E. & H.T. Anthony & Company, New York          1890 - 1892

Anthony's Simplex Camera was introduced at the 1890 Washington Convention, as noted in Anthony's Photographic Bulletin, Volume XXI, No. 17 for September 10, 1890, stating "Another piece of amateur apparatus in the display is the little Simplex camera, an improved form of the Lilliput camera, with fixed focus lens and finder for taking twelve pictures 2-1/2 inches square, and using dry plates in regular holders. For the ladies and those wishing little gems of their rambles, this is indeed a very desirable piece of mechanism."


By this time, Anthony's Lilliput Camera had been in production since mid-1889 and would continue to be offered in their catalogues through November, 1892, at least.  The Simplex was in essence, a leather-covered Lilliput with a hinged lid, which replaced the Lilliput's leather case and flap lid. The Simplex's lid also incorporated a single brilliant finder, having its own hinged door. Despite lacking an outer satchel case like the Lilliput, the Simplex was equipped with a brass carry handle and lugs on each end to use a carry strap if desired.

The inner workings of both these detective cameras were basically identical, having a truncated wooden cone (in lieu of the typical pleated leather bellows) and a six double plate holder capacity.  There were some differences, most notably in their shutters which are similar in operation, but vary slightly in construction.

The Simplex also has a viewing port at the rear which is not found on the Lilliput. Although the Simplex and the Lilliput were both equipped with fixed-focus lenses, the Simplex was provided with a ground glass screen permitting the photographer to preview the exposure. The screen stored neatly in the Simplex's lid, retained there by two brass clips. This feature was never mentioned in Anthony's catalogues or advertisements.

Both the Lilliput and the Simplex employ a brass tensioning frame to apply pressure against the plate holder positioned to make an exposure. And in fact, most examples seen today of the Lilliput, show this brass retainer placed directly behind the plate holder seated for an exposure.  This is incorrect, however, as the patent drawings show the tension frame to be placed at the rear when a using a full complement of plate holders.


In the case of the Lilliput, three slots are found wherein the tensioning frame may be placed. One slot is positioned behind the plate holder readied for exposure, another spaced to accommodate a complement of three plate holders and the last being at the rear with six plate holders in place:



                                                  Anthony Lilliput


When the tensioning frame is in the first position, it's extremely difficult to insert and remove the holder.  However, when the tension frame is located at the 3-plate position or at the rear with a full complement of six plate holders, the frame places just enough tension to maintain a light seal yet allows insertion and removal of a plate holder with relative ease.

In the case of the Simplex, the slot spacing between the front and rear differs, but there is still a slot at the one-plate position and at the very rear:

                                                                 Anthony Simplex


With all the plate holders removed, the tension frame can then be moved forward to facilitate placement of the ground glass screen. Upon opening a circular metal cover mounted at the camera's inside rear, the photographer could then preview the image on the ground glass:


Although this feature was an upgrade from the Lilliput, it was still a burdensome process, as it was with most other cameras of the period. And, considering that the focus was fixed, why would one go to the trouble of emptying the holders from the back of the camera, insert the viewing screen, open up the viewing port and then reverse the procedure, when the Simplex was already equipped with a brilliant finder? The only answer one might guess, was that the view in the finder wasn't an accurate depiction of the picture to be taken.                     


The Lilliput was designed by Erastus B. Barker, with Patent No. 400,162 being granted to him on March 26, 1889.  Barker held at least a half dozen other photographic patents, several of which were assigned to E. & H.T. Anthony & Company.

            Source:  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office


               Source:  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office


The Simplex's design was covered by the same March 26, 1889 patent for the Lilliput and this date can be seen stamped on the top rear edge of the camera's casing:



Other than the March 26, 1889 patent date and a 3-digit serial number stamped on the camera's body and on the lid, no other markings appear, other than the plate holders which are stamped "E. & H.T. Anthony & Co."

Because of the hinged lid, the Simplex's dimensions at 3-15/16" wide, 5-1/16" high and 6-3/4" deep are slightly larger than the Lilliput's at 3-13/16" wide, 3-7/8" high and 6-1/4" deep.

Like the Lilliput, the Simplex used 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" glass plates that were held in six double plate holders, and the shutter's cocking and release levers were located at the camera's bottom front.

Sales for the Lilliput were poor since George Eastman had just introduced his roll film-based Kodak (original) in 1888, making the Lilliput more antiquated with its cumbersome plate system. One would guess this to have spelled the end for the Lilliput's design, yet just a year or so later, Anthony introduced the Simplex.  Maybe Anthony believed that the plate system still had merit or that this camera could still compete based upon its compactness.

This Simplex retains its original hardware, its ground glass screen and a full complement of six plate holders.  It was accompanied by its original factory box, which is actually rarer than the camera itself:



As reflected in Anthony's catalogues and on the box's label seen here, the engravings show the lid's latch to be located on the left side of the camera.  However, the example shown here, along with another example seen in the book  Anthony, the Man, the Company, the Cameras by William and Estelle Marder, shows the latch being located on the camera's right side.

At a cost of $14 with a full complement of six plate holders, the Simplex represented a major price improvement over the Lilliput's $25 at its inception. Both the Lilliput and the Simplex had an approximate three year production run, and both are believed to have been discontinued by 1893. 


The Lilliput is rarely seen today, and this is the only physical example of the Simplex Camera that I've ever encountered.


                     Anthony Lilliput                 Anthony Simplex


                        Anthony Lilliput               Anthony Simplex


               Anthony Lilliput                  Anthony Simplex



         From Anthony's Illustrated Catalogue of Photographic Equipments and Materials for Amateurs, January, 1891


    Anthony's Illustrated Catalogue of Photographic Equipments and Materials for Amateurs, January, 1891