THE GENIE CAMERA

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 of disadvantage, the other being the effort required to make an exposure. 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 iteration was registered on the magazine's exposure counter and the "frictionless" shutter, as noted in their advertisements, was capable of four speeds and time exposures.  Most prominent of all the patents are John Loeber's Patent No. 363,833 of May 31, 1887 for the camera's basic operating design, William E. Schneider's Patent No. 433,746 of August 5, 1890 covering its housing and William E. Schneider's Patent No. 464,998 of December 15, 1891 for the shutter's 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.  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.  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". Variations are known to exist, with viewfinders being mounted on the front door's interior, versus being attached to the interior walls.  This example has no front element, whereas another camera in the collection is equipped with both front and rear elements.

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".

Known examples with two and three-digit serial numbers, together with a short manufacturing span, suggests that the Genie 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