The Scovill Manufacturing Company* played an important and extensive role in supplying the photographic trade with supplies and equipment from the very start. The invention of the Daguerreotype provided Scovill, an established firm specializing in rolled brass and other metal work, the opportunity to supply the Daguerreotype trade with American made plates. Scovill was uniquely positioned to produce plates and compete with the imported and expensive French made plates being supplied to Dagerreotypists in the United States in 1839 and into the 1840's.
Scovill first attempted making plates in late 1839 but struggled to meet quality standards. However, by the mid 1840's, they were the largest domestic supplier of Daguerreotype plates. Scovill's photographic line of business expanded and became quite profitable over time and by the late 1850's, Scovill now possessed two profitable businesses; the long established metalwork division and the and the newer photographic supply division.
In 1858, Washington Irving Adams joined Scovill as a salesman. Adams would continue to work for and eventually run Scovill (a 35 year career) and become known as one of the founding fathers of the photographic industry.
The reason I bring up Scovill and W. Irving Adams is because of an interesting piece of ephemera I recently acquired. Presented below is a company check of the Scovill Manufacturing Company, dated May 4, 1883. It is signed by none other than "W. Irving Adams, Agent"
CLICK THUMBNAIL ABOVE TO SEE AN ENLARGEMENT
The check has 419 & 421 Broome Street as the address, which relates to Scovill's "Warerooms." This was Scovill's warehouse located in New York City that supplied photographic materials to the trade.
And that building still exists today:
Copyright Louise Slack
From an earlier blog post, an invoice from Scovill dated 1863:
For an extensive read on Scovill and its history, you can download a 54 page book, "Scovill Brass" at the link below - contains many historical images (note: very large file)
Petzval Lenses came in a variety of sizes with the more common being made to cover 1/4, 1/2 and whole plate* sizes during the 1840's and the early 1850's. However, as time went on, larger and larger lenses were being made, not only as a testament to an optician's skills and reputation, but also to satisfy those few photographers who utilized the larger formats of double whole plate and beyond. The photographer, like the optician, was likely to own and use such a large and expensive lens as another way to advertise his or her abilities as a craftsman.
As the 1850's went on and collidon based photography evolved, formats as large as 18" x 22" were being put into practice. Having said that, these ultra large formats were not commonly nor frequently utilized given the expensive amount of materials that would be needed to shoot these formats. Not only would you have to deal with the cost of acquiring one of these lenses, but also the costs of plates, holders, developing equipment, chemicals and even more significantly, the cost of acquiring a camera capable of shooting these formats. The camera (and stand) would also be huge and expensive and would take up a good deal of studio space.
Given Voigtlander's role as the original and finest maker of Petzval lenses in the world, it makes sense that early on they listed many large sized Petzval lenses in their catalogue offerings. They set the standards by which the rest of the world's opticians were measured. By design, and the laws of physics, the large aperture and narrow coverage of Petzval lenses meant theese are physically large and by virture of the amount of glass and brass involved, very heavy objects. Obviously, the larger the coverage, the larger and heavier the lens. In 1864, Voigtlander's 1864 Catalogue featured their # 13 Petzval with lenses of over 6.5 inches in diameter, a focal length of 35 inches (900mm) and coverage of 24 inches. I believe, this was their largest sized Petzval lens offered in their catalogues.
These ultra long and large lenses are super rare. Given their original cost, it's likely these lenese were made in tiny quantities perhaps 10 or 20 units in some of the largest sizes. Simple supply and demand. This is also what makes them so expensive to purchase in today's market.
22" focal length Holmes, Booth & Haydens Petzval Lens. Image Courtesy of Mr. Sol Hadef
Recently, fellow lens fan, Eddie Gunks, acquired a Voigtlander # 8 Petzval. While "only" covering 16 inches and with a focal length of 22 inches ( back focus 16 inches ), this is a beast which Eddie so nicely emphasizes in his video (below) along with a super-sized Darlot "Cone."
