Lancaster Patent Watch Camera: Ladies model
J. Lancaster & Son Birmingham in the form of a nickel plated, engine turned, hunter type pocket watch case, the front opening to reveal the internally sprung six section telescopic lens tubes with internal meniscus lens and front mounted simple, hand turned, rotary shutter, the rear case revealing a removable 1 x 1 1/4 inch ground glass viewing screen. The case front with external roundel engraved 'J Lancaster & Son Patent Birmingham.' and together with two sensitised material holders.
Note: The camera is described in patent no. 12571 of Oct. 4 1886 and this ladies example is of the early form shown in the patent. The camera, made from 1887, would be very inconvenient in use, the ground glass screen having to be removed by releasing four very small catches and fitting a metal sensitised material holder for each exposure, the front of this having sprung doors opened by a sliding lever protruding through a slot in the rear watch casing. To address this difficulty an improved camera was introduced in 1890 which had a large screen frame and more conventional dark slides instead of the rear watch casing, thus destroying the appearance of a normal watch when closed. A drop shutter was also fitted.
Because of the inconvenience in use, the ladies pattern probably did not sell well and is much rarer than the improved pattern, only very few original models are known. (stated to be four in 1996). The special sensitised material holders are also very rare.
According to the vendor the camera originally belonged to his cabinet maker Grandfather who did work for J. Lancaster & Son probably working on the many wooden cameras sold by the company.
Ref: British patent no. 12571 (Oct. 4 1886) 'Patents for Inventions. Abridgement of Specifications Volume II' class 1886 page 52.
Eaton Lothrop: 'A Century of Cameras' second ed. 1982 page 51.
'Spy Cameras' Michael Pritchard and Douglas St. Denny 1993 page 126.
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