REVERSIBLE BACK CAMERA IMPROVED
Blair Camera Company, Boston, Massachusetts 1890's
Not having the typical Blair manufacturer's plate, this camera is stamped "Blair Camera Co., Boston" on the interior of the focusing screen's frame, along with "Patented" and an undecipherable June 22 patent date. This date is presumed to be June 22, 1881, for Patent No. 243,136 granted to John Milton Howe of San Francisco, California for a dry plate holder. This patent, though not initially assigned to Blair, was apparently used on his cameras under license.
Blair's line of Reversible Back Cameras began as early as 1886, based upon surviving factory catalogues. This example is similar to Blair's Improved Reversible Back Camera, but differs in having a wraparound-style lens board clamp as typically found on the Blair Cincinnati. The solid base and open front track frame with a thumb screw lock is also suggestive of Blair's Reversible Back Improved Variation 1. This camera appears to incorporate features found on several Blair models, making its identification difficult. In whatever guise, Blair's Reversible Back Camera would continue to be produced through at least 1900.
This 4x5 example is equipped with an early version of Bausch & Lomb's Iris Diaphragm Shutter, having "Pat Pending", the company name, a serial number engraved in cursive on the casing front and a speed dial marked with settings only. Later versions would place the Bausch & Lomb name and a patent date of January 6, 1891 on the speed dial, with the serial number stated on a small brass plaque beneath the lens.
An interesting variant of Blair's Reversible Back Camera, in what was probably the smallest format available for any of their Reversible Back models with the exception of Blair's English Compact Reversible Back Camera.