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Example of a tintotype circa 1870

The ferrotyping (Tintype, Melanotypie sheet or photograph) is a photographic direct-positive method that was used between 1855 and 1930. Ferrotype was invented in 1856 by Hamilton L. Smith (1819-1903).

At the end of the 19th century, the manual process was replaced by automatic processing . Conrad Bernitt constructed the first such mechanically operated machine in Hamburg in 1890. The Bosco machine was used worldwide for decades and is considered the forerunner of today's photo machines . The inexpensive ferrotypes were glued into an album or sent by post; they quickly became popular and appeared primarily as quick photography and as a fairground attraction .


The ferrotype is based on a slightly exposed and developed collodion layer containing iodine and bromide silver . The support for the collodion emulsion was i. d. Usually a black lacquered iron sheet was used, which served as a background for the unique negative. The (photochemical) negative appears to be the correct light value due to the dark field principle against the dark background .

Ferrotype plates were always unique . They cannot be copied due to direct exposure. The few surviving originals of famous personalities such as B. Billy the Kid sells in the millions at auctions . A photo plate shows Billy the Kid in a crumpled hat, holding a Winchester rifle on his right side and still carrying a revolver on the left. This led to the assumption that he was left-handed and as such Paul Newman played him in the western The Left Handed Gun (1958). However, the ferrotype was a process in which mirror-inverted images were created.

See also

Other early photography techniques:


  • Edward M. Estabrooke: The Ferrotype and How to Make It . Gatchell & Hyatt, Cincinnati Ohio 1872.

Web links

Commons : Ferrotype  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Michael Remke: Worth millions of dollars: Photo of Billy the Kid hung in Airbnb's apartment for years . In: THE WORLD . November 18, 2017 ( welt.de [accessed November 18, 2017]).