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Kenrick A.Claflin & Son

29221. (tintype) U.S. Life Saving Service Surfman c.1870. 1/6th plate.

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29221. (tintype) U.S. Life Saving Service Surfman c.1870. 1/6th plate.

29221. (tintype) U.S. Life Saving Service Surfman c.1870. 1/6th plate. Offered is an incredibly rare tintype of a U.S. Life Saving Service Surfman. The subject is sitting in a chair, probably in the photographer’s studio. Clearly visible is the gentleman’s cap, with the words [LIFE] “SAVING SERVICE” visible to the camera. His weathered appearance speaks of his long career on the sea. We have long suspected that, like cabinet views and other early forms of photography, there must have been some tintypes of life-savers produced but until now we had never been able to find any. Presently this is the only one known to us. Tintypes, also known as a ferrotypes, originated in the early 1850’s and became the choice for photographers before photographic paper was invented. The use of this form peaked in the 1861-1870 period and began to give way to other forms of photography by 1900. Tintypes were produced on a metallic sheet (not actually tin) instead of the more common glass plates. The sheet was coated and sensitized just before use, as in the wet plate process. These early metal plates were then placed in the back of a box camera and exposed directly though the camera lens. Because of this all forms of early photography resulted in a mirror image of the subject, as is this image. The most common size for a tintype was 2 5/8” x 3 ¼” [1/6 plate], but they were made in numerous sizes. Tintypes were the first inexpensive photographic print and as such, made photography available to the working class. Also, being quite rugged, tintypes could be sent by mail, and many photographers did quite a trade visiting the encampments during the Civil War. The surfman sports a jacket common to life-savers of this early era, but without the brass buttons instituted in the late 1870’s. I would suspect that this image was captured in the early 1870’s, at the inception of the reorganized Life-Saving Service. Measures 2 3/8” x 3 9/16”. Condition is exceptional, clear, fine contrast, no scratches to image. (VG+). $625.