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Thread: Pinkham Smith Serial numbers and model numbers

  1. #1

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    Pinkham Smith Serial numbers and model numbers

    I've been tracking P&S serial numbers and model numbers so far based on available on-line info such as auctions, forum discussions and various images in blogs etc. Just trying to get an idea of the scope of production over time while working on a paper.

    So far I have about 40 entries and available information is drying up. So I'm trying to expand this search with the help of users and collectors currently owning any of these lenses or having sold them in the past.

    I'm aware there are few P&S lenses out there without a serial number but those are rare and typically have an engraving that sets them apart from the P&S catalog descriptions or are identifiable as "prototypes" of some sort. I'm adding those also to the database.

    So if you're willing to add/share etc, let me know, much appreciated. PM or email (amedeusphoto@aol.com) or any other means you deem appropriate

    I can share following observations about what I've found/have so far:

    Earliest SA Series I serial number: 960 (17")
    Earliest SA Series II serial number: 1024 (12")
    Only SA Series III serial number: 1091 (No 3)
    Last SA Series I serial number: 1462 (No 3)

    First VQ Series IV serial number: 2115 (No 4)
    Last VQ Series IV serial number: 2895 (No 2)

    First Synthetic Series VI serial number: 2710 (No 2)
    Last Synthetic Series VI serial number: 362x (No 2, last digit not legible ... )

    Early SA lenses with serial numbers <1000 have focal lengths inscribed that don't necessarily match the P&S catalogs I've seen.

  2. #2
    Green Hand pierre506's Avatar
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    Re: Pinkham Smith Serial numbers and model numbers

    Thank for the sharing, dear Rudi.

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    Re: Pinkham Smith Serial numbers and model numbers

    Thanks very much for doing this. I had been hoping that someone would take up the task. From what I have seen, the earliest models had a different system of focal lengths: 8", instead of 9", for example. I have an 11" (no serial number) and there were 13", 15", 17", 21", and 23". Later ones - with serial numbers, mostly - seemed to have standardized to 9, 12, 14, 16, 18, etc.

    Anyway, thanks again!

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    Re: Pinkham Smith Serial numbers and model numbers

    Visual Quality IV-1 1439 aluminum
    Visual Quality IV-2 2664
    Visual Quality IV-3 2604

    Rudi,
    Do you want to include the late Pinkham Bi-Quality lens in this survey?

  5. #5

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    Re: Pinkham Smith Serial numbers and model numbers

    Thanks Paul,

    From "The Question of Diffusion", we read in the last paragraph:

    Semi-Achromatic lenses are supplied by us as follows:
    They are made to order, as a rule, however, we intend to keep in stock, as far as possible, the regular sizes. Henceforth, we shall stock them only in aluminum mounts. The glass of itself being quite heavy, it has seemed best to us to discard the brass mounting, as far as possible, and thus reduce the weight of the entire objective."


    So it not a big surprize to see a good number of "custom made to order" lenses from the SA variety with or without serial number. I found that serial numbers are not always easy to spot. They may be small print and away from the other larger font engraving in case of aluminum or (unpainted) brass mounting.

    Quote Originally Posted by Petzval Paul View Post
    From what I have seen, the earliest models had a different system of focal lengths: 8", instead of 9", for example. I have an 11" (no serial number) and there were 13", 15", 17", 21", and 23". Later ones - with serial numbers, mostly - seemed to have standardized to 9, 12, 14, 16, 18, etc.

  6. #6

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    Re: Pinkham Smith Serial numbers and model numbers

    Russ,

    Thanks for the info. Yes, keeping track of the late Pinkham Bi-Quality also. Didn't have much luck so far picking up many serial numbers though ... small print is not always readable in on-line images

    Your post reminded me also that I'm keeping track of the material where possible and you seem to definitely have a very early Series IV in aluminum ... some SA were also delivered in (unpainted) brass, so that's another interesting differentiator.

    Quote Originally Posted by russyoung View Post

    Rudi,
    Do you want to include the late Pinkham Bi-Quality lens in this survey?

