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Lightning Camera, c.1899

In Cameras > Wood Cameras > Show & Tell.
Wood Cameras82 of 283A Beautiful 1880s Mahogany Presentation CameraCentury No. 4
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    Posted 9 years ago

    (343 items)

    Here’s another example of a classic 1890s American self-casing camera (4 x 5 inch format). When closed, it looks like an unassuming leather covered box. When opened the photographer is greeted with a finely polished wood interior, red leather bellows and nickel plated brass hardware trim. The design is simple and lacks many advanced features; it was made for beginners.

    Several years ago, I acquired this little camera for two reasons. First, how can you not like the name “Lightning”?! The second reason is it being one of a few cameras with Minnesota roots. Identifying the company was a challenge because some of the letters on the maker’s badge were rubbed out. After trying out different letter combinations I discovered “Lightning” was sold by a large St. Paul based department store named Schuneman & Evans. Started in 1890, the store became a major player here in the Twin Cities.

    To some extent, the roots of this humble Schuneman & Evans branded camera lives on. In 1958, the department store merged with the Dayton Company of Minneapolis (another venerable department store). Later in 1990, Dayton-Hudson acquired the renowned Marshall Field’s of Chicago, IL and by 2000 renamed itself to Target (yes ... Dayton’s was Target’s parent company). Eventually, it all became Macy’s in 2005. In that single year, the famous names of Dayton’s, Hudsons and Marshall Field’s disappeared from the American landscape. (Whew!)

    Anyhow, that’s a lot of history for this camera yet it is uncovering surprises like this that make collecting cameras so rewarding. But the research isn’t over. I’ve contacted the Minnesota Historical Society to see if they might have original catalogues listing the camera and I’m scouring my ephemera to figure out the specific manufacturer.


    1. walksoftly walksoftly, 9 years ago
      Lot's of history packed into this fine little camera!
    2. ericevans2 ericevans2, 9 years ago
      Rob, to me research is at least half the joy of collecting. You have done your homework on this one, and I am glad you are continuing. Nice little camera.
    3. SEAN68 SEAN68, 9 years ago
      great !! I used work at Daytons , when I lived inmpls and when moved back to Wi!! love the camera!!
    4. rniederman rniederman, 9 years ago
    5. rniederman rniederman, 9 years ago
    6. Hardbrake Hardbrake, 9 years ago
      Very nice camera and in great condition, thank you for posting. Over a year ago I sent you a Kodak Professional monthly magazine as a gift as it did not fit into what I collect. We have also e-mailed each other regarding team picture which I have sold. I would like to e-mail you a picture of an item I just picked up and it is the first one I have ever seen other then in pictures. I am assuming that you will know something about. I have had if for only a few day and I am just starting my search regarding it. It is a McIntosh, Stereopticon, Co. of Chicago and it is in outstanding condition. If you would not mind my request for assistance regarding this matter please e-mail me at thanks, John Giannini
    7. jscott0363 jscott0363, 9 years ago
      Very nice and in amazing condition!! Just amazing!!
    8. rniederman rniederman, 9 years ago
    9. rniederman rniederman, 9 years ago
      John K.
    10. rniederman rniederman, 9 years ago
    11. rniederman rniederman, 9 years ago
      Hi Hardbrake (John) ... I'll e-mail you to review the image. Thanks!
    12. rniederman rniederman, 9 years ago
    13. rniederman rniederman, 9 years ago
      Thanks, Kydur!

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