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National Museum of American History

Repeating tintype gem portraits

National Museum of American History
19 gem-sized tintype portraits of a man on a single sheet of iron; 1 of the 20 originally exposed has been cut out, in the lower right corner.

The NMAH Photo History Collection (PHC) has over 3000 tintype photographs dating from the beginnings of the process in 1856 to the present. ‘Tintype’ was coined and became the favored name.

Tintypes in the PHC are found in albums, the Kaynor Union Case collection and as individual photographs. The original tintype process patent was assigned to William and Peter Neff in 1856. William Neff died a short time later, but his son Peter, who named the process Melainotype, continued on with his work. The earliest tintypes in the PHC are a group of more than thirty Peter Neff Melainotypes, some of which date back to 1856 and contain notes written by Peter Neff. Shortly after the Melainotype, Victor Griswold introduced a very similar process on thinner, lighter iron plates and called them Ferrotypes. The PHC has tintypes ranging from rare large images between 5”x7” and 10”x12”down to small images cut to 6mm diameter to fit jewelry. The Melainotypes are between 1/6 plate and 4”x5” in size and many have indistinct images. There are also unexposed Melainotype plates including a pack of 1/6 plates and large whole-plates with four decorated oval borders that were designed to be cut into smaller quarter plates after exposure.

The great majority of tintype photographs are studio portraits, including the very popular ‘Gem’ size (about ¾” x 1”). Almost every gem tintype in the PHC is an individual head and shoulders portraits, the only exceptions seen being a full length portrait and a head and shoulders portrait of a couple. Most of these gem portraits are in small gem albums designed to hold two to six gems per page. However, several gems are mounted on cartes-de-visite (CDV) size cards and set in specifically designed album pages. Some of these CDV mounted gems are in elaborate miniature frames attached to the card. The tintypes larger than gem size show a greater variety of subject matter, but still with a main focus on individual portraits, this is especially true of the smaller 1/16 and 1/9 plate images. Outdoor tintypes are rare. Of the few in the PHC, the most common outdoor subjects noted are people standing in front of their homes and photographs of people proudly standing with, or sitting on, their horse or horses and buggy. One of the largest tintypes is a 9”x 7” outdoor view of a row of townhouses with a couple standing on one of the balconies. There is also an outdoor tintype of men fishing along with another of their days catch.

One common subject in tintype photography, as noted in text books, is the civil war soldier. The durability of the tintype meant that photographs taken in the field could be sent home. However, this category of tintype is not well represented in the PHC, with less than thirty noted due to the fact that the majority of the Smithsonian’s Civil War tintypes are located mainly in the Military History Collection. Most of the PHC examples of Civil War tintypes are in the Kaynor collection of cased images.

A few of the tintypes in the PHC are hand colored. This coloring varies from light tinting of faces and hands to heavy overpainting that obscures the underlying tintype image. A number of the tintypes (about 30) depict people with the apparatus of their occupations. Some are posed studio shots and others appear to be photographs of people at their place of work. Among the occupational views are images of a doctor, grocery deliveryman, weavers, fireman, ice delivery man, craftsman, cobbler, shoe shiners, mail carrier, surveyor, pipe liners and other tintypes of people wearing work clothes and posing with tools. These include a unique full-length gem tintype of a man in work apron with a saw.

Man holding baby

National Museum of American History
Tinted tintype showing a man with a mustache and hat holding a baby on a blanket in a clearing by some trees

The NMAH Photo History Collection (PHC) has over 3000 tintype photographs dating from the beginnings of the process in 1856 to the present. ‘Tintype’ was coined and became the favored name.

Tintypes in the PHC are found in albums, the Kaynor Union Case collection and as individual photographs. The original tintype process patent was assigned to William and Peter Neff in 1856. William Neff died a short time later, but his son Peter, who named the process Melainotype, continued on with his work. The earliest tintypes in the PHC are a group of more than thirty Peter Neff Melainotypes, some of which date back to 1856 and contain notes written by Peter Neff. Shortly after the Melainotype, Victor Griswold introduced a very similar process on thinner, lighter iron plates and called them Ferrotypes. The PHC has tintypes ranging from rare large images between 5”x7” and 10”x12”down to small images cut to 6mm diameter to fit jewelry. The Melainotypes are between 1/6 plate and 4”x5” in size and many have indistinct images. There are also unexposed Melainotype plates including a pack of 1/6 plates and large whole-plates with four decorated oval borders that were designed to be cut into smaller quarter plates after exposure.

