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Notes on Post-Victorian Ferrotypes

The story of the invention, introduction and spread of the ferrotype in Victorian Britain is fully described in Audrey Linkman's excellent article "Cheap Tin Trade: The Ferrotype Portrait in Victorian Britain", Photographica World, June 1994, reproduced here on this site with the kind permission of the Author and the original publishers, the Photographic Collectors' Club of Great Britain.

On this page we try to make some sense of different formats and presentations of ferrotypes which family and local historians may encounter, mainly from post Victorian times. The page is a work in progress and we would welcome contributions, particularly to help identify some of the formats shown.

The ferrotype enjoyed some popularity in Britain in the 1870s and 1880s, particularly when a small postage stamp sized ferrotype was set into a carte de visite sized mount to become the American Gem portrait. After this period of popularity the ferrotype, or tintype as it was also known, continued to be produced by itinerant, travelling and other while-you-wait operators, in some cases up to the 1950s. A small number of photographic manufacturers and suppliers offered ferrotype cameras and plates from the 1890s well into the 20th Century. These included:

  • Jonathan Fallowfield, London Central Photographic Stores, 148 Charing Cross Road, London
  • Sharpe and Hitchmough, 101 and 103 Dale Street, Liverpool
  • W. Moore and Co, Dale Street, Liverpool
  • Chicago Ferrotype Co, Chicago Buildings, Whitechapel, Liverpool; Chicago; New York
  • M.Janovitch and Co, 2 Harrow Rd, London

Ferrotype semi-automatic cameras

Below we set out some of the different semi automatic ferrotype cameras marketed in the UK. The dates when these were advertised, combined with the description of the media used may help in some cases with dating surviving ferrotypes. These complicated cameras included storage of plates or buttons, an exposure mechanism and various containers for chemicals to develop, fix and wash the exposed plate. We do not have any figures for the numbers of the various different cameras produced during this period. More information on all of these camera can be found in Colin Harding's excellent article, Photographs While-You-Wait, Photographica World  (1994-1995) issues 69, 71 and 72.

Camera and manufacturer / supplier Related UK patents When advertised in UK Media used Notes
Simplex, designed by Ladislas Nievsky, photographer of 14 Gransden Road, Shepherd's Bush. Sold by The Trading Co of England 17860 of 1891 1891 - 1893   Using ferrotype dry plates patented by Nievsky in 1891
Duplex, designed by Ladislas Nievsky. Sold by the Duplex Photographic Co, Hammersmith 16126 of 1893 1893 - 1898 2 x 2.5 inch plates, no sheathes or backing pieces Improvement on the Simplex - plates could be loaded in a magazine in daylight
Automatic Photograph and Developing Camera. Or The Self-Contained Automatic Camera. Marketed by Jonathan Fallowfield. Originally L’Operateur Ferrotype Camera made in Paris. Patented by Mario Mendoza 16,962 of 1892 1898-1903    
Takuquick 1A. Marketed by Jonathan Fallowfield.   1904- Victoria size 1.5 x 1.25 inch plates  
Takuquick 1B. Marketed by Jonathan Fallowfield.   1904-1908 Victoria size 1.5 x 1.25 inch plates  
Takuquick 2. Marketed by Jonathan Fallowfield.   1904-1908 2.5 x 2 inch plates  
Quta. Patent by Herbert E Hickox of Great Yarmouth 1901.Sold by Jonathan Fallowfield 5438 14 March 1901 1901-    
Taquta Automatic Camera. Sold by Jonathan Fallowfield   1905-1908 1inch circular buttons  
The Auto Cell, sold by Jonathan Fallowfield   1907- 2.5 x 2 inch sheathed plates  
The Popular Ferrotype Camera. A later version of the Quta sold by Jonathan Fallowfield   1908-1911 2.5 x 2 inch plates  
The Automatic Wonder Photo Cannon. Mendel Brothers, The Chicago Ferrotype Co.

