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Family history and collecting old photographs are two very popular pastimes these days and old photographs can pose many questions such as ‘Who is it? Not many family photographs exist from that era unless they are beautiful images on a polished silver plate (that looks like a mirror).

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Also around the mid 1850s another cheap process was introduced.

The tintype (also known as the ferrotype in the USA) was produced on a thin metal plate and was usually of a rather muddy appearance.

Tintypes were cheap and were still used by UK street and beach photographers in the 1940s and 1950s – long after the Second World War.

Around 1850, photos were produced which were actually weak negatives on glass but, when backed with a dark material or black paint, appeared as normal positive images: these were ambrotypes.

Both ambrotypes and daguerreotypes can be found in maroon ‘leather’ cases or highly ornate Union Cases made from a shiny and brittle thermoplastic material.

Up to this stage, photos were generally one-offs, there was no negative and multiple copies were impracticable.

Any copies required had to be photographed from the original – often with a distinct loss of quality.

By the late 1850s the carte de visite appeared, a small photograph pasted onto a standard sized mount measuring approximately 4.25″ x 2.5″ (108mm x 63mm).

This was a much cheaper process and allowed copies to be taken from a negative.

Suddenly photography was available to the masses as well as the gentry and family albums became a must for most Victorian families.

From 1866, the carte de visite was joined by the larger format cabinet card photo which was pasted onto a standard mount measuring approximately 6.5 “x 4.25″ (155mm x 110mm).

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