Four-Lens Tintype Camera

This four-lens, wooden bellows tintype camera was used for studio portrait photography in the 1860s during the Civil War era. Tintypes were popular inexpensive photographs made on coated iron metal plates and usually placed in individual cases for customers. Studio and traveling photographers were making tintypes in America from the mid-1850s to the early decades of the twentieth century. This camera could make up to four identical images in one portrait sitting.
From its invention in 1839, the camera has evolved to fit many needs, from aerial to underwater photography and everything in between. Cameras allow both amateur and professional photographers to capture the world around us. The Smithsonian’s historic camera collection includes rare and unique examples of equipment, and popular models, related to the history of the science, technology, and art of photography.
Currently not on view
Object Name
camera, tintype
date made
ca 1860s
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
glass (overall material)
overall: 26 cm x 29 cm x 45 in; 10 1/4 in x 11 7/16 in x 114.3 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Artifact Walls exhibit
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Artifact Walls exhibit
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of A.C. Stebbins

Visitor Comments

11/12/2015 8:56:39 AM
John Hawkinson
Physical description could also include the bellows, made up of leather or treated fabric.
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