Bausch & Lomb Optical Company, Rochester, New York                    1893-1898?




Most collectors of pre-1900 self-casing cameras know the Unicum name, associating it with the Model of 1897 shutter having its "Unicum" nickel-plated name tag:


                                                       Unicum Shutter - Model of 1897


But this original model was actually the first shutter to be given the Unicum name.  I've added the "Model of 1893" designation in deference to its believed year of introduction, and to help distinguish it from later Unicum models. 


To reduce the weight of their current Iris Diaphragm model, Bausch & Lomb designed a new time and instantaneous shutter more conducive to lighter cameras. Calling it the Unicum, the word derived from the Latin neuter nominative singular form of "unicus" meaning unique.  Dr. Rudolf Kingslake, in his article titled "The Bausch & Lomb Shutters", written for the Western Photographic Collector's Association's journal, The Photographist, Summer, 1981described the shutter as "rather crude".  Although its simplistic design lacks the sophistication found on Bausch & Lomb's earlier and later shutters, its action is relatively smooth. The shutter was cocked by cycling the lever at top, and released either manually or pneumatically.  The speed dial is marked with four settings of 0, 1, 2 and 3. 


Blair Camera Company, in an 1896 advertisement, refers to this shutter as the " Improved Crown Shutter".  Per Dr. Kingslake, only one size was offered, being a 20mm aperture with a 60mm external diameter.  These measurements conform exactly to the example shown here.  This, together with the aforementioned 1896 Blair ad which features the Special Folding Hawk-Eye in 4x5 and 5x7, suggests the shutter had enough latitude to handle both formats.  The shutter's casing is stamped "Bausch & Lomb Opt. Co. Pat. Jan. 6, 1891".  This date refers to Patent No. 444,083 which covered design elements of Bausch & Lomb's earlier Iris Diaphragm Shutter of 1891 that were also incorporated into this original Unicum - Model of 1893, the Unicum - Model of 1894 and the Unicum Model of 1897:



                                        Source:  Google Patents


Dr. Kingslake indicated that this first model of the Unicum Shutter appeared only briefly in 1893. However, its appearance in catalogue engravings for Blair's Special Folding Hawk-Eye for at least four years, would seem to contradict this.  No Bausch & Lomb catalog for 1893 has been found to support this, although the shutter may have appeared between catalogue printings, and it does not appear in Bausch & Lomb's June, 1894 catalogue of Photographic Lenses, Shutters, Prisms. For more information on the Blair Special Folding Hawk-Eye, look for it under the "Antique Cameras" section on this web site.


This doesn't mean that this Unicum Shutter - Model of 1893" wasn't offered as a separate item in 1893.  However, as Dr. Kingslake noted,  Bausch & Lomb's simpler shutters didn't appear in their catalogues as they were sold to camera manufacturers and not directly to the public.  This original model Unicum is clearly shown in an engraving from Blair's Illustrated Catalogue and Price List for 1895, mounted on a 4x5 Special Folding Hawk-Eye.  Blair's catalogue lists it as an "Improved shutter" with no formal name, also offering a Bausch & Lomb Iris Diaphragm as an alternative.   This original model Unicum is also clearly shown in a engraving from Blair's Illustrated Catalogue and Price List for 1898, mounted on a 4x5 Special Folding Hawk-Eye and listed as an "Improved Unicum Shutter".  Since some manufacturers during the 1890's failed to update their engravings, this "Improved Unicum Shutter" may have actually referred to the Unicum Model of 1897 which had already been introduced.  This is plausible given the small number of Unicum - Model of 1893 shutters that are seen today, and that with the superiority and popularity of their newest Unicum Shutter - Model of 1897, Bausch & Lomb would have had no reason to still be manufacturing an outdated design.   


Whether this original model Unicum's production lasted for a couple of months or for five years, not many were manufactured based upon the few that have survived.  At the very least, it's an extremely scarce/borderline rare shutter.




 Bausch & Lomb's Unicum Shutter - Model of 1893        Source: The Photographist, Summer, 1981




From Blair's Catalogue of Hawk-Eye Cameras and Photographic Supplies, Season of 1898 




                   From Anthony's Photographic Bulletin, Volume VIII, 1896




                             Blair Special Folding Hawk-Eye 4x5 with the Unicum Shutter - Model of 1893