Video Copyright Eddie Gunks 2012
Be sure to watch in HD
The market for brass lenses, in general, is up. The market for Petzval lenses is way up. And, the market for these super-sized Petzval lenses is way, way up. The opportunities to own one of these doesn't happen too often and more and more collectors and users are realizing this and bidding these lenses way up. Or perhaps, we are just starting to value them more appropriately given their rarity.
The Voigtlander lens shown below, sold for $ 11,211 USD just this past January on eBay.
June 8, 2012
The blog has focused mostly on Antique cameras lately, so I thought I'd fast forward 75 years or so and post something of interest for the Leica M aficionados.
I forget where or how I found this pdf file, but it may be of interest to Leica fans. It's a document by the National Camera Company from the 1990's on basic Leica M camera repair. I'd personally advise you have a professional repair your equipment, but for those of you who cherish DYI, here's your chance to break.... err.... I mean fix or adjust your Leica M camera....
In 2000, PBS published a fine film on George Eastman, called "The Wizard of Photography."
I recall taping it on my VCR those many years ago, but was recently reminded that someone has posted it on YouTube. Its well worth your time. Click the image below to view the video..
Click the image to go to Youtube and watch
Another film produced by the Kodak Company is shown below, dating from 1996.
Note: the first few seconds of the video show static. Film starts 7 seconds in.
May 29, 2012
As a young boy, my father got me interested in coin collecting. I had a great time pursuing this hobby for about 7 years, including working at a coin shop as a young teenager during the Hunt Brothers silver bubble in 1979 and 1980. Silver came pouring into the shop, hour by hour, day by day. It was an exciting time.
My passion for camera collecting was kicked off by my wife (then girlfriend), in 1991, when she took me to my first antique shop. My very first purchase was a Kodak folder from the 1920's. I was hooked.
Recently, my old passion for coins and current passion for cameras collided when I learned about "love tokens."
"Through the years lovers have chosen a variety of different trinkets and charms as "tokens of love" to express their love or affection to someone special in their lives. Some of the more popular were thimbles, pin cushions, rings, and carved spoons. During the victorian period the ever popular valentine card was introduced. This period also marked the peak of popularity for using engraved coins as love tokens.
Love Tokens are coins that were taken from circulation and engraved with something special on them. They are referred to as love tokens because most were made for a special occasion and presented to the receiver as a gesture of love and / or affection. They were most popular here in the United States during the period commencing shortly after the civil war until the early 1890's."
The most common love tokens feature people's initials. I began searching eBay auctions to find my wife's initials ( DLC ). It took a few months, but I located a nice example which cost me $ 10.00 and is shown below.
Love tokens are typically inexpensive items that range from $ 5 to $ 50 depending on subject matter, aesthetic appeal and the coin used for the engraving. Obviously, love tokens that were engraved on gold coins fetch far more that silver coins, perhaps $ 150-400.
In my quest for finding my wife's initials I ran across an extraordinary love token which featured a Daguerreotype camera ! Specifically, a Chamfered Box Daguerreotype Camera. I was absolutely thrilled to find this on eBay. The coin is shown below.
As was common to do, a pin was soldered on the back of the dime so this could be worn on one's clothing (all that remains is the pin's hinge).
Given the image was engraved on the front of the dime, the date of the coin is obviously gone. However, I found an expert on Liberty Seated Dimes, who was able to determine the dime's date of mintage precisely to 1840. How, you ask? Based on the size of the "O" mintmark on the coin ("New Orleans") and the closed buds of the wreath, 1840 was the only year that had these two features. This doesn't mean the engraving was created in 1840, but the coin used was from 1840. While the Chamfered Box Daguerreotype Camera was in use from the mid 1840's to the late 1850's, the engraving probably dates to the late 1850's or 1860's, but one will never know for sure.
As a love token, its a rare piece given its unusual subject matter. But, as a camera collector who owns a Chamfered Box Daguerreotype Camera, it is priceless. A once-in-a-lifetime find.
