Quick and easy to make, the tintype — a one-of-a-kind photograph on a thin black-lacquered iron plate, patented in 1856 — was prized by Americans for its cheapness and durability. Mailed to loved ones by thousands of soldiers and their families during the Civil War, the tintype became the medium of choice for the itinerant photographers who plied the nation’s country roads. Their studio was anybody’s yard or porch, their props the stuff of daily life. Despite such informality, the ennobling traditions of European portraiture were often echoed in the tintypist’s wares, sometimes to eccentric effect. This carefully-dressed child, enthroned in her mail-order carriage and holding a book, is guarded by a very relaxed heraldic dog and a servant who keeps a wary eye on his charges.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 15," December 9, 1996–March 9, 1997.