American Gem No.2, 1881 August Herzog's Toy Cameras - page 2
Regardless of its name, Herzog's Popular Photograph Camera is nothing more than a wood
stand and base with a truncated fiberboard body holding a brass lens tube mounted into a
square wooden face.
The build is strictly no-frills and includes a handy hole at the top of the wooden stand;
perfect for a child's or adult's finger to carry it. Nevertheless, the camera was probably
much too fragile for younger photographers and a second model soon followed: the
American Gem No.2. With a bit of ingenuity, Herzog made the succeeding camera larger
and sturdier with the addition of braces to reinforce the wood frame, and replaced the
fiberboard body with a structurally solid, metal hemispherical form. To ensure learning the
art of photography was as easy as possible for his second camera, in 1880 Herzog wrote
a booklet entitled Photography Without A Teacher.
The 1881 American Gem No.2 shown on the first page of this post was upsized to
shoot standard 3¼" x 4¼" plates yet retained its distinctive 'finger hole.' It is sleeker
in appearance and more substantial to survive the rigors of enthusiastic children.
Taken as a whole, the American Gem No.2 continues with the original model's
concept of simplicity while being devoid of advanced features such as rise/fall
movements, geared focusing and so forth. In addition to the elegantly hemispherical,
nickel plated metal body - which gives the camera a nouveau style look - the sliding
lens tube is now mounted in an ebonized wooden collar and held in place with a
knurled brass knob. To ensure the lens tube could not be misplaced, the rear barrel
edge is flared outward to prevent it from being pulled out of the body; yet I did
accidentally push it completely into the metal body!
It also includes its original wooden case with paper maker's label, metal lens cap /
shutter, double plate holder, and tripod. The camera is also marked with August
Herzog's 1872 trademark (Figure 4) and three patent dates of Sept. 12, 1876
(camera), Sept. 20, 1881 (reissue), and Oct. 11, 1881 (plateholder).
A paper label inside the wooden case's lid reaffirms the patent's product description
that this is an educational tool "For Family Use" and being "manufactured for the
purpose of teaching those who take an interest in Photography, and for those who
desire to spend a little more money for a better article." The label also notes the
apparatus is "of the same construction as the one previously described but has a
3¼ x 4¼ inch Patent Dry Plate-holder, to admit two prepared plates at one time,
and also an Achromatic Lens for producing a more perfect picture in taking portraits
Additionally, there is a list of twenty-two items making up the outfit including a
teaching book and chemistry to be stored in the wooden case. As with the 1876
model, there are only a couple examples of the second version, one of which, in the
collection of the George Eastman House, is fitted with a petzval formula Darlot lens
in a rack & pinion focusing barrel.
ca.1882 Herzog Amateur Camera (improved model).
George Eastman House collections. August Herzog,
New York, NY. Gift of Eastman Kodak Company.
In 1872, August Herzog created a clever trademark-logo by
graphically marrying his initials "A" and "H". On the 1881
model camera, patent information accompanies the logo.