Carl Böhmke (also referred to as C. Bohmke, C. Boehmke and C. Brohmke) was, according to the 1885 advertisement below and other sources, a long time employee and foreman in Voigtlander's plant before venturing off to manufacture his own line of lenses in the fall of 1883* in Brunswick.
*The German magazine, "Chemiker-Zeitung," or "Chemist Newspaper" published October 11, 1883 lists under a column of "New Companies;"
C.Bohmke& Co., factoryoptical and mechanicalinstruments, Braunschweig(Owner: mechanicandoptician CarlBohmke, manufacturer FriedrichKlie and industrialistAdolfRitterbandt).
1885 Philadelphia Photographer advertisement. Note mention of 25 years with Voigtlander.
The New York firm of G. Gennert was the sole US importer of Böhmke lenses and in an advertisement in the book, The New Recreation: Amateur photography by Daniel J. Tapley, published in 1884, Böhmke's connection to Voigtlander is mentioned (see below).
Gottlieb Gennert was born in Brunswick, Germany (1826) and came to the US in 1854 to work on a contract from Scovill Manufacturing to make Daguerreotype plates. With his brother, Gennert went on to establish a very successful photographic supply house. It's quite possible Gennert knew Böhmke personally and that's how the Gennert-Böhmke connection happened. The Gennert firm was a frequent importer of German goods for the entire period his business operated which was from 1856-1921. This makes great sense given Gennert's heritage and ties to Germany, and specifically, Brunswick.
The New Recreation: Amateur photography by Daniel J. Tapley, published in 1884
Based on the advertisements and source materials found, it appears Böhmke first marketed his Aplanat (also listed as "Rapid Rectilinear") lens in 1884. This lens was sold with a set of waterhouse stops and was marked with a single digit, signifying its size. It appears this lens was sold from approximately 1884 until at least 1892 according to the ads I have found. Today, these are the most frequently encountered Bohmke lenses which makes sense given they were sold for at least 8 years.
1890 Photographic Mosaics Book advertisement from Gennert
Image courtesy of liveauctioneers.com. Note the number "6" at the top of the barrel.
Even the pouch that held the waterhouse stops was marked with the same number as the lens to signify the size of the lens.
Image Courtesy of P. Mansky
The American Amateur Photographer Magazine advertisement. Dec. 1891
At some point in the early 1890's, Böhmke added and updated his line of lenses. Gennert's 1893 Catalogue now featured three Boehmke (sic) models, listed as A, B and C series lenses. The "A" series is an f/3.7 Portrait Lens, the "B" series an f/4 (or f/5) Portrait Aplanat and the "C" series an f/5 (or f/6) Rapid Aplanat. Each catalogue page is shown below, courtesy of http://piercevaubel.com
Image courtesy of Liveauctioneers.com. Note "C" model lens
These new lenses were now marked with a letter (A,B or C) signifying lens type and a number, signifying lens size. Note "C5" engraving in the lens above. Interestingly, while the catalogue features the C lens having an iris diaphragm, the lens above still features a slot for removable stops.
The newer series lenses don't appear to have been marketed too long given their rarity in today's market. I have never seen a Series A lens. All of the Böhmke lenses I have seen have been the early type Rapid Rectilinear / Aplanats or the "C" model shown above. Given the lens' serial number of 3230, and if we can rely on Böhmke using sequential numbering, it would appear at least a few thousand Böhmke lenses were made.
After 1893, I no longer find ads for Böhmke lenses, so it would appear they faded away in the mid 1890's. One internet source mentions Voigtlander bringing Böhmke to court, but I have not been able to confirm this. There is speculation that because the Böhmke lenses have a very similar appearance to the Voigtlander lenses of the period, that may be the cause of some legal action by Voigtlander against Böhmke. Possible, but given the long period these lenses were marketed, that seems less plausible. Perhaps there were legal issues regarding Böhmke lenses being sold in Germany and/or Europe, as opposed to export to the US.
The image below highlights how similiar the first verision Aplanat/RR Böhmke lens is to Voigtlander's Euryscop of the same time period.
It appears like Voigtlander, Böhmke also made and/or sold binoculars. One auction house listed a Böhmke camera, but I believe that was pure speculation and there is no evidence Böhmke made or sold any cameras.
Image Courtesy Ebay user flohmarkt-010
While the story of Böhmke remains incomplete, we have more information that had been previously documented. If you have more information on Böhmke or wish to share images of your Böhmke lenses, please email me.