Genie Camera Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania        1890-1894

The Genie Camera, covered by six American and three foreign patents and equipped with a string-set shutter, is a magazine detective camera for either 12, 3-1/4 x 4-1/4 glass dry plates, or 24 cut films.


The plates were contained in a removable brass magazine, which figured prominently in the camera's approximate 5 pound weight.  This proved to be a disadvantage, the other being the effort required to make an exposure. The magazine is stamped with the patent dates of May 31, 1887 and August 5, 1890:


Opening the rear side door, the plates were cycled by a push-pull action to the magazine, then the door was closed. Not the end of the world, but overly complex when compared with Eastman's string-sets. Each cycle registered on the camera's exposure counter and the "frictionless" shutter, as noted in their advertisements, was capable of four speeds and time exposures.  John Loeber's Patent No. 363,833 of May 31, 1887 and William E. Schneider's Patent No. 433,746 of August 5, 1890 covered the camera's design. Loeber's design incorporated scissor-strut bellows connected to the lens standard, which extended forward of the camera's body. With Schneider's patent, the lens standard moved internally via rack-and-pinion, and this was the design finally incorporated. Three other patents granted to Schneider covered elements of the Genie's shutter design, and curiously, the last U.S. Patent cited was granted to Schneider for a tripod design.

The 1890-1894 production period is based upon advertisements from the American Amateur Photographer, 1890, and Public Opinion: A Comprehensive Summary of the Press Throughout, Volume 14, October, 1892 - April, 1893.

Wilson's Photographic Magazine, Volume XXVIII, No. 397, July 4, 1891, under the section "Editor's Table", contains the announcement "We have received a prospectus of the Genie Hand-Camera Co., 39 South Tenth Street, Philadelphia. Pa. Mr. John Carbutt is the President of this company; Mr. W.E. Schneider, of Washington, D.C. (the inventor of the camera), Vice President; H.S. Williams, General Manager, and Morris Earle, Secretary and Treasurer. This camera, it is claimed, is superior to any now on the market for compactness, ease of manipulation, and of focusing, and exposing, and withdrawing plate or film for immediate development. It is of the magazine type and arranged to hold twelve plates or twenty-four films. The company also proposes to manufacture and supply all kinds of photographic specialties."

Per Corporations of New Jersey, List of Certificates, Filed in the Department of State, From 1846 to 1891, Inclusive, the Genie Camera Company filed for incorporation as a New Jersey Corporation on March 12, 1891, for a Limit of Existence to March 7, 1941, with capital stock authorized at $150,000.

A statement from The Genie Camera Company of Philadelphia, in Bulletin No. 9, Committee on Finance, United States Senate, 1894, Replies to Tariff Inquiries, indicates the company was still in existence in 1894. And, the Reports of Committees of the Senate of the United States, for the Second Session of the Fifty-Third Congress, 1893-'94, printed in 1895, contains a company statement regarding tariffs. Patents listed inside the camera's front door range from 1887 to 1891.  The Genie is believed to be the company's only camera, although per their reply to Senate tariff inquiries, they stated their manufacture of "photographic and scientific apparatus".

John Carbutt, famous for his dry plates and other photographic apparatus, was President of the Genie Camera Company.  Wilson's Photographic Magazine, Volume 28, dated 1891, states that W.E. Schneider of Washington, D.C. was the inventor of the camera and Vice President, H.S. Williams was General Manager, and Morris Earle served as Secretary and Treasurer.  This reference goes on to state " This camera, it is claimed, is superior to any now on the market for compactness, ease of manipulation, and of focusing, of exposing, and withdrawing plate or film for immediate development".

Some production differences have been noted, such as the brilliant finders being mounted to the body versus the front door:


The control knobs located on the right side, are both positioned further forward on later production cameras:

The exposure indicator at top has also been seen with a sliding cover:



The 1893 ad below for the Genie indicates two prices for the camera at $25 and $40. With the Genie believed to have been available in only one format (3-1/4 x 4-1/4), and in a leather-covered version only, this may suggest the camera was available with either a basic or an upscale lens configuration. This is supported by the two examples shown here, one having a single lens (rear element only) and one having both a front and rear element:



                                               Genie Camera Company advertisement, 1893





                              Back view showing rear lens element


It should be noted that the front lens seen here on one example, does not fit the other example with no front lens as the lens' thread diameter is smaller than the barrel opening. The mounting barrel outer diameter on both cameras appears identical, but the barrel thickness differs, being thicker on the example equipped with the front lens. The barrel on the example with no front lens also appears to have decorative ribbing rather than threads, suggesting that some models were purpose-built without a front lens. If a copy of the "descriptive pamphlet" mentioned in the above ad can ever be located, it will probably put these questions to rest.

These Genie examples having two and three-digit serial numbers, together with a short manufacturing span, suggests the camera was produced in very limited numbers. This is supported by the few in existence today. Contrary to their advertisement stating "perfection in a hand camera at last", the Genie was not the easiest camera to use.  But it was solid and beautifully constructed, and once you've held one it's hard to let go. 


Simply put, the Genie is one of those great obscure cameras from the early 1890's.














                                  Ad from the American Amateur Photographer, December, 1890


     Ad from The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, April, 1893 (also appears in Harper's Magazine for May, 1893)


                            Source:  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office


                            Source:  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office


                            Source:  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office




                            Source:  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office


                             Source:  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office


                             Source:  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office