The Oldest Images of Ice Hockey Players

I am an eclectic collector of vintage ice hockey memorabilia, pre-1940. That is, I collect any type of ice hockey items that I feel would be relevant to the history of the greatest game in North America, ice hockey. Albeit, my collection is diverse with many historic items I readily admit that my first "love" is the photograph. Especially old images that capture the true history of the game, the players and the crowds as they appeared way back "when." I have over 700 ice hockey related photographs in my collection many of which date to the turn of the 20th century. I have just acquired what I believe are the oldest known images of ice hockey players in existence and would like to share them with all of you.

To understand my claim that these are the "oldest known images of ice hockey players in existence" a short history of photography is warranted. In 1839 Louis Daguerre announced in France that he had achieved what many thought impossible-capturing reality in its most minute detail on a polished silver plate. This new invention where an image could be seen was named the daguerreotype after it's discoverer, and it quickly captivated the world. Soon after, two separate English inventors in the 1850's, William Talbot and Frederick Archer, were able to improve on Daguerre's process. Talbot was able to print on paper, images from the daguerreotype but they were not "sharp" or focused and would usually appear blurred due to the chemicals running off of the plate before the image was developed. Archer solved the problem by using sheets of glass and a collodion solution or wet-plate process that adhered to the glass plates and developed image on them that were clear and detailed. This process gave rise to the first popular type of photograph made by the collodion process known as the ambrotype that flourished through the 1850's worldwide. In 1856 another type of photograph using a similar wet-plate process was patented and named melainotype or ferrotype, it became commonly known as the "tintype" although tin was actually never used in this process. Tintypes became very popular especially in North America because it was much less expensive to create clear and detailed images that used simple cameras, equipment and chemicals then by using the other wet-plate processes. Tintypes flourished until the mid to late 1870's gradually being replaced by the Carte de viste (cdv) and cabinet cards developed in the 1860's and prospered until the end of the 1800's.

Since photography did not migrate to and flourish in North America from Europe until the 1850's and debate still continues as to the first "formal" beginnings of the game before this time period, it would almost be impossible to find an ice hockey image on a daguerreotype, ambrotype, or other wet-plate process except the tintype. I recently found in a grouping of 10 tintypes, two tintype images of two men in a photographer's studio each holding an ice hockey stick, on skates and a puck at their feet. The other tintypes were of people from this same era in regular clothing and the entire tintype grouping was purchased from a person in Quebec Canada. I have showed these images to several photography knowledgeable people as well as persons familiar with clothing from that era and they along with myself date these images between 1865-1879.

These images give rise to the theory that the game of ice hockey was alive and apparently doing well between 1860 and 1879 somewhere in Quebec. To date the debate over where the "birthplace of hockey" originated relied upon written evidence in an 1844 book of fiction and the documented game between McGill University students in 1875. Now for the first time new tangible evidence in the form of a photographic image is being presented for discussion. I would very much like to hear from anyone who may have similar tintype images or other early images as well as your comments about this article and the images. Please email at