The great majority of tintype photographs are studio portraits, including the very popular ‘Gem’ size (about ¾” x 1”). Almost every gem tintype in the PHC is an individual head and shoulders portraits, the only exceptions seen being a full length portrait and a head and shoulders portrait of a couple. Most of these gem portraits are in small gem albums designed to hold two to six gems per page. However, several gems are mounted on cartes-de-visite (CDV) size cards and set in specifically designed album pages. Some of these CDV mounted gems are in elaborate miniature frames attached to the card. The tintypes larger than gem size show a greater variety of subject matter, but still with a main focus on individual portraits, this is especially true of the smaller 1/16 and 1/9 plate images. Outdoor tintypes are rare. Of the few in the PHC, the most common outdoor subjects noted are people standing in front of their homes and photographs of people proudly standing with, or sitting on, their horse or horses and buggy. One of the largest tintypes is a 9”x 7” outdoor view of a row of townhouses with a couple standing on one of the balconies. There is also an outdoor tintype of men fishing along with another of their days catch.

One common subject in tintype photography, as noted in text books, is the civil war soldier. The durability of the tintype meant that photographs taken in the field could be sent home. However, this category of tintype is not well represented in the PHC, with less than thirty noted due to the fact that the majority of the Smithsonian’s Civil War tintypes are located mainly in the Military History Collection. Most of the PHC examples of Civil War tintypes are in the Kaynor collection of cased images.

A few of the tintypes in the PHC are hand colored. This coloring varies from light tinting of faces and hands to heavy overpainting that obscures the underlying tintype image. A number of the tintypes (about 30) depict people with the apparatus of their occupations. Some are posed studio shots and others appear to be photographs of people at their place of work. Among the occupational views are images of a doctor, grocery deliveryman, weavers, fireman, ice delivery man, craftsman, cobbler, shoe shiners, mail carrier, surveyor, pipe liners and other tintypes of people wearing work clothes and posing with tools. These include a unique full-length gem tintype of a man in work apron with a saw.

Zeiss Ikon "Kinobox" Type C - Ck600

National Museum of American History

Zeiss Ikon "Kinobox" Type C - Ck600

National Museum of American History

camera

National Museum of American History

magazine, film

National Museum of American History

magazine, film

National Museum of American History

finder

National Museum of American History

finder

National Museum of American History

motor

National Museum of American History

motor

National Museum of American History

synchronous motor

National Museum of American History

synchronous motor

National Museum of American History

synchronous motor

National Museum of American History

interlock motor

National Museum of American History

case

National Museum of American History

case

National Museum of American History

The Spirit of a Flower

National Museum of American History

To a Greek Girl

National Museum of American History

The Village Politician

National Museum of American History

Leica 35 mm 1(A) Camera

National Museum of American History
The Leica 1(A) was the first commercially available Leica 35mm camera. The Leica, designed by Oscar Barnack, was announced in 1924 and sold to the public in 1925. The Leica was an immediate success and was responsible for popularizing 35mm film photography.

An early example from the first series of production Leica cameras made in 1926/1927 is shown here--Leica 1(A), serial number 5024 with Leica 50mm F3.5 Elmar Lens and cap. Unlike subsequent Leica models, the lens on this camera cannot be changed. The camera is fitted with a focal-plane shutter with speeds from 1/20 to 1/500 second. The Leica model 1(A) was to be the basis for all subsequent Leica film cameras for the next 30 years.

From its invention in 1839, the camera has evolved to fit many needs, from aerial to underwater photography and everything in between. Cameras allow both amateur and professional photographers to capture the world around us. The Smithsonian’s historic camera collection includes rare and unique examples of equipment, and popular models, related to the history of the science, technology, and art of photography.

This example comes from the third production run of Leica 1(A) cameras made in 1926 and 1927. This model has a rounded camera shoe and a mushroom shaped shutter release, features similar to many first production run cameras. This camera is in superb condition and shows little signs of wear.

