THE ROCHESTER CAMERA
Rochester Camera Manufacturing Company, Rochester, New York 1891-1892
Introduced by Rochester Camera Manufacturing Company during their first year of operation, this camera is referred to simply as "The Rochester" or "The Rochester Camera" in company literature. Priced in 1892 at $18, it could accept either plates or roll film and featured two viewfinders. Its leather covering belied the beautiful quarter-sawn Sycamore highlights to some of its interior construction.
Rochester Camera Manufacturing was in business between 1891 and 1895, becoming Rochester Camera Company in late 1895 or early 1896 and finally, Rochester Camera and Supply Company in 1897. The company subsequently merged with four other firms to form Rochester Optical and Camera Company in 1899. R.C.M. Co. became famous for their POCO line of cameras, some of which incorporated features found on The Rochester Camera.
Instructions and Price List for The Rochester Camera, January, 1892
Equipped with an R.C.M. Co. No. 1 wheel stop lens, its leather lens cap was stored on a circular wooden mount within the camera's interior. The lens board's rise and fall was adjusted through a unique ratcheted arrangement, and focusing was accomplished by a sliding lever extending through a curved slot on the body's exterior. The lens standard could also be moved forward and backward via a knurled knob located in a rather inaccessible area beneath the bellows. These unusual features made the camera difficult to operate, possibly owing as to why the design was short-lived.
The Rochester Camera, or "Rochester Box" as it has also been referred to by collectors, disappears from Rochester Camera Manufacturing Company catalogues by 1893, having been replaced by the Rochester Hand Camera. Montgomery Ward was still offering a camera called "The Rochester" as late as 1895 in their Catalogue No. 57 for Spring & Summer. Based upon the camera's name and the engraving used, Montgomery Ward was either selling new old stock The Rochesters, or the camera being sold was The Rochester's successor, the Rochester Hand Camera being depicted with engravings that had not been revised:
From Montgomery Ward's Catalogue No. 57 for Spring & Summer 1895
In trying to determine which of the above scenarios was correct, it was thought that being fitted with Gundlach's Rapid Rectigraphic Lens, this might indicate which camera was actually being sold by Wards in 1895. However, this proved fruitless as both The Rochester Camera and the Rochester Hand Camera were available with the Gundlach Rapid Rectigraphic lens as an option.
Photographic supplier W.P. Buchanan was offering the Rochester Hand Camera in 1893, but was utilizing the older engraving for The Rochester:
From W.P. Buchanan's 1893 Catalogue Source: The Getty Research Institute through HathiTrust
W.P. Buchanan's 1893 Catalogue Cover Source: The Getty Research Institute through HathiTrust
From the American Amateur Photographer, April, 1892
From the above reference in the American Amateur Photographer, April, 1892 noting "an improved Rochester hand-camera, this is presumed to be The Rochester Camera's successor, the "Rochester Hand Camera" being introduced by April, 1892. However, the engraving still reflects The Rochester Camera. The Rochester Hand Camera as it appears in Rochester Camera Manufacturing Company's 1893 catalogue has been redesigned based upon the new catalogue engraving:
From Rochester Camera Manufacturing Company's 1893 Catalogue
The Rochester represented the first of Rochester Camera Manufacturing's cameras to bear the "Rochester" name, and there would be other models that followed bearing the name Rochester as well. As we're able to feature some of these, we'll endeavor to use the correct name, to avoid further confusion and to set the record straight whenever possible. With limited references available for early R.C.M. products, it's difficult at times to correctly identify some of these models. I know I'm not the only collector that's experienced some confusion over this.
With the Rochester Camera Manufacturing Company lasting about four years, most of their earliest cameras are very difficult to find today, and this model is no exception. For collectors that seek this grand marque, The Rochester may represent the Holy Grail.