atm-logoWhat are tintypes?

Ben Hodges
Everett, Washington

Photographic history began in 1839, with the daguerreotype. Other processes, however, had been experimented on for some 30 years. The durable and inexpensive tintype, patented in 1856, evolved from some of those processes.

The tintype was also called the ferrotype, for ferrous, the chemical name for iron. That’s an important fact—the photos were not put on tin, but on iron coated with a black lacquer that developed the image and prevented rusting. When coated with a brown lacquer, the photo had a light chocolate coloring.

During the 19th century, the tintype enjoyed a longer success than any other process, but the paper images that came out in the 1860s became more popular. Carnivals, though, were still producing tintypes as souvenirs in the early 1900s.


Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone.  If you have a question, write:  Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

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