Four men and a tintype


This fine image is a tintype I found in the great Tennessee vacation haul at the World’s Longest Yard Sale. There was another woman and I who seemed to be on the same route, each of us rushing to find the photos at each individual stall. I felt lucky to find this great piece, because look at all the character here!

We have a stringy beard and hard, hard gaze on our seated fellow; a bowler hat hiding at the side of the young gent to the left; a droopy mustache on the standing fellow to the right; and oh, so much angst in the face of the kneeling dude.

These characters make me wonder and imagine what they were up to…was it no good? Did they go on to rob a bank or help the poor? They sure look like a group of vintage bad boys to me! It is impossible to know, but these great old pictures make us consider just who they were, don’t they?


Where did she go?

Where did she go??

Where did she go??

Today we have a sad story. This beautiful CDV sized card surrounds a gem tintype that has been worn over the years until the facial features have been completely obliterated. I can tell this was a woman. There is the typical center part to her hair and it was oiled down smoothly to her head. I can also see a white collar and large neckerchief bow. These two fashion aspects put the date in the early 1860s, and this could even have been a reprint of an older daguerrotype. Other than those two visible clues, she is well and truly lost.

This little disaster tells us two things. One is that old photographs are very delicate. Tintypes were printed onto metal plates with an emulsion and varnish covering them. They are highly susceptible to scratching and wear. Photographs printed on paper and mounted on a card are equally fragile and can be ripped, scratched, written on, burned, and also fade with exposure to sunlight. These antique images can be damaged irreparably and when they were the only photo of the person made, it is a shame to have lost the record of their appearance. We take this so much for granted today. I can’t imagine someone passing from this life without a photographic record of them being left behind. We have ID photos for driving, working, education, etc., plus in much of the world, cameras are not such a luxury any more, and many people have one in their pocket at all times on modern smart phones. The second thing this destroyed image tells us is a story of perhaps someone rubbing away the image with a finger, over time, whether the tintype was a touchstone to the past, or they were trying to remove the memory of something painful, we can never know.

The paper folder that the gem has been mounted in is interesting. It is light blue in color with gold printing that features a ship and nautical stars under a rising sun, stars in the corners, two vases on pediments, holding star shaped flowers, and ivy with star shaped leaves at the top corners. The entire border is a type of Greek key design. There was no photographer’s information on the back. There is surely some analogy and metaphor in the images featured on the card, but I do not know what they were meant to represent.

I am submitting this as a Sepia Saturday post! Please click through and discover a world of amazing sepia images from around the world!

Onward through the blogosphere

Pink bow tie

Mounted Tin Types 7 W

Is this a repeat subject?

Mounted Tin Types 7 Back W

Lovejoy’s Studio mark

This tintype photograph looks remarkably like the fellow we saw back before the holidays, who had his portrait done by T. M. Saurman. The resemblance is strong, so it’s either the same man or his brother. This photograph features some hand tinting on the bowtie, making it pink. The backmark shows that this image was made at Lovejoy’s at 429 North Second Street, Above Willow, Philadelphia PA. I found a match to C. L. Lovejoy who was apparently known for his exquisite hand coloring work! He was known to be in business during the 1870s, however I must point out that the corners of this card have been cut and that is typical of 1860s cards. It is possible he bought these cards right at the end of the 60s or bought out old stock from another photographer. In January 1870, Lovejoy was the outgoing president of the Ferrotypers Association of Philadelphia – ferrotypes being another name for tintypes.

Check back again for another Lovejoy image next time!


Another possible Saurman?

Big bonnet

Big bonnet

Today’s photograph is a tintype in an embossed card holder virtually identical to the one of our previous baby. The only difference I can find – outside of the quality of the embossing – is that this paper sleeve has the mark “Patent Applied For” while the baby photo does not. This particular photo does not have the T. M. Saurman mark covering the back of the tintype, and so I cannot know for sure if that is who made it.

The woman in the photograph is showing off quite a lot of her finery. A wide collar, golden brooch, sheer shawl, fancy bonnet and a veil folded to the back. In the past, I would have immediately assumed the veil was indicative of mourning. However, in my recent exposure to some 19th century clothing experts, I learned that veils were worn as a type of sun block. The veil, often in black and dark green, muted the brightness of the sun and allowed the wearer to more comfortably walk in the sun. This veil appears to have some type of lace pattern on it. The dress, collar and bonnet all are 1850s fashions, but I believe this is an 1860s image. Whether it was reproduced after the fact (I don’t think so) or she liked these clothes (more likely) we cannot really know. It is a lovely image with fine hand tinting on her cheeks and the brooch is delicately gilded as well.