8,822, 8 April 1911


1911 - 1913 small circular dry ferrotype plates.  
Mandel-ette, The Chicago Ferrotype Co. 21,126, 12 April 1912,
18767 of 1913
1913 - positive cards 3.5 x 2.5 inches  
The Aptus, and Aptus Model A made by Moore and Co Liverpool. patentee H.C.Moore 9342, 20 April 1912 1913- 1928. Magazine holding 100 ferrotype Plates. Plates 2.5 x 1.75 inches

The Aptus series was one of the most successful of these semi-automatic cameras. A reversing prism which corrected lateral image reversal was available as an extra

Aptus Model B. Moore and Co Liverpool.
  1922 - As model A but revolving back for both portrait and landscape formats Model B de-luxe – as Model B but faster lens
Aptus Model C. Moore and Co Liverpool
  1922 - both 2.5 x 1.75 and 3.5 x 2.5 inches with revolving back for portrait and landscape formats Model C de-luxe  as Model C but faster lens.
Aptus Model B de-luxe Junior and Model C de-luxe Junior. Moore and Co Liverpool.   1928 - 1950s?    
New Aptus Automatic Ferrotype Card Camera. Moore and Co Liverpool. Patented by H.C.Moore
285,543, Nov 13 1926 1927- 1950s? Took cards 2.5 x 1.75 inches. Around 1931 another model took cards 3 x 2.25 inches  
Aptus Autocard Camera, Moore and Co Liverpool.   1933 - Cards 2.5 x 1⅞ inches or 3 x 2.25 inches  
Prismotype. Patented by A.E.Norton marketed by Fallowfields 204,459 of 1922 1923- ferrotype plates or direct positive cards 3.5 x 2.5 inches. Ferrotype camera with internal prism for correcting image reversal
Jano Universal Postcard Camera. Janovitch & Co
  1929-1946 a finished positive postcard sized 5.5 x 3.5 inches produced first a negative which was re-photographed to produce a positive.
Jano Junior, Janovitch & Co, Jano Camera Co from 1953   1952 - 1965 3.5 x 2.5 inch print. produced first a negative which was re-photographed to produce a positive.

Advertising ferrotypes

In the British Journal of Photography 6 Jan 1905 p xvi, Jonathan Fallowfield advertised:


The unemployed.

Why should so many photographers and other men join the ranks of the unemployed when, by investing in Fallowfield’s button apparatus or automatic Ferrotype cameras, they could very quickly pay off the money borrowed and earn a fixed income all the year round?

The primary expense for a complete photo button outfit, carriage paid to your door would be £5. And you would then be in a position to make up buttons by the thousand for the local or other photographer, or, if you had the capital, you could start a small business, but that would mean another £25, so I advise only the outlay of £5 to those who have not sufficient money to buy a photographers practice.

You can be even more independent if you go in for Fallowfield’s Automatic Ferrotype Cameras. For £8 I can supply the camera, plates, stand, mounts, envelopes, trays, developers and all necessary articles, carriage paid. Of course this trade flourishes better in summer, but there is a demand all the year round and the worker will be able to pay his hotel expenses and make profit at every and any seaside resort round England, and a more enjoyable and healthy business could not be found.



Fallowfield's 1907 Takuquick Ferrotype Camera, Victoria size, complete with developing box, the complete kit could be purchased for £5.5.0.


Fallowfield's Auto Cell Ferrotype camera, 1907, taking 30 sheathed ferrotype plates 2½ x 2 inches, claimed by the manufacturer to be capable of producing up to 30 portraits per hour

Ferrotype Plates and Envelopes

In 1906 Sharpe and Hitchmough of 101 and 103 Dale Street, Liverpool offered ferrotype supplies. These included

Ferrotype Plates "Special" Buffalo 14 x 10 inches, black or chocolate, per doz. 3s 6d; per box of 200 sheets £2, half box £1.1s, quarter box 11s.

American cut-up ferrotype plates. Per box of 8 doz., black or chocolate
2 ½ x 2 inches 1s 6d;
3¼ x 2 ¾ inches 2s 6d;
4¼ x 3¼ inches 4s per box.

Ferrotype envelopes, new designs
1/9, 1/6 and 1/4 size, 100 for 1/6d, 1000 for 11s (1/9th plate would have been 2 x 2½ inches, 1/6th plate 2½ x 3½ inches and quarter plate 3¼ x 4¼ inches)
5 x 4, 100 for 2s, 1000 18s,
Victoria 1/9 (i.e.2 x 2½ inches), 100 1s 3d, 1000 10s 6d

Ferrograph Mounts by Sharp and Hitchmough 1906

New designs of ferrotype envelopes from Sharp and Hitchmough, Liverpool, 1906.


