Tintype photography achieved its greatest popularity in the 1860s and 1870s when practitioners of this art traveled to country fairs and set up temporary studios, where for a small fee, attendees could sit for an image, and within minutes be given a finished memory in a paper folder.
A tintype is made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal coated with dark lacquer or enamel which is used as support for the photo emulsion.
The above photo image has been positively identified as of the Harrison Riegle family of Lykens Township. Seated in the stall are Hannah [Rickert] Riegle, her husband Harrison, and their oldest child, Chauncey A. Riegle, who was born on 1 August 1870. The tintype was dated by assuming the child was about two years old at the time and the Gratz Fair was usually held in September – hence about 1872, give or take a year.
Four tintypes were found in the same photo box which was kept by Hannah at her home in Lykens Township. After Hannah’s death in 1919, the photos were stored in the attic and then prior to the family homestead being sold in 1977, my mother and I were able to recover them along with hundreds of other pictures that could have ended up in a trash heap. For many years afterward, my mother (who grew up in the homestead) worked to identify the persons in the photographs and the dates they were taken. Following her death in 2003, I continued that work The box contained an outstanding photo collection of the history of Specktown and Lykens Township!
Many of the photographs remain unidentified, including the three tintypes pictured below. However, because of the setting (the straw on the ground), they probably were all taken at the same time and at the same place. We’ve speculated that the other persons might be Hannah’s sisters (she was the youngest of 7 girls) and their husbands. The only sister who was not married was Becky Rickert, who had a developmental disability, so she is probably not one of those in the tintypes. Or, the photographs could be of the neighbors of Harrison and Hannah from Specktown in Lykens Township. Without any other identified pictures to compare to, we may never know whose pictures were taken that day at the Gratz Fair.
Readers are invited to submit comments to help identify these outstanding tintypes!