Mother & Daughter lean on their fingers

Mounted Tin Types W

Hello, dearie

Mounted Tin Types 1 W

Oh, Mother!

I found these two mounted tintypes in an online auction and loved the fact that they are clearly mother & daughter AND that the subjects are in the exact same pose.  They even have matching embossed stars on the border around the photos.

I asked some very knowledgeable friends of mine about the coat that Mother is wearing, in the first image above. They tend to agree it is a garment called a sacque coat, meaning any sort of coat that buttons at the neck and is loosely hanging on the body. It ends around the waist or hip line. This particular specimen has trimmings around the hem and very large buttons that appear to be decorative rather than functional. A pocket is also evident, with something tucked inside. Perhaps it was a handkerchief or small book. The coat was probably made from wool or wool flannel, and lined with polished cotton or silk. I say “probably” because even though we don’t see the actual details of the garment, these are the most common materials for outerwear at that time. I bet it was very warm and comfortable! We don’t see much detail about her dress, except that it has a small collar and she is wearing a lovely brooch.

Second in line is the daughter, who has a bolero style over bodice with a white Garibaldi style bodice under it. This was a very popular style for young people. The over bodice is similar to the sacque coat in that it fastens at the neck and hangs loosely around the body. You can also see her large belt buckle. The dress was probably made from a fine wool, and the over bodice was likely lined with polished cotton in a solid brown or black (the most common lining in extant garments). The Garibaldi bodice was possibly made from fine cotton lawn, sheer wool or silk, depending on the family’s financial situation.

Neither card has a backmark, so I cannot tell anything about the photographer or geographic location where the tin type images were made. Each tin type is approximately 1 1/4″ by 1 1/2″, and is affixed to the mount with a sheet of thin paper glued over it. The mother’s card was trimmed down, presumably to fit into a frame or photo album. They are lovely representations of the American Civil War era or slightly thereafter, definitely pre-1870s.

A late addition


A much later date

This particular gem tintype was added to the Red Gem album after all the pages were filled – making me wonder about the duplicate images and why the owner didn’t remove one of those. The image was also obviously cut to the general shape of an oval, so perhaps it was going to be used in some other way and as an afterthought was added to the album. The tape has damaged the finish on the edges but fortunately the beautiful face is intact. The clothing looks to be from the 1880s and is lovely. Notice the asymmetrical details – buttons on one side, ribbon on the other. She appears to be leaning on something that looks like it could be the back of a chair, but it’s much too narrow. So, I am going to conclude it was some sort of prop used for these types of poses.

Well, that concludes our look at the Red Gem album and nary a name to be found. I have two more gem albums, a bunch of interesting CDVs and tin types, and of course many more cabinet cards to share with you. See you again soon!

Maturity vs youth

Gems 3

One face lost to time

Here are two faces peering out from the page. One is lost in the poor detail and the other is scratched across the eyes – the window to the soul, some say.

Gems 3 - Lady

Where is her mouth?

This image is probably a reprint – or more correctly a photograph of – a daguerrotype. They hair style and general characteristics of the image lead me in that direction. During the 1840s and 1850s, women dressed their hair in such a way that it wrapped around their ears and then toward the back of the head. Hair was parted in the middle and oiled so it would be smooth and shiny. Also a hint, the backdrop of the image seems to fall away from the person’s body, which is something I have noted in daguerrotypes. Unfortunately, the original image might have been light, and in the remaking of it, much of the facial features were underexposed. If you look closely you will eventually see the chin, jaw and mouth appear in the face.

Gems 3 - Girl

Baby girl

Juxtaposed with the lady above is this plump little face of a toddler girl. The center part in her curly hair tells me this is a girl. The cheeks of her face were tinted with a touch of pink, and while some people on the internet will swear that tinting is an indication of a deceased subject, this image clearly shows a bright eyed, living child. You will notice that the plaid on her dress is the same pattern as our previous child, shown here. A clever mother used every inch of yardage making these dresses for her girls. I imagine they were very lovely together!

I have been very curious about the tools used by photographic artists to make the tinting on these tiny gems and other small images. Working on the theory that they learned their trade from portrait artists who also painted miniatures, I looked into how to paint a portrait miniature. The art is still alive today, although very niche. I found a really interesting article about painting a miniature portrait here.

I’d imagined the size of the brushes to be quite small, so I looked at art supplies online, only to find that the US Department of Fish & Wildlife is causing some difficulty for artists by blocking the importation of brushes made with sable hair. Most US suppliers are out of stock of these high quality brushes with extra fine tips. From what I could gather, the brushes are hand made, and so there will be some variation to size and shape of the handles. Wow. I had no idea a simple paint brush could be so controversial!

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