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Thread: Holmes, Booth & Haydens Lenses

  1. #1

    Holmes, Booth & Haydens Lenses

    I have been doing some research into the history of Holmes, Booth & Haydens lenses and I am looking for users and collectors to kindly submit information about their lenses. If you have an HBH lens in your collection, it would just take a minute to answer a few relevant questions and email them to me at the following e-mail address: hbh at gordonmoat dot com

    Here are the questions:

    1) What is the serial number?

    2) Is the serial number stamped (in block letters) or engraved (in script)?

    3) Is your model factory cut for stops? It's easy enough to determine: if it is cut for stops and the inscriptions are on the opposite side of the lens from the focusing knob, with the cut-out for the stops in between, then it is from the factory. If the cut-out interferes with the inscriptions or is on the side opposite the focusing knob, then it is an after-market alteration.

    4) What is the focal length, measured from the mid-point between the lenses (where the stop would be placed)?

    You can also add any information that is unique to your lens, for example: does yours have an original lens cap or is there some proof of provenance, such as a signature or engraving somewhere on the lens?

    You may also include your name and your website/blog address, if you like.

    If anyone has some other verifiable information regarding the history of HBH lenses, please make that known as well. Although there is some information about the HBH company, very little documentation seems available about their lens operation.

    Thank you very much for your help. I will be posting the results on a dedicated area of my website.

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat Photography

  2. #2

    Re: Holmes, Booth & Haydens Lenses

    Just wanted to add that I have no commercial interest in any of this. My own HB&H lens is not for sale. No contact information, nor other information, will be sold for any purposes. All this is strictly informational, and hopefully will become a resource for others interested in a small segment of photographic history. Anyone submitting information may remain anonymous, if desired. Thank you!

  3. #3

    Re: Holmes, Booth & Haydens Lenses

    http://hbh.gordonmoat.com/

    Currently up to 13 lenses added to this list. There are a few other information changes. So far many good examples, though still not quite definitive. If anyone knows someone using an HB&H, and not participating in the LF Forum, please ask them to take a look, and consider contributing. Thanks to all who provided information so far.

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat Photography

  4. #4

    Re: Holmes, Booth & Haydens Lenses

    Thanks for the good work on this Gordon.

    How about adding the category of lens hood type - some are flared like a bell at the end - others have a straight hood. Maybe just the larger sizes had the bell ?

    Dan

  5. #5

    Re: Holmes, Booth & Haydens Lenses

    Here is what the British Journal of Photography (Feb. 1, 1867 p.53) had to say about HBH lenses:

    "Who has not used Holmes, Booth & Hayden's lenses ? And yet these gentlemen (all due respect to them) could as soon fly on the wings of Dedalus across the Atlantic as grind and polish a lens, much less compute the curves of their lenses. The lenses of Willard & Co. can scarcely be surpassed for accuracy of workmanship, for definition and depth of focus (all respect for them, too); they can distinguish lenses from looking-glasses, and have tact to discriminate good workmen from bad ones ; and thus they have secured one of the leading opticians of the day. "What's his name? Where does he live?" His name is nowhere found on the lenses — he lives probably in a garret — and can compute the radii of curvature of the most complex combination ; but as to his name . This ought not to be so. Let the workman at least have the honour of his work, and then he will enjoy the more."

  6. #6

    Join Date
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    Re: Holmes, Booth & Haydens Lenses

    Thats very interesting, thanks for posting it. Actually, I think it's very much a "chevy vs. Ford" kind of argument. Of course, HBH were not opticians, but most everyone in NY had Usner do their lens designs, anyway. Willard (from the precious few I have seen)and HBH barrells seem identical in most respects and I am sure it would hard to distinguish their optical characteristcs. To the best of my knowledge, CC Harrison was really the only optician of the lot and even then, how much input did her have after the first few thousand? For a brief while his name was not even on the barrells. I can't remember exactly whose name was on there (American Optical?) but I saw a photo once. Even today this goes on: most wetplaters and the reenactor crowd specifically adore the CCH's (John Coffer and Bob Szabo are two big name users) but then again, Robb Kendrick seems to keep an HBH pretty much stuck on his camera. Each have their supporters.

    I had both and sold my (circa 1864) Harrison. The glass was great but the overall craftsmanship was far inferior to the HBH. I have a 1/4 plate tintype Bob Szabo took of me with his very early CCH when I was assisting him one day and I can't see any differnce between that and anything my humble Darlot can do. Overall, I'd say that Dallmeyer - although most are not "period correct" for CW photogs - had the best workmanship and glass to be found, by a long shot. Who else made an f/2.2 quater plate lens?

    - Paul

  7. #7

    Re: Holmes, Booth & Haydens Lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by CCHarrison View Post
    Thanks for the good work on this Gordon.

    How about adding the category of lens hood type - some are flared like a bell at the end - others have a straight hood. Maybe just the larger sizes had the bell ?

    Dan
    Some of the e-mail exchange has included that information. Unfortunately, it seems that the straight sided lens hoods are much more common. So far data suggests the majority were not flared lens hoods.



    Here is an image of my 1/4 plate HB&H, which shows the flared hood. The other difference to some is that the barrel machining includes a flared/curved area near the mounting flange. It is speculation, but the earlier lenses might have been machined in a more decorative manner, and later production could have been simplified. There really is not enough data to tell that yet.

    Regarding your other post, the name Charles F. Usner came up as part of this research. It is likely he was making the optics, while HB&H were making the barrels. Interestingly, Usner had lived in Paris, home to several Petzval type lens producers of that time. However this aspect works into all this, I can state that the optics are extremely precise in my HB&H, with absolutely no flaws, and no play in the mounting.

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat Photography

  8. #8

    Re: Holmes, Booth & Haydens Lenses

    Just a quick update on the page. One early assumption was based upon comments by Kingslake, which had be believe few lenses were made after 1860. However, I found reference to a Captain A.J. Russell USMRR (United States Military RailRoads) ordering an HB&H camera and lens in early 1863. Apparently that was a 14" by 17" camera, so likely a lens much larger than full plate. Captain Russell used that camera and lens for some of the first footage of an opposing military force (Confederates). Makes you wonder were the camera and lens are today.

    http://hbh.gordonmoat.com

    Due to that note, and the retirement of Israel Holmes from the company in 1869, I would speculate that lens production might have largely ended between 1863 and 1869. Unfortunately, there is so little information, and so far only two high serial number lenses on the list. Definitely need more information before drawing any conclusions. Thanks again to all the contributers so far, and I hope more send me their information.

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat Photography

  9. #9

    Re: Holmes, Booth & Haydens Lenses


    Antique & Classic Camera Blog
    www.antiquecameras.net/blog.html

  10. #10

    Re: Holmes, Booth & Haydens Lenses

    Thanks Dan! Don't know how my e-mail notification from EBAY missed that one. That now makes 40 lenses on the list, which is still a small sample, but so far so good.

    No. 2575 looks nearly identical construction to my No. 1875, though the images on EBAY are small. I am calling it a 1/4 plate based upon the physical dimensions. It should just cover 4x5 film at portrait distance without movements, and only slight darkening of the corners.

    http://hbh.gordonmoat.com - Holmes, Booth & Haydens Lenses Serial Number List

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat Photography

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