The Aiken-Gleason Company, La Crosse, Wisconsin 1898? - 1900?
The origin of the camera's catchy name is unknown. But The "Chum" seems to infer that, like a close friend, it's something you'd like to keep around just in this case that "Kodak moment" arises.
This plate box camera made 3" x 3-1/2" images on dry plates or cut film, and there was no guessing at the $2.50 price, prominently emblazoned on the loading door inside. Similar to gold leaf lettering found on a number of plate-box and magazine cameras by other makers of the era, it's the camera's most distinguishing feature:
Other than the undated brochure shown here, no references or advertisements have been found for the camera:
The Aiken-Gleason Company is among a number of other obscure camera companies of the mid-to-late 1890's. These companies produced a handful of models, that for the most part are little seen today. Aiken-Gleason was no exception with at least five known models which include the Comet, the Improved Comet, the Crescent, the La Crosse and the Peek-A-Boo.
Aiken-Gleason, which was established in 1893 in Onalaska, Wisconsin, would move to La Crosse, Wisconsin in 1896. In 1901 it became the Imperial Camera & Manufacturing Company which was later acquired by the Century Camera Company.
Based upon its features, pricing and its La Crosse, Wisconsin address, The "Chum" fell midway in the Aiken-Gleason line and was probably manufactured in the late 1890's. With so few of the company's other models surviving and this being the only example I've encountered, it was most likely sold in very few numbers.
Most collectors wouldn't call this camera rare. It's not historically significant from a technological standpoint, and with the Aiken-Gleason Company having existed in name for about eight years, the term "obscure" could be argued. But, I've always been attracted to cameras from little known and short-lived companies for which few examples exist. This all presents a challenge to learn more....and therein lies The "Chum"'s appeal.