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Ferrotype Bon Ton View Box, 1870s – another memorable collecting experience

In Cameras > Wood Cameras > Show & Tell.
Wood Cameras61 of 182Rare Uncut Tintypes of Husband & WifeBullard Folding Magazine Camera, Series B, c.1898
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Posted 1 year ago

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rniederman
(148 items)

Lots of collectors say they love the ‘hunt’; well, that describes me. When a camera appears on my ‘Most Wanted’ list, the fun (so to speak) begins.

This is a 1870s wet plate camera designed to shoot four images on a single tintype plate. Made by the Scovill Manufacturing Company, it’s smaller than others of the time and rarer. It also the filthiest camera in my collection; then again, it will stay that way. In the world of really early cameras, restoration and cleaning is a ‘no no.’ The so-called ‘filth’ is actually dried collodion – nasty stuff when ‘wet.’

This was an eBay win from long ago, and before the camera arrived, I asked the seller about its provenance. Much to my surprise, he related a story about how it was found over 40 years ago - in a "one-holer" outhouse in Etna, Maine!

While waiting for the camera, I began to wonder if it acquired some "personality" after unceremoniously residing in the most "privy" of all places. Within a week the camera arrived. As layers of bubble-wrap were carefully removed, brief glimpses of four lenses could be seen, then polished wood, then ... brown residue ... uh oh ... "sniff" ... the camera smelled. Yikes!

Literally holding my breath, a tentative but not to close examination, allayed my fears. I gazed upon layers of early photographic chemistry that dripped from who knows how many plate holders onto the rear standard. A great sign because I consider collodion stains a badge of honor. And fortunately, it was the musty odor of 100+ years of accumulated dust I smelled. < Sighs of relief! > This camera was a "shooter," and in remarkable condition considering where it was ‘sitting’ all those years.

"Shooters" in good condition are noteworthy cameras, experienced workhorses earning their keep day in and day out. Gazing at this "one holer" Scovill, it’s still easy to visualize the photographer going through a traditionally messy collodion ritual; mixing chemistry, patiently coating plates, quickly loading plate holders, taking pictures, and developing an image before the stuff could dry.

Satisfied with the results, the itinerant photographer would move on and repeat the process - dripping more layers of goo onto the camera. Unlike dry-plate cameras, the wet plate process exacts a toll on the apparatus. No matter how careful and nimble fingered a photographer was, collodion got on everything and, over time, decays the wood - and you can see the results in the second picture.

I still wonder about the scenes that might have softly illuminated the ground glass in 19th century Etna, Maine. Who used it? What did the camera see? And more importantly, how did it end up in an outhouse?

CW’ers … let’s hear about your memorable collecting moments!

Comments

  1. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, leighannrn!
  2. ericevans2 ericevans2, 1 year ago
    Great story, Rob!
  3. filmnet filmnet, 1 year ago
    I sold a Deardorf 8/10 with the brass knobs where your hands turned, were wore off, even some gears from United Shoe Company, 1900-1970, The spread out huge shoe steel machines on the ground, and the camera was up 30" high a 8 by 10,
  4. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks Sean, mustangtony, and bratjdd!
  5. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, smsorensen27!
  6. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, blunderbuss2!
  7. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, officialfuel!
  8. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks Eric and shughs!
  9. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, Eric!
  10. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, vetraio50!
  11. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks filmnet and walksoftly!
  12. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, Phil!
  13. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, Designer!
  14. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, Chevelleman69!
  15. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, chrissylovescats!
  16. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, sanhardin!
  17. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks John K and AntigueToys!
  18. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, mtg75!
  19. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, petey!
  20. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, egreeley1976!
  21. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, f64imager!
  22. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, Hardbrake!
  23. Bootson Bootson, 1 year ago
    What a find! Is there something written on the right edge of the front of the lense board?

    Is it possible to take tintype photos today? Have you ever tried it?
  24. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, Bootson! There are some numbers etched into the brass plate, but they are contemporary and I'm unsure what they represent. The camera is capable taking pictures if I had a proper wetplate holder.
  25. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Scott ... thanks for pointing the image out. Actually, the camera is smaller than mine. I had an opportunity to acquire an exact version of the camera shown in the image. The asking price of the image is about right (sadly).
  26. rniederman rniederman, 1 year ago
    Thanks, Henry!
  27. rniederman rniederman, 30 days ago
    Thanks, aghcollect!
  28. rniederman rniederman, 16 days ago
    Thanks, farmlady!

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