LEWIS-STYLE DAGUERREOTYPE CAMERA
Manufacturer unknown, attributed to W. & W. H. Lewis, New York circa 1854
This is a Lewis-style daguerreotype camera, referring to the design's originators.
William Lewis, William H. Lewis and Henry T. Lewis of New York, New York were granted Patent No. 8,513 on November 11, 1851, whereby a bellows separates the camera's front and rear box sections:
Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Although unmarked as to maker, this quarter-plate daguerreotype camera contains characteristics of products by the firms of W. & W. H. Lewis that were sometimes unmarked, and Palmer & Longking. Reportedly, Gardner, Harrison & Company took over the Lewis' camera factory in 1852, which was then acquired in 1853 by Palmer & Longking who would continue to manufacture the Lewis design with Palmer & Longking markings.
The general construction of this camera, along with the camera's knurled nut that secures the focus strongly suggests this may be an unmarked Lewis camera. The nut has a characteristic mold imperfection in the knurling, which has been found on other known Lewis cameras. The camera is complete with its focusing screen and an unmarked, tangential-drive quarter-plate lens typical of the period. The lens construction appears very similar to lenses which are marked "Bauz", which has been associated with the names Auzoux & Bauz and Bauz Freres, Paris, France, and to those of Jamin (later Jamin & Darlot) also of Paris. In most cases, early American-made daguerreotype and wet plate lenses employed radial drives, but some have been seen with tangential drives, the style being more popular with European lens makers.
Being a Lewis-style camera with an open bed (versus a solid bed), places this camera's manufacture in the mid-1850's which is late in the Daguerreian period. About this time, Lewis' cameras transitioned to an open bed, having a slot on the left side rail to maintain alignment of the rear box section during focusing. This same slot configuration and open bed design was carried forward and can be found on Lewis' wet plate cameras into the early 1860's.
Having three chamfered edges at the front, versus the four and more pronounced chamfers that are seen on earlier daguerreotype cameras, is also characteristic of the mid-to-late 1850's. By about 1860, these chamfered edges would give way to squared ends.
The daguerreotype as a commercial process, ran from the early 1840's to about 1860 when the ambrotype and ferrotype (tintype) processes were coming into use and gaining in popularity.
Cameras from this period are quite rare, and it has been suggested that probably no more than 250 daguerreotype cameras of all makes and models, survive.
W. & W. H. Lewis advertisement circa 1852