Surely the ultimate in ferrotype kit. The manufacturers of this 1915 Wonder Cannon Automatic Button Camera claimed that it took and finished ferrotype button photos at the rate of more than 6 per minute. It was by the Chicago Ferrotype Co of Chicago Buildings, Whitechapel, Liverpool; Chicago; New York etc.

Identifying and dating different presentations of ferrotypes

Some indications are given below of 19th Century ferrotypes. Measurement of a surviving example and comparison with the media column of the camera table above, then checking the advertised dates column may give a "not before..." indication of date. The illustrations of mount designs above may assist. Printed information about the photographer on the mount of backing paper is seldom to be found. Image content will ultimately play perhaps the biggest part in dating ferrotypes, but this can be very difficult on very small sizes.

Two unmounted Ferrotypes

Two examples of 19th Century unmounted ferrotypes. The above two unmounted ferrotypes measure respectively 2 x 2.1 inches and 1.9 x 2.8 inches. The subjects and the photographers are unknown. The first, of a man in a cap has been produced by the wet collodion process - the mark across the top of the plate shows where the liquid chemicals have not flowed evenly over the whole of the surface of the plate. Dry plate ferrotypes were first introduced in 1891. The second ferrotype of a child, supported by a woman who is mainly out of shot, is a chocolate plate. Both of these have clearly been unevenly cut by hand from larger plates. This again suggests a 19th century origin as pre-cut plates and cameras to match were readily available in the 20th Century. (although larger ferrotype plates 14 x 10 inches were available at least until 1906)

Three gem type ferrotypes

These three ferrotypes of unknown young people, by unknown photographers,are broadly similar to the American Gem, but the mount is much smaller than the carte de visite size of the Gem, being 1.8 x 2.8 inches. The ferrotypes are held in place by paper cover sheets stuck onto the reverse. The ferrotypes are larger than those encountered on many of the American Gems and measure approximately 1 inch or 1.1 inches x 1.5 inches. From the images themselves these seem to be 19th rather than 20th Century. The overall size of the mount matches some versions of the midget carte de visite. We have yet to discover a contemporary name for these midget carte ferrotypes.

Three larger Ferrotypes

Ferrotype plate 1920s

The three larger mounted ferrotypes above are all of unknown people by unknown photographers. The clothing of the subjects would put these in the 1920s/30s. The central example appears to have been tinted. The text in the background on the right hand image shows that the camera used reversed the image. The mounts have serrated patterned edges and are 3.1 x 5 inches, so midway between a conventional carte de visite and a cabinet photograph. The actual ferrotypes measure 1.75 x 2.5 inches. Below the three mounted examples is an unmounted ferrotype 1.75 x 2.5 inches taken from a similar mount, which was falling apart. This depicts two ladies in overcoats, apparently from the 1920s. Half way down the right hand edge of the plate is a small circular indentation and on the reverse is a corresponding slightly raised pinhead shape. These would have enabled the operator to load the plates into the camera with the correct orientation by touch. All of these very dark Tintypes have been lightened slightly in Photoshop in order to make the images visible. To date we have not discovered a contemporary name for this type of presentation of a ferrotype.

Mounted Ferrotype of two ladies

This ferrotype is a larger size again from those above. It depicts two ladies in summer outfits from the 1920s, one holding a box camera. The subjects and the photographer are unknown. The serrated edged mount measures 3.75 x 5.25 inches and the ferrotype behind the mount is 2.4 x 3.4 inches. Again this is a dark image which has been slightly lightened to improve visibility. To date we have not discovered a contemporary name for this type of presentation of a ferrotype.

Forrotype in novelty mount "Lets make Whoopee

The ferrotype above is in a dome top mount with bronze decoration 3.6 x 5.6 inches. The ferrotype measures 2.5 x 3.5 inches. The photographer is unknown but the subject is identified in manuscript on the reverse of the mount "1860-1936 William Crowninshield Endicott son of William Crowninshield Endicott & Ellen Peabody his wife." Endicott was an American, but he had relatives in England - his sister was married to the UK politician Joseph Chamberlain. The phrase "Lets Make Whoopee" on the face of the mount was made popular in a 1928 song, so this can be dated to the late 1920s, early 1930s. Although this carte was purchased in the UK, it could have originated in the USA. To date we have not discovered a name for this novelty type of presentation of a ferrotype.

Top of page is a non-commercial web site for local and family historians, exploring smaller sized portrait photographs and those who worked in this trade.
This page was last modified: 08 November 2019, 18:35

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