Sold at auction by Britannic Auctions for $124 in December 2022, this sixth-plate tintype image offers a glimpse into the life of an ordinary Civil War soldier. Posed against a studio backdrop featuring a painted view of an Army camp and a hand-tinted United States flag, this soldier remains unidentified.
During the Civil War, soldiers would often get tintype portraits made at local photography studios or by itinerant photographers who followed the armies. These photographers would set up makeshift studios in campgrounds or towns near military encampments, offering soldiers the opportunity to have their likeness captured on tintype plates. These portraits were saved as mementos of military service, sometimes tucked inside Civil War diaries, or were mailed home to loved ones.
Sixth-Plate Tintype Size
The sixth-plate (sometimes called a “bon-ton”) is among the most common tintypes produced and measures (roughly) 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ inches. The tintype first appeared around 1856 and had its hey-dey during the 1860s – 1870s. Perhaps surprisingly, tintypes were actually still available in certain venues well into the 20th century.
Affordability and Accessibility of Tintypes
Tintypes were recognized as an affordable image available for everyone, a completely new concept at the time.
Produced on relatively inexpensive iron, for instance, coated with black or brown enamel, the little pieces of “tin” were durable and very inexpensive. This made tintypes widely available and plentiful.
Today, it is still easy to discover antique tintypes of all subject matters available at auction.