Posted 4 years ago
For a while, this very rare Glen Gem Camera was the smallest camera in my collection. Years ago it went to another collector - who specialized in miniature apparatus - as part of a lengthy cash / trade negotiation. When the dust settled, he got the Glen and I acquired the only known 1886 American Optical Mignon Bicyclists’ Camera (also posted here on CW). We were happy with the outcome.
The Glen Gem Camera is amazingly small and crude, but that’s what you got for $1.00 back in 1891; about $27.74 adjusted for 2018. This primitive camera made 2½ x 2½ inch exposures on glass plates. Yet what is unusual is the lens ... actually the lack thereof. The Glen’s instruction booklet mentions:
“The Lens portion of the Glen Camera is made on scientific principles and great care must be taken to have the small aperture in the disk free from all dust or dirt. Hold to the light and should the hole seem closed up pass a fine needle through. Care must be taken not to enlarge the hole, which would spoil effect of negative.”
In other words, this was an early pinhole camera! The instructions recommended standing about fifty to one hundred feet from the subject. And there was no shutter in this tiny apparatus; 2 - 3 minute lens cap exposures were recommended on clear days. (As background, the equally primitive 1890s Student Camera No.1’s shutter was a finger ... it too is posted here on CW.)
Shown with the camera are its original lens cap, cardboard box and small wooden tube that would have held powder / chemistry.
Anyhow, it amazes me that a few of these tiny novelty cameras managed to survive 100+ years.