What about August Herzog himself? He was born in Germany and graduated from the
Polytechnical School of Nuremberg. August trained as a mathematician and practical
draughtsman, and studied photography in Germany. In 1865, he came to the United
States and worked for two and a half years as an engineer and surveyor for the North
Pacific Railroad. Herzog was a man of ideas and intuition, and eventually moved to New
York in 1869 to conduct business - including the sale of photographic supplies - at
No.36 John Street, New York. Other goods were sold out of an office in Guttenberg,
According to Industries of New Jersey: Hudson, Passaic and Bergen Counties (1883,
page 938) August Herzog was described as a "Manufacturer of Drawing Tools, Artists'
Good, Optical Goods, and the American Gem Photographic Apparatus of which he is the
inventor and patentee". The article also comments that his business was regarded as:
"One of the most important manufacturing establishments in the State of New Jersey".
Aside from his American Gem No.2, August's business was large and diverse:
..........."The line of polytechnical instruments embraces drawing-tools, including
...........T squares, curves, straight-edges, in wood and hard rubber, and also
...........rubber angles of all degrees. He also manufactures artists' goods, easels,
...........palettes, and all kinds of paint cases, and also optical goods, tripods,
...........microscopes, and object cases, and manufactures to order every kind
...........of wood philosophical and mathematical instruments for schools and
...........academies. The various articles manufactured by Mr. Herzog number
...........thirty-eight thousand and include all instruments of measurement for
...........railroad engineers, shipbuilders, artists' goods, drawing tools, etc. In
...........the production of the various articles, twenty-two skilled and ingenious
...........workmen are constantly employed and a nine-horse power engine is
...........used to furnish the motor for the various intricate machines necessary
...........in the manufacture of these varied articles. A large business is carried
...........on by Mr. Herzog, who supplies the United States Government, also the
...........Military Academy at West Point, and all schools and colleges throughout
...........the country with polytechnical instruments used by them, also all the
...........railroad companies, ship-builders, etc., with the various rules, curves etc.,
...........for making drawings, and so true, perfect, and exact are the instruments
...........from his establishment that they have become standard and are adopted
...........by all engaged in the mechanical or other kinds of drawings."
This same 1883 reference also claims Herzog as "the first to explain 'what photography
is,' and is the patentee of an improved new process for making pictures by the
dry-plate or instantaneous method, and has perfected an apparatus known as the
'American Gem,' by the use of which a child ten years of age can readily understand its
operations and make a picture after a few readings of the valuable pamphlet which
accompanies each instrument, equal to the most skillful artist by the old or wet-plate
Herzog's version of an English book binder double plate holder. It is nicely
constructed and finished and marked with the patent date.
Copyright ©2013 by Rob Niederman - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
American Gem No.2, 1881
August Herzog's Toy Cameras - page 3
With the creation of a second model, August Herzog applied his engineering skills to
redesign the traditional double plate holder; which was patented on October 11,
1881 as No. 248,175.
Profile view of the American Gem No.2 showing Herzog's
patent double plate holder. The plate holder slides into the
rear of the camera. The two thin grooves would hold a
ground glass. Focusing is done with the ground glass in the
forward groove. It is then stored in the back slot and held
in place with a small metal tab.
The double dry-plate holder is patterned after the well known English bookbinder
design. Hinges placed along the 'spine' allow the plate holder to open like a book to
load two plates. Each of the dark slides has small pegs to pull them out. For this
particular holder, glass plates can only be loaded in a portrait orientation; it doesn't
include an internal reversible frame to change orientations inside the holder as
described in the patent.
The American Gem No.2 has a basic rear assembly for the patented plate holder and
two sets of thin slots to hold an unframed ground glass; one placed near the body
for composition and focusing and a second positioned at the rear to store the
ground glass while shooting a picture.