Colorful Old Photos: Tintypes

By Maureen A. Taylor

This photo takes your breath away. It’s a gorgeous painted tintype. This woman in the blue dress stares into the camera with such intensity, you wonder what she was thinking.

Tintypes, patented in 1856 in the United States, were available in other countries. This is a particularly nice painted tintype. Photo studies often hired artists to enhance their pictures.

Look at the detail in her earring.

You actually get a sense of the filigree design.

Part of the stunning quality of this image is the delicate treatment of her eyes.

Delicate brush strokes define the shape and of her eyebrows and there is no doubt about the color of her eyes, blue.

So who is she? That’s what Karen Krumbach wants to know. This is the only tintype in her collection. Let’s see what can be deduced from the picture and Karen’s family information.

  • The portrait was expensive. This expert painting wasn’t cheap.
  • Karen’s great-grandmother immigrated from Sweden in 1872, and then married here.
  • Her dress has a v-neck, rather than a rounded collar. She wears her hair down. The combination of these clues suggest a date in the early 1870s.
  • Karen’s Swedish ancestors had reddish brown to darker brown hair and some had blue eyes.

Could this be Karen’s great-grandmother’s wedding portrait? If she fits the description, it’s possible. Karen should answer these questions:

  • Is she the right age?
  • Did this great-grandmother have blue eyes?
  • When did she get married?

Photos of immigrants document the family before and after they left home. Some pictures remained with relatives in their homeland, while others came to America.

This is a very special family photo. It was taken for a reason. The look in this woman’s eyes makes me want to know more about her life, too.

Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now