View Full Version : 1877 Anthony Imperial and Card Wetplate multiplying camera

15-Jun-2013, 18:08
I see dozens of Century, ANSCO, and Eastman studio film cameras from the 1890s to 1930s, but here's one you don't see often. It's an E. & H.T. Anthony & Co. 8x10 Imperial and Card wetplate camera from 1877 (est). Later they were called the Climax Imperial camera, but not in the first years, when the longer name was used. Anthony and their competitor, Scovill, were the first major camera makers in America, starting before the Civil War. This is the professional outfit that would have taken the wetplate portraits we are so amazed at today.


It's a basic camera box, with single bellows. No fancy movements in the front, it was made as a professional's studio camera long before amateurs started taking photographs. It was made to hold large, fast portrait lenses, like the one it was found with. It is made entirely from high quality Caribbean mahogany, and the cabinetry and joints are very well done.

The 1876 catalog (http://piercevaubel.com/cam/catalogs/1876mccollinlp819.htm)uses the language of the day to explain how many plates you can make with the sliding back and masking system with one "tube" (lens). Like a lot of esoteric, historic subjects, it's not that easy to understand today. But we can see the back slides left and right into a few positions, and it appears to me that with my particular mask insert, I could make two cabinet card sized shots on one 8x10 plate. The nice little knob at the top of the frame locks the sliding frame into the positions, but I still cannot fathom the engraved markings.



15-Jun-2013, 18:08
Now to the back of the camera, which is stained black in places from the silver nitrate used in the collodion process. You can see the brass knob on the top to allow the back to slide left and right. It has a swinging ground glass door, which reveals the black masking insert. This is where the plate holder would be attached, note the holder alignment pegs at the bottom. I am still looking for a holder so I can use this camera for wetplate. It has back tilt only, and sliding rail focus. I always wonder why large petzvals continued to have focus knobs up until about 1900, when the cameras were too large to reach around to get to the knob. I think it was just tradition, from the earlier daguerreotype days when the cameras and lenses were smaller.


Here is the back/plate holder I need, or one like it. The wet plate was poured in the darkroom, then the plate was placed in the holder, which was then carried to the camera.

A lever for fine focus is attached to the focus locknut. I dated the camera based on it's early features such as the back, it's white maker label, the silver nitrate stains, and mostly by the obviously original lens. The Voigtlander lens serial number dates it to 1877. The ground glass is marked with several ancient pencil outlines, square and oval, and I hate to clean the glass and remove the evidence of the last photographer that used the camera, possibly 130 years ago.

Tim Deming
15-Jun-2013, 21:38
Nice camera! I have it's brother, but mine was found in much poorer shape (although only cost me $20). I made a new bellows and did some refinishing, and it is now my "studio camera". I also searched, in vain, for the appropriate plate holders, but never came across any at a reasonable price. I ended up making an adapter using a square wood picture frame that fit perfectly where the plate holder would go, once the 2 holes were drilled, and added hardware so that standard Kodak 2D 8x10 backs can be attached. There is no modification to the camera or backs, and it works fine for shooting film.



16-Jun-2013, 08:59
Thanks for the input. I have a couple of people who may have holders, but might start thinking of making my own in the meantime.

Tin Can
16-Jun-2013, 09:08
I have been looking for this sort of visual information.

The swing out GG and inside adapters are difficult to imagine.

You just supplied the data I need for some DIY nonsense.

Thanks for the detailed pics!

21-Jun-2013, 10:08
Glad to help. If someone made me a good offer, I'd sell it. I don't need 3 8x10 studio cameras!

5-Oct-2013, 18:53
I'm happy to report Operation Plate Holder Find, was a success! They said it couldn't be done. They said they were only in museums. But through a lot of calling and persistence and 4 months of looking, I got one. I'm not sure what model this is, but it's marked EH Anthony with a Patent date.

This view of the front shows the tambar closed, ready to place against the rear of the camera.

The back is a black wooden door. You remove the door by depressing the brass latch at the bottom.

Inside there is an infinitely adjustable plate holder, with several notches for different size plates. This very non standard 5x6 fits fine.

You adjust the geared plate rails by unlocking the small tab at the top of this metal fixture, then sliding the rails where you need them and relocking. With the plate loaded, you replace the black door. You are then ready to leave the darkroom and carry the holder to the camera.

Tin Can
5-Oct-2013, 20:41
Congratulations! Looks ready to use.

Keep us informed please.

Very interesting!

Tin Can
5-Oct-2013, 20:48
I now realize I bought many of the wrong cameras, when I got involved in this madness 3 years ago. But I can't sell 'modern' 8x10's so I will keep them clean! One day even those will be desirable again.

But I sure do appreciate the old stuff more every day.

Thanks for the great visual data! Far better than old brochures.

Glad to help. If someone made me a good offer, I'd sell it. I don't need 3 8x10 studio cameras!

Tin Can
5-Oct-2013, 21:56
Is this a similar item that just sold, and not to me.


6-Oct-2013, 06:48
No, not really. Thats probably more a dry plate holder, at least what I have been told, for "newer" century cameras.
And it does not have the internal "infinity" adjustable plate holder, thingy, (sorry for that mess)

But I have used them for wet plate, and they do indeed work. =) Buit the wood might not survive year after year of use, but time will show...

Mark Sawyer
6-Oct-2013, 11:31
Fascinating piece of equipment! If you use it for wet plate, I'd remove the original wood that holds the bottom of the plate and make a sacrificial substitute. It looks like it removes with a few screws, if it's not also glued in...

Primo I.
6-Oct-2013, 11:33
Oh my! I am literally drooling right now. I just saw one sell on the bay. I love this camera. So beautiful. I could stare at her all day! Thanks for posting this.

6-Oct-2013, 12:27
Good idea mark, I may do that to save the original wood. Thanks Primo, and now for....the rest of the story. I knew about this Camera for about the past 5 years, it was sitting up high on a shelf in a restaurant back East. Whenever I'd go home to NC I'd visit the old camera shop, who'd loaned it to the restaurant. But he'd never want to sell it, or even let me look at the lens, it was up in the rafters basically. So for 5 years I wondered - was it a Dallmeyer 3B or a good Voigtlander? Finally this summer things came together (after a very stressful series of miscommunications which is another story) and I was able to buy it. Before I climbed up to the ceiling to get it down, I told my wife, "that lens looks like a Voigtlander to me." Sure enough, when I climbed up and blew the dust off the barrel, it's a Voigt Petzval portrait. The owner said he had it in another restaurant for 30 years before the current one, which was at least 5 years. So it sat untouched since the late 70s. The lens is original to the camera. It's about ready to take another shot for the first time in half a century probably.

6-Oct-2013, 17:29
Garret, it might be a bit much to ask, but this is quite a rare opportunity, so I'm gonna ask.
Is there anyway you would be willing to make a short video, showing how the different parts work, especially the plate holder, but also the camera ? I know I would love to see it on video, instead of "wondering" seeing the images. The part I'm most interested in, is how you set the height for the adjustable, I can see something that looks like a rail, but its not blatantly obvious to me how you actually adjust it up and down.
Even if you don't have the opportunity to do it, I would like to thank you for showing us the pictures ! And congrats on getting your hands on this beautiful equipment !

7-Oct-2013, 09:04
Hi Taulen,
The two bars above and below in my picture that shows the back of the plate are the moveable rails. Basically, you pull the little nickel pins out to unlock the rails, then manually move them apart to the desired height. I'm in a busy work period and doubt I'll be able to do a video right now.