Field Cameras of the United States: 1879-1930

[Above: a Scovill Mfg. Co. Albion outfit 6.5×8.5, with George Wale shutter and canvas case]

From 1870-1930, an explosion in field camera design occurred in the United States.  Rival firms patented designs for beds, reversing mechanisms and plate-holders at a breakneck pace.  The result is documented here: a database of wood and brass wet-plate and dry-plate field view cameras manufactured in the United States between 1870-1930.  Leather-covered hand and stand cameras have not been included; a database of them would have an even greater number of models and variations.

Dating American view cameras:   Approximate dates of manufacture are given.  Dates of manufacture have been compiled from the catalogs and literature present at the George Eastman House and private sources.  If a model has been specifically introduced (as stated in company literature) or if a complete run of catalogs shows a definite starting or ending date, that date will be indicated without qualification.  A date for which sufficient reliable information has not yet been found will be indicated as circa (c.).

For those having broad-band, a number of trends in woods used, finishes, hardware, general construction, construction details, carrying cases can be discerned during this period of view camera variability.  I wouldn’t recommend clicking any of these with dial-up.

A note on variations: Some models of view cameras were manufactured over many years, sometimes by different companies, or in different factories.  These factors give rise to variations in appearance, design, or details.  Some of these variations can be followed from year to year in advertisements or catalogs.  Others are merely mysterious deviations in construction.  Still others arise from the use or mixing of old parts to create a camera which, in the view of the maker, was just as much the desired model as would be a camera that matched the catalog exactly.  As significant differences of either type are observed, I have called attention to them, by arbitrarily naming them Variation 1Variation 2etc., attempting to list them in approximate chronological order of their likely period of occurrence. These designations only serve to separate the photos and engravings shown here, and may change over time if a new, earlier variation is discovered.