THORNWARD SPECIAL LENS
Montgomery Ward & Company, Chicago, Illinois circa 1906
This 4x5 Thornward Special Lens was made in France and marketed by Montgomery Ward & Company of Chicago, Illinois.
The lens features a striking black enamel and lacquered brass finish, and is equipped with an iris aperture rather than Waterhouse stops. Although designed and patented by Charles C. Harrison and Joseph Schnitzer on September 7, 1858, the iris diaphragm would not come into widespread use until the late 1890's.
This Montgomery Ward-badged lens most likely dates to about 1906, as the general style and construction of portrait lenses changed during this period. The iris was replacing wheel stops, and increasingly, lens shades were becoming smaller or non-existent with lenses of this size. Unable to locate an ad for the Thornward Special Lens in any of the Montgomery Ward's catalogues I've had access to, the date is an educated guess based upon the trends seen in other photographic supplier's catalogues of the period.
From experience, I've encountered many more Sears, Roebuck/Seroco cameras and lenses, than those marketed by Montgomery Ward. It's also interesting, in that with Sears and Montgomery Ward having been the dominant retailers (and discounters) of the time, one would think that considerably more of their private-branded items would be found. Yet, in the case of Montgomery Ward, relatively little is seen today.