English Photography: Tin-types/Ferro-types

English tin-types
Figure 1.--This early tin-type portrait was in a case like Dag or Ambro. This means that it was probably taken about 1860 and created with the wet-collodion porocess. It was taken along the seaside, but we are not sure wjich beach resort. The supports in the bckground are probably for a pier,a populr feature at English eaches. The littlke girl is riding a pony. Most seside resorts had donkies for the children to ride.

From the 1860s itinerant photographers (smudgers) were on the streets, fairgrounds and at the seaside taking instant photographs while the customer waited. At first collodion wet plate processes were used to take Ambrotype and Ferrotype (Tintype) photographs using a portable darkroom to sensitize and develop the images. These photographs were produced in minutes. By the 1890s dry ferrotype materials were available and cameras were manufactured to use these new materials. From here onwards all processing operations could now be performed within the camera dispensing with the need for the portable darkroom. The camera had a tank containing a combined developer and fixer solution and about 30 seconds in this chemistry with a quick rinse in water in a mug tied to the tripod leg was all that was required. Smudgers carried a magnet on a chain to get the plate out of the camera. This rather short process with its lack of a suitable fresh water wash accounts for why so few images exist. However suitably stored ferrotypes have surprisingly survived to the present day. Early examples were on the iron base but in the 1920s a non-ferrous card material was introduced. The photographic wholesaler Jonathan Fallowfield was advertising in the 1935 British Journal Photographic Almanac their “Straco ferrotype cards and JF Fasa plates, special Develofix salts and stickyback mounts”. In the same publication Moore & Co of Liverpool were advertising their “New Improved Aptus Autocard Cameras.” Ferrotypes continued to be taken until the late 1940s by the 1950s the process had been consigned to history. Ernest Pendrigh was an Australian who came to the UK before World War I W1 to seek his fortune. He noticed the smudgers taking ferrotypes on Brighton seafront using an Aptus camera and he decided to cash in on this money making scheme and bought himself an Aptus. These cameras were known as “choppers” because of a lever on the side of the camera used to position plate to take the photograph. Pendrigh used this camera in various seaside towns and in Trafalgar Square London during his eventful career. He provides a wealth of informtion about tin-types photogrophyb in Enflnd. [Penrich] This book is now out of print but is worth a read if a copy can be obtained. Early ferrotypes were often presented in cases similar to Ambrotypes and they can at first glance look very similar. A small fridge magnet placed near a ferrotype should be attracted to the iron and provide a method of identification. Later ferrotype cards do not of course pass the magnet test but are often presented in a window type mount of a similar size to a Carte de Visite. Some of these mounts have printed designs on them with “JF” printed on them that I assume means these were Fallowfield mounts. I have a small number of ferrotypes in my collection that I attach. The one with a child on a donkey was in a case with and oval mount and was probably taken by the wet collodion method (figure 1). All the others are card types and were taken between World War I and World War II. The one with a house in the background is believed to be taken in Lowestoft. The images are very dark but have been tweaked in photo editing software. [Godfrey]


Godfrey, Paul. E-mail message, June 7,2912. Pendrich, Ernest. The Magic Box. Pendrigh wrote his autobiography in the 1950s. It hads a wealth of information on tin-types.


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Created: 9:03 AM 6/7/2012
Last updated: 9:03 AM 6/7/2012