C.C. Harrison, New York        1849




Tangential drive daguerreian lens by Charles C. Harrison, New York. 

Based upon the C.C. Harrison database found on antiquecameras.net , this Serial No. 73 lens dates to 1849, the year Harrison is believed to have begun manufacturing lenses under his own name.  Prior to this, Harrison was a practicing daguerreotypist in New York from about 1846. 

Tangential focusing drives have been seen on several of Harrison's earliest lenses.  The radial drive would replace it during the early 1850's and this is the style seen on most C.C. Harrison lenses today. 

This lens is marked "No. 73, C.C. Harrison, New York".  Appearing totally original in all respects, the thin focusing knob with angled knurling is small in relation to the size of the lens.  It differs in style from the larger and more typically-sized knob seen on C.C Harrison No. 181 (another known tangential drive lens dating to 1849), as well as those found on later radial drive lenses by Harrison and other makers. It should be noted that early lenses and cameras were known for being constantly updated or modified: in many cases, no two were ever alike. Secondly, because production volumes were sometimes low and so few examples survive, valid comparisons become more difficult. 




This lens measures approximately 7" in height, with a barrel diameter of 3-5/8" and a shade diameter of 4".  While the front element is in remarkably good shape, unfortunately, the rear element and the mounting flange are lost. Based on its overall dimensions and the size of the front element in comparison to other known quarter-plate and half-plate lenses, I'm guessing it was probably mounted on a whole-plate camera.  I would be interested in anyone's opinion as to its plate size or any other aspect regarding this lens. 

Missing these parts significantly devalues a piece like this, which many serious collectors would avoid, and rightly so.  Finding a historically accurate mounting flange can be extremely difficult, given the precise diameter and thread pitch. Finding the requisite element which is tantamount to finding the original is, let's be honest, as close to impossible as it gets.


Probably not the lowest serial-numbered C.C. Harrison in existence, but certainly one of his earlier lenses.  Despite its shortcomings, it was hard not to be drawn to a 170-year old lens from America's pre-eminent lens maker of the period.