulars supporting the date. It is often only possible to get +/- 10 years on these, as photographic techniques varied widely in different parts of the country; technology took a while to spread. By the time some rural photographers perfected the tin-types, large city photographers had moved on to newer technologies and coatings.


                            • #15
                              Re: Dating a full plate Tintype photo

                              Interesting. But, just to clarify what I mean by two distinct surface textures.The colorization on the subject's face, vest, jacket, hands as well as, the oval boarder around the bottom, look to literally be a part of the photo. Their surface is completely smooth, with no visible edge lines. Just like a color photograph. In contrast, the colorization on the subject's shirt and the entire background is dull and rough and is painted on top of the image.

                              As far as, the metal. The photo is 6 x 8 inches, .013 thick and is ferrous. I'm not sure what that tells me...
                              Since, the background is completely painted in, there are no features of furniture, etc. to help date it. The male subject's clothing and hair style are typical mid-late 1800's. I know it would be so much easier to date this photo, if the subject was a female (hairstyles, etc.) and there was a background.



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