New York Optical Works, R. (Richard) Morrison, New York             Late 1868 - November, 1870

Quarter-plate wet plate era radial drive lens manufactured by the New York Optical Works, R. Morrison.


Renowned lens maker Richard Morrison was born in Gloucester, England in 1836.  Per his obituary in Scovill's The Photographic Times and American Photographer, 1888, Morrison apprenticed at an early age under the celebrated astronomical lens maker Slater (Thomas).  Arriving in America by age 22, Morrison became employed by Benjamin Pike & Sons who were manufacturers of telescope and microscope objectives.

Morrison would go on to become foreman at C.C Harrison's optical works. After Charles Harrison's death in 1864, Morrison formed a partnership with George Wale under the name of Wale & Morrison. Per Brian Stevenson's article on George Wale (http://microscopist.net/WaleG.html), the company didn't last long and by 1871, Wale partnered with an instrument maker named Hawkins.

After Wale and Morrison parted ways, Morrison would return to his former employer Benjamin Pike & Sons for a brief period.  Joseph Schnitzer, who together with Charles C. Harrison patented their famous Harrison & Schnitzer Globe Lens, hired Richard Morrison to be the foreman of the newly formed New York Optical Works.  Per noted lens collector and historian Milan Zahorcak, the company was incorporated in late 1868 by Edmund Blunt, Jr.  Milan's outstanding article "As the Glue Sets Lens Lore: The Morrison Connection" published in the Cascade Panorma Reunion Issue 2010  (https://phsc.ca/camera/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/CascadePanoramaReunionIssue.pdf) is the best history that anyone has ever compiled on Richard Morrison and his earliest lenses.

Edmund Blunt, Jr. of Bay Ridge, New York, was also an inventor, having been granted Patent No. 79,440 on June 30, 1868 for an "Electro-Magnetic Burglar and Fire Alarm", and Patent No. 180,831 dated August 8, 1876 for "Improvements in Pumps" that was shared with William S. Blunt, believed to be his brother.

Prior to the formation of the New York Optical Works, Richard Morrison was listed as an optician with a home address of 896 Second Avenue in the 1866/1867 Trow's New York City Directory.  By late 1870, the New York Optical Works dissolved with Richard Morrison subsequently acquiring the rights to manufacture under Joseph Schnitzer's patents, along with New York Optical Works' tools and machinery. These details of the transition were reflected in one of Richard Morrison's later advertisements from 1872 stating "The New York Optical Works Re-Organized".  This ad can be seen on Dan Colucci's Antiquecameras.net website at https://www.antiquecameras.net/18481875advertisements.html.  Morrison would continue to develop other lens designs, including his wide-angle which was universally acknowledged as the best in its class and for which he is best known today.


The radial drive example shown here, missing its mounting flange and nearly all its original finish, exhibits a great patina.  Collectors typically associate the radial drive feature with the daguerreotype process, although this drive style can be found on later lenses.  With New York Optical Works having operated between 1868 and 1870, this lens falls well into the collodion wet plate era that followed. The lens' dimensions are 4-3/4" in height, with an inner barrel diameter of 2" and a 2-5/16" diameter lens shade.


Owing to the company's brief existence, very few lenses by New York Optical Works have ever been seen, making this a fairly rare lens.



Dan Colucci's Antiquecameras.net website at https://www.antiquecameras.net/18481875advertisements.html

Milan Zahorcak's article on Richard Morrison at https://phsc.ca/camera/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/CascadePanoramaReunionIssue.pdf

Brian Stevenson's article on George Wale at http://microscopist.net/WaleG.html