Union-Cased Ferrotype (Tintype)
1/16th Plate - Approximately 1 5/8 Inches High by 2 1/8 Inches Wide
(4.1cm x 5.3cm)
Overall Open Cass Size: Approximately  3 Inches High by 5 Inches Wide
(7.5cm x 13.2 cm)
Unknown Photographer
Unknown Location
c 1880s
This cased tintype (ferrotype) image is another of those photographs which raise more questions than will probably ever be
answered.

The
union or thermoplastic case holds a 1/16th plate tintype image of a British soldier who was a member of a volunteer
battalion of a light infantry regiment. Based upon details of his uniform he must have sat for the portrait sometime in the
1880s at the earliest. Interestingly the tintype process never held anywhere near the level of popularity in Britain that it did
in North America. In fact I would generally list any tintype image originating in Britain as rare. Most tintype images of
British troops were taken in Canada while they were stationed there. As it was in the United States the tintype process was
quite popular in Queen Victoria’s North American possessions throughout the 1860s and into the 1870s. If this soldier has
been a member of a regular battalion there might be little question that it probably would have originated in Canada but
since volunteer battalions never served outside the British Isles it would seem we might have an example of a seldom seen
British ferrotype except…

…that the image is housed in a 1850s vintage American made thermoplastic case. Beneath the image packet the case is
labeled Littlefield, Parsons & Co. Manufacturers of Daguerreotype Cases with patent dates of 1857 and 1857. The
company operated out of Florence, Massachusetts. These thermoplastic or Union Cases fell out of favor in the mid-1860s
with the rise in popularity of the carte de visite format of paper photographs and by the 1880s would have been considered
old fashioned.

How and when did this highly unusual combination of photograph and case come together? One thing is certain with that
being the various elements involved have been together for a very long time. The image packet components which consist of
the tintype itself, the brass matt, brass preserver and cover glass, although not sealed with gold beaters tape as would have
been done in the 1850s or 60s, all show signs of having been together for a very long time, possibly from the day the image
was created.

The how, where and why of this image may never be known but the combined elements make for a rather beautiful example
of 19th Century photographic art.
Above: The photographic plate as removed from the case
and brass mat packet.
Above: The outside of the closed case showing the
surface detail and tiny rose-headed rivets that hold the
cases clasp and hinges in place.
Left: The case manufacturer's label found beneath the
photographic plate/matt packet.