  7. #7

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    Re: Pinkham Smith Serial numbers and model numbers

    To the best of my knowledge, only the very first Semi Achromatic Smith lenses (remember, they were not called 'series I' until much later) were brass barreled, then followed by aluminum ones with the large aperture housing with the knob for adjustment, and then the adjustable iris rings which were mostly seen on the ones marked series I, II, etc. First there were just 'Smith lenses', then 'doublets', then 'special doublets', which became known in time as series, I, II, and III. After 1915 or so, the raw aluminum barrels gave way to the black enameled ones, featured on most VQ's and all Sythetics. After 1920 or so, the first three series seemed to give way to the newer designs and from then on were mostly made to order. I have heard that some SA models have been seen with the black barrels so my guess is that they were from after the demise of the unfinished aluminum barels and were specially ordered. It has been surmised that Wollensak made those barrels but I am unsure if there is any definitive proof, not that I have any reason to doubt it.

    That's just my take on it. Perhaps Russ, Dan, etc. have a better understanding.

  8. #8

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    Re: Pinkham Smith Serial numbers and model numbers

    There has always been an unsubstantiated rumor that Pinkham was buying up old lenses that he would then convert. That in itself would certainly account for all of the non-standard sizes that seem to turn up in the earliest lenses. Old landscape meniscii and front lights from old Petzvals would all be good starters for whatever it was that made the Pinkham magic come to life. Did he re-contour? Old doublets are achromatic, so what did he do to make them Semi Achromatic? That also fits well with the known fact that no 2 early pinkhams has quite the same personality as another one of similar size and age. Later Series IV lenses are not like that so much. Any #2 Series IV put up against any other #2 Series IV would probably be identical in production.

    It would be fun to split apart a SA doublet and reverse engineer the contours with a laser measuring device. Then of course the chinese could make them by the bushel basket and prices would drop.

    When they got more standardized and went black, if you put those apertures and barrels next to the same size series Verito you will find they are virtually interchangeable. Quite sure Pinkham just bought the barrels and aperture mech's from Wollensak. I'd bet money on that one and win. Doesn't mean in any way that wolly made any part of the glass. Just that the barrels on my 11 3/4" Verito and my 12" Series IV Pinkham are interchangeable.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

  9. #9

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    Re: Pinkham Smith Serial numbers and model numbers

    Great reminder Paul regarding the "Series I" being named as such much later. Looking at ads I notice that the Series I, II, III ad appears around April 1913 while before that you see the Semi-Achromatic Lens add without any mention of "Series" This actually helps approximate dating ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Petzval Paul View Post
    To the best of my knowledge, only the very first Semi Achromatic Smith lenses (remember, they were not called 'series I' until much later) were brass barreled, then followed by aluminum ones with the large aperture housing with the knob for adjustment, and then the adjustable iris rings which were mostly seen on the ones marked series I, II, etc. First there were just 'Smith lenses', then 'doublets', then 'special doublets', which became known in time as series, I, II, and III. After 1915 or so, the raw aluminum barrels gave way to the black enameled ones, featured on most VQ's and all Sythetics. After 1920 or so, the first three series seemed to give way to the newer designs and from then on were mostly made to order. I have heard that some SA models have been seen with the black barrels so my guess is that they were from after the demise of the unfinished aluminum barels and were specially ordered. It has been surmised that Wollensak made those barrels but I am unsure if there is any definitive proof, not that I have any reason to doubt it.

  10. #10

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    Re: Pinkham Smith Serial numbers and model numbers

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Galli View Post
    There has always been an unsubstantiated rumor that Pinkham was buying up old lenses that he would then convert.
    I've read that story few times now ...

    That in itself would certainly account for all of the non-standard sizes that seem to turn up in the earliest lenses. Old landscape meniscii and front lights from old Petzvals would all be good starters for whatever it was that made the Pinkham magic come to life. Did he re-contour? Old doublets are achromatic, so what did he do to make them Semi Achromatic? That also fits well with the known fact that no 2 early pinkhams has quite the same personality as another one of similar size and age.
    If you start with an existing achromat then the easiest way is to change the contour and make one side aspheric ... if you start from scratch then you can also modify the radius of one of the three radii at play ... the results are different and the options plentiful ...

    Later Series IV lenses are not like that so much. Any #2 Series IV put up against any other #2 Series IV would probably be identical in production.
    Within the repeatability and the precision of the equipment and the process control of the operator ... maybe that's why there are a few 2b's out there

    It would be fun to split apart a SA doublet and reverse engineer the contours with a laser measuring device.
    CMM will do the job also ... have any SA to split apart ?

    ... Just that the barrels on my 11 3/4" Verito and my 12" Series IV Pinkham are interchangeable.
    Yep, those painted barrels scream "Wollensak"

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