The American Tintype

Floyd Rinhart, Marion Rinhart, and Robert W. Wagner
Foreword by W. Robert Nix



392 pp. 6x9

$82.95 cloth 978-0-8142-0806-9
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The American Tintype is an essential book for anyone interested in understanding American photography. The neglect, by scholars, of this subject is evidence of how little we know of photography. The Rinharts and Robert Wagner have set the foundation for future awakening to the abundant treasure that exists under our cultural nose. Their lifetime of study and deep penetration into photographic history, in its primal form, is reflected everywhere in this work.” —Grant B. Romer, Director, Conservation and Museum Studies, George Eastman House

The tintype was a uniquely American form of photography that reached the height of its popularity between 1861 and 1863. Also known as the melainotype and the ferrotype, the tintype was developed in Gambier and Lancaster, Ohio.

Making a tintype involved reproducing a photographic image on very thin sheets of iron instead of glass; multiple tintypes could be produced at one time from a single sheet of iron. The tintype process was faster, simpler, cheaper, and more durable than that of the daguerreotype. The characteristics of the tintype that led its critics to dismiss it as a serious art form are precisely the ones we find so appealing today. The men, women, children, and dogs in these images look as though they lived real lives. The informality of the medium encouraged its subjects to relax, so their poses are natural. We see details of hairstyles, clothing, and surroundings that are missing in the more formal daguerreotypes of the time. These wonderful tintypes provide us with a special appreciation of nineteenth-century American life that we are unlikely to encounter elsewhere.

The American Tintype is the first comprehensive history of the subject. Most of the illustrations in this book are in the Floyd and Marion Rinhart Collection at The Ohio State University and are reproduced here for the first time. The text provides an accessible history of the tintype, including an appendix that contains information about 400 American tintypists.

Floyd Rinhart (d. 1996) and Marion Rinhart (d. 2003), internationally recognized collectors of nineteenth-century photographica, have written numerous articles and books on the subject. Robert W. Wagner is emeritus professor of photography, theater, and cinema at Ohio State University. He continues to write, produce, consult, and lecture on the history of cinema and photography.