BLAIR COMBINATION CAMERA
The Blair Tourograph & Dry Plate Company, Boston, Massachusetts 1881-1882
Blair Combination Camera by the Blair Tourograph & Dry Plate Company, Boston, Massachusetts.
The Combination name derived from the camera's ability to be used in multiple formats with an extension back, as well as to produce stereo images in some versions of the camera. This 4x5 camera could have been used with a 5x8 extension back. With a "Blair Tourograph Co., Boston" stamping on the center bed member and a nickel-plated Blair Tourograph and Dry Plate Company name tag, the camera was likely made in 1881-1882 as the company transitioned to the new name.
Some extension backs for Blair's Combination Cameras have been seen stamped "Blair Tourograph Co., Boston" along with "Pat. May 2, 82." and in some cases the retailer's name. The patent date references Patent No. 257,206 issued to Thomas H. Blair of Franklin, Massachusetts for the design of the extension back. This patent was assigned to the Blair Tourograph and Dry Plate Company, Boston, Massachusetts.
The Combination Camera in all its variations was produced under the Blair Tourograph & Dry Plate Company name from 1881 until 1886, then under the Blair Camera Company name till at least 1895.
This 4x5 example is equipped with a period-correct and early version of Scovill's Waterbury Lens. The lens' physical (and rated) size is proportionate for 5x8, providing enough latitude when used with the extension back. The camera also exhibits an interesting plate which covers the lens standard's vertical adjustment slot. On most examples of the Combination Camera seen today, the lens standard slot is exposed, having just the tensioning knob. What the motivation was behind this cover plate is somewhat of a mystery, since the lens standard is easily retained by the groove in its outer uprights. Yet the plate appears as though it could be factory, being nickel-plated and being retained by a screw like those used on the nickel-plated brass strip holding the lens board at its top. The plate's oxidation is also consistent with that found on the camera's hardware and its Waterbury Lens and mounting flange. It should also be noted that low production volumes during the 1880's and early 1890's, along with frequent modifications, resulted in very few cameras ever being exactly alike. Additionally, hardware sometimes differed between smaller and larger formats. All of this, taken with the relatively few Combination Cameras that have survived, makes valid comparisons all the more difficult.
Blair Tourograph & Dry Plate Company cameras and apparatus can range from the very scarce to the very rare, with equipment from the earlier Blair Tourograph Company being extremely rare.
From The Philadelphia Photographer, April, 1883
The following pages 2-9 depicting the Combination Camera are from an undated Blair Tourograph & Dry Plate Company catalogue. The catalogue's date is either 1882 or 1883, since it carries the new Blair Tourograph & Dry Plate Company name and features the Blair Knockdown Camera which appeared only briefly in late 1882 and early 1883: