The Blair Combination Camera is one of the first field bellows
cameras produced by the Blair Tourograph & Dry Plate Company,
and this particular example might be one of the earliest examples.
Thomas Blair was an inventive builder who produced a variety of
field cameras to meet the needs of practically any photographer.
In particular, Blair's "Combination" cameras are traditional field
designs offered with a unique [patented] accessory plate-holder
extension mounted at the rear. (As a note, the camera model
shown here only appeared in 1882 and 1883 catalogues.)
According to Blair's 1882 pamphlet; "By means of the extension,
the camera is made capable of carrying plates double the size of
its original capacity without sacrificing any of the advantages."
In summary, attaching a plate-holder extension adapts this
camera's 4x5 inch format body for larger 5x8 inch glass plates.
Plate-holder extensions were also offered to upgrade 5x8 inch
formats to 8x10 inch and so forth. Although a clever idea and
available through the early 1890s, plate-holder extensions are
Recognizing that his plate-holder extension could lead to
decreasing sales of larger cameras (a classic market
cannibalization scenario), Thomas Blair later amended his
comments noting that "this adjunct to photograph apparatus" was
not intended to be a substitute for a larger camera "because it
would be more desirable to have an 8x10 Camera proper, but the
idea was to furnish an attachment for the use of the operator,
who used 5x8 plates as a rule, and occasionally desired to use an
8x10 plate, etc."
The Combination Camera is made of finely polished dark mahogany
with nickel-plated brass hardware. The unmarked landscape lens is
a rare pillbox form with a pivoting metal cap that was also used as
a shutter. This 4x5 inch format model with 5x8 inch plate-holder
extension was selling for $28.00 in 1882 (about $761 adjusted for
Combination Camera, 1882 Blair Tourograph & Dry Plate Company, Boston