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A tintype is a photographic process first
described by Adolphe-Alexandre Martin in France in 1853, and
patented in the United States and the United Kingdom in 1856.
It was first called melainotype, then ferrotype and finally
tintype. All three names describe both the process and the
Tintypes are made by a wet-plate process, in which the
photographic emulsion is contained in liquid collodion. The
tintype was a minor improvement to the ambrotype, replacing the
glass plate of the original process with a thin piece of
black-enameled, or japanned, iron (hence ferro). The new
materials reduced costs considerably; and the image, in
gelatin-silver emulsion on the varnished surface, has proven to
be very durable.
Tintypes are simple and fast to prepare, compared to other early
photographic techniques. A photographer could prepare, expose,
develop, and varnish a tintype plate in a few minutes, quickly
having it ready for a customer. Earlier tintypes were often
cased, as were daguerreotypes and ambrotypes; but uncased images
in paper sleeves and for albums were popular from the beginning.
the tintype process superseded the ambrotype in the
United States by the end of the Civil War and 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. .