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One of the goals of this website is to include a bit of historical information, advertisement or reference with each camera. The idea is to build a more complete picture of each item by studying the wide spectrum of model variants and accessories that are not listed in recent collecting books. However information about 19th century cameras and their use is limited and often hard to find. We have found that the best information sources come from the original manufacturer's catalogues and advertisements -- making the collector or historian somewhat of a photo-archeologist. And like an archeologist, surprises and the unexpected abound.

Over the years, we have learned that many makers -- such as The American Optical Company as one example -- offered "made to order" variations. One example is the Henry Clay Camera made with aluminum mountings (instead of heavier brass). This variation was advertised for $38 in 1896, and until August 2001, no example was known to exist in any collection. Finding such an example or any special order camera is a rare privilege, but without references describing these obscure variations, they would likely remain unknown to the collecting community.

Advertising copy can convey a manufacturer's desired position in the market or special virtues of a particular camera. The Bullard Folding Magazine Camera was advertised having a tag line "Its Better Than Yours" while additional text noted "The magazine works with the speed and accuracy of a repeating rifle." Trying it out, I discovered that my Bullard jammed quite frequently leading me to wonder about the quality of those 19th century repeating rifles.

Manufacturer's advertisements and references can also help date an important camera or new model release, which can have a bearing on its historic significance. One of the more interesting and elusive folding plate cameras, The Henry Clay Camera, was originally thought to have been introduced in 1892 because the earliest reference was an 1892 Scovill & Adams Photographic Annual. Yet knowing that annuals must have engravings and ad copy ready for publication and distribution, the camera would need to have been available the previous year to make the deadline. Working under this assumption, later research uncovered a photographic jobber's catalogue complete with an illustration of the camera dated June 15, 1891. Confirming 1891 as the introduction date positions The Henry Clay Camera as a historically interesting item. We now consider it as one of the first self-casing, folding-bellows cameras that helped make dry plate photography appealing to the masses -- an important transition in the acceptance of gelatin based emulsions that continues today.

As the industry moves forward into a new era of digital images, the roots of photography can still be traced in its early cameras, advertising, and references. The advertisements and references appearing on this website are scans from the originals. They are fascinating looks into a past where graphical layout, grammar, and the "sales pitch," are much different than what we see today.
• American Optical Company: Flammang's Catalogue Listing
• American Optical Company: Henry Clay Advertising
• American Optical Company: Henry Clay Research
• American Optical Company: Henry Clay Sliding Bed
• American Optical Company: Henry Clay Timeline
• American Optical Company: Star View Catalogue Listing
• Anthony (E. & H.T): Marlborough Advertisements
• Anthony (E. & H.T): Novelette Catalogue Listing
• Anthony (E. & H.T.): Phantom Catalogue Listing
• Anthony (E. & H.T.): Universal View Finder Catalogue Listing
• Anthony (E. & H.T.): Victor Catalogue Listing
• Beck: "Autograph" Wide Angle Lens Catalogue Listing
• Blair Camera Company: Hawk-Eye, No.1 Catalogue Listing
• Blair Camera Company: Lucidograph Advertisement & Patent
• Blair Tourograph & Dry Plate Company: Tourograph Brochure
• Bullard Camera Company: Folding Magazine Camera Adverts
• Butcher: Royal Mail Stamp Camera Advertisements
• Disderi: CdV Image
• G. Gennert: Montauk Flexo-Front Advertisement
• Gibbs (William): Camera Patent
• Gordon (attributed): Plateholder Patent
• Horsman (E.I.): "Eclipse" Outfit Advertisement
• Kozy Camera Company: Chase Magazine Camera References
• Kozy Camera Company: Kozy Advertisement & Patent
• Lancaster: Instantograph Camera
• Lancaster: Stereo Instantograph Camera
• Lancaster: Le Merveilleux Camera
• Milburn Camera Company: Korona Hand Camera Patent
• Multiscope & Film Co: Al-Vista No.5-F Catalogue Reference
• Pearsall (Frank): Timeline - References
• Pearsall (Frank): Patents
• Perry Mason: Argus 12-Shot Camera Advertisement & Patent
• Popular Photograph Company: Nodark Advertisement
• Putnam (Franklin): Camera Research and Ephemera
• Quta Camera & Plate Company: Advertisement & Patent
• Rochester Camera Mfg Co: Rochester Catalogue Listing
• Rochester Optical Company: Commodore Advertisement
• Rochester Optical Company: Midget Catalogue Listing
• Rochester Optical Company: Snappa Advertisement
• Rochester Optical Company: Universal Catalogue Listing
• Schaub (Jacob): Multiplying Camera Patent
• Schaub (Jacob): 1983 Kessler Article Excerpt
• Scovill & Adams Company: Antique Oak Catalogue Listing
• Scovill & Adams Company: Compact View Catalogue Listing
• Scovill Mfg Company: Acme Catalogue Listing
• Scovill Mfg Company: Bon Ton View Box Catalogue Listing
• Scovill Mfg Company: St. Louis Catalogue Listing
• Scovill Mfg Company: Waterbury Catalogue Listing
• Skyshade: Shutter Advertisement (Fexo-Front)
• Smith (Jas): Sunflower Advertisement & Patent
• Steinheil: Group Antiplanet Lens Catalogue Listing
• Stockwell (Nathan): Camera Patent
• Wilken-Welsh: Onondaga No.6 Reversible Back Listing
• Wing (Harvey T.) Prototype Multiplying Camera Patent
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