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Photo Detective: Photo Genesis
6/14/2011
Family Bibles often contain much more than scripture: You might find interior pages inscribed with genealogical information, valuable letters or documents related to family business or, sometimes, a few family photos stored between the pages. The combination of photographs, genealogy and the details of the Bible's ownership can tell a family story.

Bob Ketenheim found this portrait of a man and woman in a Bible that once belonged to the Lotz family. He thinks the woman strongly resembles his great-grandmother Minnie May (Stoke) Lotz, who was born in 1870, but suspects that the clothing might date the photo to an earlier time period. Ketenheim's skepticism is good: You shouldn't jump to conclusions about who's in a photo based on where you found the picture.

This lovely tintype is a bit worn and rusty in places where the photographic emulsion has chipped off. The rust isn't surprising given that, despite their name, tintypes -- first patented in 1856 -- are actually made of iron, which rusts when exposed to humidity. The photo measures 2 13/16 x 3 13/16 inches, making it close to what's known as a sixth plate (usually 2 3/4 x 3 1/4). This size tintype was popular from about 1856 to 1870. For more information on tintype sizing, see The American Tintype by Floyd Rinhart, Marion Rinhart and Robert W. Wagner (Ohio University Press).

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