Sunday, August 26, 2012

Occupational Images: Tinsmiths

Part of an intermittent series featuring "occupational" images that have appeared online.

I have a soft spot for nineteenth-century tinware. There's something about the diversity of forms and patterns and the relative commonality of the material that draws me in. Like other artisans, tinsmiths regularly sat for photographs, sometimes with the tools of their trade. 

Some images, like this one, are hard to distinguish from those of silversmiths. This early daguerreotype features three teapots with ornate spouts. The "tells" that mark them as tin rather than silver are the pair of tin snips and the heating stove on the table.

Tinsmiths used these stoves to hear soldering irons. The image below shows a similar stove with two irons in the fire. This dapper smith of the 1850s is putting his snips to work for the portrait.

Imitating shop activities was always popular in occupational photography. The late 1840s tinsmith below appears to be working on a cylindrical container.

In another such instance dating to the the 1870s, here's a smith who brought in a stack of completed tin cans. He is shown at work soldering the side seam of another.

Other portraits seem more impromptu. These two smiths brought their snips, stove, and irons into a studio in the 1880s and stood for a photograph without much attention to imitating their craft.

Some tinsmiths showed off their products. The tintype below, from the end of the nineteenth century, features another pair of tinworkers. The man on the right shows off a large case, likely of his own making.

Some craftsmen of the nineteenth century were itinerant, moving from place to place and following work. The 1870s tintype below shows a young man, possibly a tinsmith, with a large carpet bag and a small heating stove.

And finally, here's a trio of young toughs from the 1870s. Two of them wear street clothes that contrast with the third, who wears a striped apron and clutches a hammer and pair of snips. It's easy to imagine the two men on the left stopping into their friend's shop and whisking him away for a quick photograph over his lunch break.

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