Identification Guides

Tinware and Toleware

Tinware was made from tinplate, a sheet of iron or steel that had been dipped in molten tin so it was covered with a thin plating of tin. Early American tinsmiths used tinplate imported from England. By about 1830 some tinplate was made in America, but most of it continued to come from England until changes in tariff laws in 1890 made imported tinplate too expensive.

Tinsmiths cut and soldered tinplate to make all sorts of kitchen utensils, cookie cutters, tea sets, boxes, pans, funnels, roasters, apple corers, scoops, mugs, trays, shakers, wall sconces, candlesticks, and small toys. Unpainted tinware was sold across the country by traveling peddlers. The tinware business slowed somewhat during the Revolution, but the industry had begun to boom again by 1800. Painted tinware, called tole or toleware, was popular then.