Film

National Museum of American History
Mounted gelatin silver print of Will Connell's "Film," one of a series of photographs taken for "In Pictures," Connell's satirical 1937 book about the Hollywood film industry. The photograph is a montage of looping motion picture film lit from beneath. Will Connell (1898-1961) was an influential photographer, teacher and author in Southern California known for his often-satirical “modern pictorialist” style, commercial photography work and mentorship of a generation of photographers. The National Museum of American History’s Photographic History collection received a donation of 11 prints of various subjects from Connell’s wife in 1963. This donation was followed by another, from Connell’s son, in 1977, comprised of the 49 prints published in In Pictures. Connell was born in McPherson, Kansas, but moved to California soon after. As a young man in Los Angeles, Connell came into contact with the thriving California camera clubs of the 1910s and 1920s, and more importantly, the burgeoning Hollywood film industry. After a brief stint in the U.S. Army Signal Corps at the end of the first World War, Connell worked a variety of odd jobs while experimenting in amateur photography. Several motion picture studios hired Connell to photograph actors and actresses in the 1920s and 1930s, and he soon became a professional. Connell’s glamour shots of stars such as Myrna Loy, as well as his growing body of art photography, reveal pictorialist influence, and his work was often exhibited at salons and exhibitions throughout the United States. In the 1930s, Connell began working as a photographer for magazines including the Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Time and Vogue, started teaching photography at Art Center College and continued work at the Los Angeles studio he opened in 1925. Connell spent the rest of his life in Los Angeles, teaching, judging work, producing commercial work and writing, notably, his "Counsel by Connell" column in US Camera, which he authored for 15 years. His first book, In Pictures, was published in 1937. Now considered a classic work of satire, the book featured montaged, often surreal images that mocked the Hollywood studio system and a public enamored with the motion picture industry. The photographs were published alongside a fictional account of a meeting of Hollywood moguls, written by several of Connell’s friends in the business. While the images appear to be a marked departure from Connell’s earlier soft-focus pictorialism, the sharp, poignant photographs nevertheless retain that movement’s emphasis on composition and communication of a message. In Pictures also pays homage to the film industry where the photographer cut his teeth – many of the images feature close-ups, characteristic stage lighting and influence of the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Connell, in his work and teaching until his death in 1961, is cited as an influence on an entire generation of photographers, including Dr. Dain Tasker (COLL.PHOTOS.000031). His 1949 book About Photography outlined an artistic philosophy that stressed a straight-forward, communicative style of photography and expressed the author’s belief that even the most commercial work can have artistic merit. A 1963 monograph in US Camera featured fond remembrances from friends Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange, among others, who praised Connell for his warm personality and unique work. Related Collections: Dain Tasker collection, Photographic History Collection, NMAH Will Connell collection, California Museum of Photography, University of California, Riverside, California Will Connell papers, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California Art Center School Archives, Pasadena, California

Sound

National Museum of American History
Mounted gelatin silver print of Will Connell's "Sound," one of a series of photographs taken for "In Pictures," Connell's satirical 1937 book about the Hollywood film industry. The photograph is a montage composed of images of a woman speaking on a telephone, a graph of sound waves, and motion picture film. Will Connell (1898-1961) was an influential photographer, teacher and author in Southern California known for his often-satirical “modern pictorialist” style, commercial photography work and mentorship of a generation of photographers. The National Museum of American History’s Photographic History collection received a donation of 11 prints of various subjects from Connell’s wife in 1963. This donation was followed by another, from Connell’s son, in 1977, comprised of the 49 prints published in In Pictures. Connell was born in McPherson, Kansas, but moved to California soon after. As a young man in Los Angeles, Connell came into contact with the thriving California camera clubs of the 1910s and 1920s, and more importantly, the burgeoning Hollywood film industry. After a brief stint in the U.S. Army Signal Corps at the end of the first World War, Connell worked a variety of odd jobs while experimenting in amateur photography. Several motion picture studios hired Connell to photograph actors and actresses in the 1920s and 1930s, and he soon became a professional. Connell’s glamour shots of stars such as Myrna Loy, as well as his growing body of art photography, reveal pictorialist influence, and his work was often exhibited at salons and exhibitions throughout the United States. In the 1930s, Connell began working as a photographer for magazines including the Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Time and Vogue, started teaching photography at Art Center College and continued work at the Los Angeles studio he opened in 1925. Connell spent the rest of his life in Los Angeles, teaching, judging work, producing commercial work and writing, notably, his "Counsel by Connell" column in US Camera, which he authored for 15 years. His first book, In Pictures, was published in 1937. Now considered a classic work of satire, the book featured montaged, often surreal images that mocked the Hollywood studio system and a public enamored with the motion picture industry. The photographs were published alongside a fictional account of a meeting of Hollywood moguls, written by several of Connell’s friends in the business. While the images appear to be a marked departure from Connell’s earlier soft-focus pictorialism, the sharp, poignant photographs nevertheless retain that movement’s emphasis on composition and communication of a message. In Pictures also pays homage to the film industry where the photographer cut his teeth – many of the images feature close-ups, characteristic stage lighting and influence of the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Connell, in his work and teaching until his death in 1961, is cited as an influence on an entire generation of photographers, including Dr. Dain Tasker (COLL.PHOTOS.000031). His 1949 book About Photography outlined an artistic philosophy that stressed a straight-forward, communicative style of photography and expressed the author’s belief that even the most commercial work can have artistic merit. A 1963 monograph in US Camera featured fond remembrances from friends Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange, among others, who praised Connell for his warm personality and unique work. Related Collections: Dain Tasker collection, Photographic History Collection, NMAH Will Connell collection, California Museum of Photography, University of California, Riverside, California Will Connell papers, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California Art Center School Archives, Pasadena, California
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