A Century of Progress

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Poor Pictorama readers, I am proffering yet another murky tintype this week! Sorry! Kim has done his best with Photoshop, but I understand the limitations. Those of you who were devoted enough to come over and see it and what I have to say (and I thank you) may wonder why I persist and why I seem to find these somewhat irresistible.

First, for me there’s just nothing like seeing these giant examples of Felix and Mickey (or in the case of the recent post Riding the Big Bear a oversized Steiff-like bear) and admiring their oversized greatness. It gets me again and again with each one I find. I believe I have seen this Mickey before, but I have checked my files and it does not seem to be a photo I own, so it must have come and gone on eBay or passed by me on the internet. (He’s barely a Mickey – I think even Disney would have trouble with a trademark lawsuit against this guy. Can you see the big bow he is wearing?) However, I also love the idea that tintypes were still being made at fairs and things well into the 20th century. I think I would have been first in line.

I have made tintypes (wet plate photos) and the process, while fairly straightforward once you understand it, is not entirely uncomplicated, especially when executed outside. As far as I know, the makers of these had a pretty down and dirty process to churn them out, all day, everyday, and these have largely faded because the chemicals that fixed them were tired from overuse, and then probably washed in the equivalent of a dirty pail. It is a tiny bit miraculous to me that they can be made this way at all.

This photo has a tiny sticker, which under close examination, turns out to say A Century of Progress leading me to believe it was taken at the 1933-34 Chicago International Exposition or World’s Fair. (As is frequently the case – this is in a great holder which, if they sticker had been placed differently, had a spot where perhaps you could have written a name or a place below.) It is of course a bit ironic that at a World’s Fair representing a hundred years of progress, someone set up with such an old-fashioned souvenir stand for photos. After all, Kodak had made film available to the masses for three decades at that point, and perhaps color photos would have been a more appropriate for that modern age exposition. Still, for me, the tintype is undeniably special and maybe others agreed at the time, as clearly this one was kept safely all these years and has now found its way to me.

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