Tintype Photos

Tintype Photos Were Made Quickly, Mrs. Varner Says,                        by Alice Leffler

Tintypes were among the popular kinds of pictures when the late Ezekiel Rowlett operated a picture gallery in Madison, according to his daughter, Mrs. H. A. Varner. As she recalls the procedure, four tintypes were made simultaneously, the picture being imprinted directly upon the tin which was immersed in a developing fluid, a fixing solution and then varnished to prevent scratching and fading.

Farmer women and girls would have their pictures taken when first arriving in town, then call and receive them before leaving in the late afternoon. Mrs. Varner does not remember the price, as she was a school girl when her father was Madison’s photographer, but says they were cheaper than photographs, the popular priced photo being $2.50 a dozen.

While the tintypes were slipped into a folder with a paper fly-leaf to protect the face, the
photographs were pasted upon a fancy card. It took longer to make photographs then, than it does now, as the sun developed the pictures and one had to watch—well, here was the process:

There was a wooden frame with a glass face and a back which was hinged about two-thirds up and locked by means of a clamp. One placed the negative next the glass, then put in a sheet of sensitized paper, then firmly locked the back in place so the paper could not slip on the negative and blur the picture.  This was done in the ‘dark’ room which was light, but so-called as only a red light was used for illumination in order to protect the sensitive paper. The frame would then be carried out of the ‘dark’ room, care being taken that the opening door did not destroy exposed paper. The frame would be set in a sunny window for an approximate number of minutes, the exact time depending upon the brightness of the sun, the time of day and the condition of the glass plate, which corresponds with the present camera film.

Mrs. Varner has often tried to figure out the exact location of her father’s gallery but can not owing to the changes in Madison during the years when she lived in the vicinity of Warnerville and Enola.  She recalls that James and Marion Thomas had a general grocery store when her parents first came to Madison, and Mr. Prince operated the hotel. Later, Gillespies had a store; Earl Fichter ran the livery stable and W. J. Brinkman was the druggist. That was back in ’82, her father, a Civil War veteran, living in Seward county prior to that time, settling there in ’76.

Mrs. Varner attended school in Madison the winter her father homesteaded southwest of Warnerville, then known as Munson, as buildings had not been erected. Literaries, in which the children and adults sang, spoke pieces, debated, had spelling matches and play parties, were among the early day amusements for both Mr. and Mrs. Varner. Mr. Varner also enjoyed dancing, of which Mrs. Varner’s parents did not approve, but the Methodist church which she attended provided considerable entertainment in the form of sociables.

Mr. Rowlett helped build the Warnerville church which was dedicated in 1906 by the Rev. W. R. Peters, who was a circuit minister, serving Bega, Warnerville, Hoskins and Dover school district. Dr. Tyndall, presiding elder, preached the dedicatory sermon. The Rev. Kimball of Madison and previously preached at Warnerville, Hoskins and the Dover school district. Mr. and Mrs. Varner, after their marriage in ’88, farmed and kept store in Enola then moved to a farm near Enola and subsequently to Madison.

Tom Malone and his son, Fay, were among the prominent builders in Enola, for whom the town was named. They built several houses still standing, Will Stork; J. C. Hartford and Howard Miller occupying three of them. Ernest Diefenderfer was one of the first settlers. Mr. Varner was a director of the Enola school which was first housed in a small building later moved away that a two-room building might be erected, the plan being such that two rooms later were added, completing the original plan.

Mr. Stork was an early day postmaster, housing the government work in the office of the grain elevator which he and Paul Renner, Sr., owned. Mrs. Tobalo, now of California, and her six children lived in Enola.  Howard, the youngest of the Varner children, was born in Enola and is now with George Callies in the tire and battery business in Madison. The elder son, Harley, lives in Seward county and a daughter, Mrs. Fred Wakeley, near Hartington. There are ten grandchildren of the elder Varners and two great grandchildren.
Source: “Madison Star-Mail”, February 12, 1942, page 3.