Behold the Power of Tintypes

So I mentioned in my morning coffee that I had scored these tintypes at a festival this weekend. I want to take a closer look at these “photos” today. The first one I posted, in the roundup, is here:

What interests me the most about this is one is I’m almost positive it was taken at a carnival or festival of some sort. Why? Take a look at this area of the photo:

The blue tinting represents an area that I believe is a white backdrop the photographer used (check the full picture, you can see it leaning a bit behind the two subjects). The red area looks to me like a doorway. So what’s in between the white screen (the blue area) and the doorway (the red area)? A view of what’s outside where-ever this shot was taken. That’s the yellow area. The green area shows something written in the background, but damned if I can make out what it is. It certainly looks to be in the style of something you’d see at a carnival or fair, though. Check it out in the original. I think that’s what we’re looking at.

I really like this one, as well. The style of dress is a little different than the others, and the chair is pretty cool. I wonder about the story behind this one.

This one was a mess…I’m happy to have been able to recover much of anything from it.

Here’s another great one. These guys are pretty clearly brothers (especially Travis Jr on the right there), and I wish I could make out more of the set that’s being used here. There appear to be some branches laid haphazardly to the left, but I’m not entirely sure if that column is actually there or part of the backdrop. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s the latter, but the detail isn’t quite strong enough to be definitive.

You don’t see too many of the next shot. This one was clearly taken on the farm, as you can see the wagon and the fence in the background. This immediately made me wonder where this might have been taken. There are tons of farms surrounding Dayton, so could it be one that still exists today? Was this a Mennonite family from back then?

This is another badly damaged one. I suspect many of these people are from the same family…there’s definitely a common look going here:

But what was really intriguing about this picture is the engraving on the back that my father located. It’s kind of tricky to see with the naked eye, but I cleaned it up some. All I can really make out is Emma May, and possibly “Buff”. The rest has been lost to wear, as has the writing on that sticker that you see. There’s no possible way to determine what was written on that, despite tons of cleaning.

These last two appear to be newer than the rest, as they were produced with a different method of emulsion. You’ll see with the second photo the difference; Where the only real way of scratching away the image in the previous photos was to literally scratch it, you could peel the photo off of these.

So, is it just me, or is it possible this young woman had Down’s Syndrome? If so, I’m absolutely fascinated. What was her life like back then, when it was unknown? I’d love to know more about her, and what brought her to this photo. Oh, and here you can see more of the peeling and cracking that I was talking about.

This photo contains the one clue to the age of these last two, with an etching on the back that appears to pinpoint this shot in October of 1897 (though the October part is conjecture):

I wish I could tell what it says under there, but I’m just not sure.

All in all, a fantastic find, and I’m going to do my best to preserve them and hang on to them.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Behold the Power of Tintypes

  1. esteldreaming

    Those are wonderful, just looking at them makes you want to know all of the stories those pictures have to tell, if only about what was happening in the moments those were taken. What the people were thinking about.
    I’m not sure if that woman has Down’s Syndrome, her features don’t appear that way and sadly back in the day people with such disabilities were hidden away from view, I’m not sure if she had the syndrome any pictures would have been taken of her.
    This really was a great find!

    • Yeah, I’m not sure, either. I think they’re definitely all from one family, but I’d love to know which one. The man I purchased these from didn’t have any more information on them, though. He wasn’t even sure how he’d gotten them. One of the hazards of running a shop like his, I guess.

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