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A tintype is a monochrome direct positive on metal plate support. Like the ambrotype created on glass plate, it is a negative image that is seen as a positive, due to the dark support, the silver grains composing the light parts of the image. The resulting pictures are usually small formats, the most common being the "visiting card" (sixth or ninth plate), the "jewel - portrait" (2.5 × 3 × 3 cm) or the "postage stamp" (1.2 × 2.5 cm) formats. Full plate tintypes (16.2 × 21.6 cm) and landscapes views are the rarest.

The process was presented for the first time in France by Adolphe Martin in 1852, though many other patents were later filed in England and the United States. It is across the Atlantic that the tintype saw its greatest use principally from the Civil War period through the early twentieth century, under the term "melainotype" or "ferrotype". A quick and cheap process, it was popularized by itinerant photographers.

The manufacturing of a tintype is identical to that of Ambrotypes only the support differs, iron plate replacing the fragile glass plate.

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