American Chamfered Box Daguerreotype Camera
May 19, 2012
The firm of Robert H. Ingersoll & Bro. are most famously known for selling "Yankee Dollar Watches" starting in 1896, but they also sold a series of inexpensive wood cameras in the late 1890's; two models which also sold for the very low price of one dollar.
The best known of Ingersoll's cameras is the Shure Shot Detective Camera. Measuring only 3 inches by 3 inches by 4 inches, it's very small. It appears these first was marketed in late 1896 or early 1897.
(Item was recently sold on eBay for $ 256. Camera was in average condition)
Shure Shot Detective Camera
May 16, 2012
Jordan Patkin was an avid antique camera collector and someone with whom I had met a few times at PHSNE camera shows. He is also known for owning a few images made by Levi Hill which the Getty Museum analyzed and proved that Hill had created colored Daguerreotypes*.
Sadly, Jordan passed away last August, leaving behind a sizeable camera and photographica collection primarily of late 19th century items. See this link for a Daguerreian Society Quarterly article on Jordan's passing - page 24.
I was recently contacted by one of Jordan's family members regarding a few items in his collection. Long story short, the family plans on listing at least some items on eBay in the near future. I let Jordan's family know I would let other collectors know about this and would provide specific details when any auctions may begin.
In the meantime, I have been given permission by the family to post some images of Jordan's collection. Images are owned by the Patkin Family and were created by Photographer, Monica Pedynkowski.
I will add more images over the next few weeks. Enjoy.
More information on the mystery of Levi L. Hill and the invention of color photography:
Presented below is wonderful piece of photographica. The item is a counter top advertising sign for the Century Camera Company. Formed in 1900, Century was known for making high quality cameras and related equipment.
The sign is painted on metal with a pasted paper photograph. The rectangular sign, about 9.50 inches by 12.50 inches, is held by a simple, yet ornate metal frame, which measures 11.50 inches by 17.25 inches overall. The metal frame has a rear "kickstand" which helps identify it as a piece that sat on a counter or shelf. The angle of display and relatively small size are further clues as to its function as a counter level display piece.
Unfortunately, the ravages of time have made the pasted on image almost indistinguishable due to severe foxing and fading. However, upon close examination and finding a similar image in Century Camera's 1904 Catalogue, the image becomes easier to see and imagine.
Based on the few years Century Camera Company existed and the reference found in the 1904 catalogue, sign would appear to be circa 1904-1905.
Century Camera Sign
Left Image is from the sign - Right image from 1904 Catalogue
Its very likely the camera shown in both the sign and the 1904 catalogue image is
the Petite Century # 3 camera based on size and features in the line drawing.
March 12, 2012
Presented below are some pages from Edward M. Clarke's, List of prices of Mathematical, Philosophical, Optical, and Chemical Instruments and Apparatus. Google books lists this catalogue as being published in 1842 in London and the copy being from the Bavarian State Library. It is very difficult to find ads for equipment this early.
Highlights include Claudet and Gaudin's Daguerreotype Camera outfits and early Voigtlander Portrait lenses.
In order to fund some other recent acquistions to my collection, I need to sell a few items. The first one is this rarely seen 1866 Zentmayer Wide Angle Lens.
Joseph Zentmayer patented a new type of wide angle lens in 1866 to compete with the Harrision Globe lens which was very popular in the 1860's.
From the book, Manual of Photography: Intended as a Text Book for Beginners and a Book of Reference for Advanced Photographers 1871:
This example is the Number 2 sized Zentmayer lens. This size did not have the option for reversible cell units (combinations) as the larger sizes did. This size was for 4x5 images or part of a stereo pair.
Zentmayer # 2 Wide Angle Lens
Zentmayer Wide Angle Lens
Zentmayer Wide Angle Lens
Zentmayer Wide Angle Lens
1865 Back Cover of Book
Voigtlander 1848 Petzval Lens in original box - Image Courtesy Auction Team Breker