Images & Apparatus Daguerreotype cameras and images represent
the earliest form of commercial photographic apparatus and process. A
carefully exposed image made on silver coated copper plates glistens
with a tonal range and delicacy that is unparalleled even by today's
As with the images, most of the cameras themselves are practically
works of art and, in many cases, the earliest are one-off models made
by craftsman. It is believed that only 250 (or so) daguerreotype
cameras still exist worldwide according to a recognized expert.
While most daguerrian equipment takes the form of a box, it was William
and William H. Lewis that patented and created the first cameras to
use a bellows in 1851. The Lewis family established their business in
1839 and believed to have entered into the daguerreian trade by 1844.
Aaron F. Palmer's and Joseph Longking's bellows daguerreotype camera
is practically identical to Lewis' original design; and in many cases, the
cameras cannot be properly identified without maker's markings or
detailed examination of the tiniest construction details. This is why
American bellows daguerreotype apparatus are often referred to as
Clues might lie in the companies themselves. According to Stuart
Wilensky in his well researched 1981 article The Men, The Camera and
Their Factory; "in the Doggetts New York Business Directory of
1852-53, Lewis is no longer listed. At their address, 142, Chatham, we
find instead, Gardner, Harrison and Company. It appears that Lewis sold
out their entire operations." Wilensky speculates that the new company
carried on operations under the existing lease with W. & W.H. Lewis. No
further references pertaining to Gardner, Harrison and Company were
found after 1853.
The first reference to Palmer & Longking is found in Humphrey's Journal,
January 1, 1853 and a follow up listing in E. Anthony's 1854 catalogue.
Palmer & Longking lenses (advertised as cameras at the time) and
bellows box apparatus were listed. It is unknown when Palmer &
Longking went out of business, but Wilensky notes the company was
listed between 1854 and 1858 at the same 142 Catham address as
Garner, Harrison and Company according to New York City directories.
1/4-plate daguerreotype with Palmer & Longking radial drive lens and manufacturer's stamp
Copyright ©2012 by Rob Niederman - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Lewis Style Daguerreotype, c.1853-54
Palmer & Longking, Newburg & New York
The Camera The camera shown here is a fine example of a
Lewis-style bellows daguerreotype with the original maker's mark
and manufacturer's labeled lens.
The camera's body is finished with a fine rosewood veneer. A
hinged top with ivory/bone knob lifts open to remove or place a
ground glass frame and plate holder.
This appears to be an early example because all the screws and
hinges are steel (not brass) and hand-made square head nails are
used at the front corners of the base and to hold the ground glass.
While most daguerreian equipment has a variety of lenses (many of
which are replacements over time), C.C. Harrison is usually found,
however this camera retains its original Palmer & Longking marked
radial drive lens (#1390).
The chamfered front standard was eventually replaced with a
squared front on all later cameras. In contrast to the early forms of
this camera, these later cameras also enclose the bellows within
Above: Rear view of camera showing the ground glass (with an
oval etching for composing the picture for a cased image) and cast
Left: Palmer & Longking maker's mark stamped on the rear bed
Suggested Reading I highly recommend a Google search to find
Stuart Wilensky's well researched 1981 article entitled: The Men,
The Camera and Their Factory: William Lewis, William H. Lewis,
Aaron F. Palmer and Joseph Longking.