Feb 4, 2012


Today "Tailboard", the communications publication of the Photographic Collectors Club of Great Britain, PCCGB, dropped into my mailbox (the physical one, that is). On the front page two very Victorian looking box cameras cought my attention. They were two of the three known examples of the Tambosa camera.
Well, I don't blame you if you don't know what the Tambosa is. But in an old filing cabinet somewhere in my head a bell rang. In 2001 I had written an article about the Kodak Bullet cameras. In it I told about the front roll design (placing the film spools in the front of the camera box, just behind the lens panel). One of the inventors is Henry B. Good, who got a patent on the design on January 23, 1889 in England. In the article I wrote that Good's camera with the name Tambosa was never produced. Until today I knew no better.

Here's a pic of the front of Tailboard showing the two examples that cought my attention.
The example on the left is typical of the detective cameras of the day. It is wrapped in thick paper, like a ordinary parcel. In the early 1890's no one associated such a parcel with a camera or photographer. Cameras were used on tripods and photographers did mysterious things under a black cloth. With the disguised camera in hand s/he could walk the streets and take secret snaps of people and street life. Maybe not so very nice, but it was the start of a new kind of photography.
Here's the link to the Good US patent of 1890. You need a tiff reader to see the images. See the instructions on the US Patent Office website where the patent comes from.

By the way, you are a member of the PCCGB, aren't you? Yes? OK, so I don't have to tell you what a great journal the PCCGB publishes four times a year and that you miss a lot of interesting stuff if you don't get Photographica World. To be sure I provide the link to the site here.

The Brownie box of films that I mentioned in the previous blog was sold for US $ 333 and received 19 bids. Not bad and it shows the growing interest in this kind of additional items.
The No. 1 Kodak was sold for the buy it now price of $ 1795 and the whole collection of 4.5 x 6 cm plate cameras attracted not one bid. $ 52,000 is not what the average camera collector has in his wallet. The rare No. 3 Kodak Jr did only get $ 388.
At the moment there is a No. 4 Bullet Special Model of '99 for sale. After 3 bids the price is $ 225, but it is a naked example! Someone stripped the leather off and polished the bare wood body. Maybe it looks nice, but it is far from original. Still one day to go.

In my job I am working with public libraries to set up a series of training courses for the public about information skills. Trainees are asked to make content in our special wiki. To give them an example I made a file about the 19th century photographers in the city of Roermond. It is not ready yet, but here it is.


  1. Not related to this post, but I've been looking at your pictures of old Kodaks, and I've got a couple questions:

    1. Could you possibly indicate with the various cameras which film size numbers they used? (Assuming the size was assigned a number: some of the older ones might not have been, if the film was discontinued before EK came up with their numbering scheme.) I can generally tell from the size of image if it's 101 or some other such unambiguous size, but 121/127, 122/125, 118/124, 105/120/117 etc. had similar image sizes on different spools, and some (e.g. Falcon) don't seem to match any known rollfilm size at all. Would be nice to have that data on the page, if it's available.

    2. Wondering if you're familiar with a tiny box camera I picked up a while back. It's identical with the Pocket Kodak shown here, except that the back is solid with no red window (it has the old count-the-clicks method of film advance). Also, the winding key unscrews and pulls out like on the 2 Bullseye. No maker's mark on it anywhere that I can see. Any ideas?

    1. The spool size numbers and the cameras that took them are well documented. I will look it up and post it here one of the next days.
      I do not know the camera. Do you have a picture of it?

  2. I took some pictures and posted them at http://s1193.photobucket.com/albums/aa349/Shalom_S/Possible%20Blair%20Camera/ .

    There are patent dates, though no patent numbers. The first date, 25 Feb 1890. doesn't bring up anything useful. The second, though, 9 Jan 1894, corresponds to US patent 512671 for a shutter, which was assigned by the inventor, one Charles W Eddy, to the Blair Camera Company, which gives an idea of where to start looking. The shutter has an arrow on it to show which way to push the lever for the next shot, similar to the Blair Detective camera.

    The camera uses 102 roll film like the Pocket Kodak; the ratchet notches on the end of the spool are distinctive. There aren't any rollers at the corners, but perhaps there were once rollers which have since been lost. (I also have a Bulls-Eye #2, which the first time that I opened it, the rollers and their wooden carrier fell out, and I had to glue them back in. This seems to have the same slots that the carrier on the Bulls-Eye fit into.) The latch to release the cover is also identical to the Bulls-Eye.

    I did find an advertisement for a Blair Baby Hawk-Eye which looks almost identical to this one, except for having a rectangular finder where this one is round.

    Any ideas?

  3. It is the Blair Baby Hawk Eye. There are known examples with a round finder. I have an article from Photographica World no. 123 that I will scan.