SCHMID'S PATENT DETECTIVE CAMERA
E. & H.T. Anthony & Company, New York 1883-1891
Schmid's Patent Detective Camera was the world's first commercially produced hand-held camera incorporating a shutter, focusing system and a waist-level viewfinder. These features would become the mainstay on later hand cameras by others.
Patented on January 2, 1883 by William Schmid of Brooklyn, New York, Patent No. 270,133 was assigned to the E. & H.T. Anthony & Company of New York, who manufactured and marketed the camera. The first model of 1883 for 3¼x4¼" plates, costing $55 and equipped with an E. Anthony rapid lens, featured a rigid one-piece carrying handle that was formed from a brass rod. Later models featured a folding handle with a focusing scale located on the right side, and leather covering was optional for $2.50. The Schmid could also be fitted with a Dallmeyer 6-1/2" f8 rapid rectilinear lens with Waterhouse stops, and an Eastman roll holder.
From Anthony's Illustrated Catalogue of Photographic Equipments and Materials for Amateurs, January, 1891
Source: Google Patents
Schmid followed his original 1883 patent, with Patent No. 369,818 issued September 13, 1887. It's interesting to note that this patent was not assigned to E. & H.T. Anthony & Company. This second patent improved upon the camera's rotary shutter to vary the time of exposure, and modified the viewfinder to facilitate sighting and centering of the image:
Source: U.S. Patent Office
Source: Google Patents
Advertisements for the Schmid appear as early as September, 1883, in Anthony's Photographic Bulletin, Volume 14. Anthony last advertised the Schmid Detective in their 1891 catalogue, offering it in six sizes from 3-1/4x4-1/4 to 8x10, with sizes above 4x5 made to order only. The camera shown here is a 3-1/4 x 4-1/4 Improved Model from 1887, although it is only marked with the January 2, 1883 patent date.
Schmid's Patent Detective Camera was produced in very limited numbers, and not many survive.
Original wooden case for the Schmid Patent Detective Camera:
If you've been collecting cameras for 30-40 years, there's a good chance you will have met or heard the name of fellow collector Dale Laubham. Dale was the consummate enthusiast, a friend to everyone and he was always willing to share his knowledge.
As told to me by him, while living in Cooper City, Florida, Dale followed up on a classified newspaper ad for a Kodak Panoram. It was advertised for about $200 and located at a camera shop some distance from his home. Entering the store, Dale immediately spied the Panoram sitting in a glass case, which the store owner then brought out for his inspection. As Dale was looking it over, the owner proceeded to bring out an attractive wooden box camera that happened to be sitting next to the Panoram, telling Dale he could have both for $350. Unbeknownst to him at the time, that wooden box turned out to be a Schmid Patent Detective Camera, and one of Dale's greatest finds ever.
This story took place over thirty years ago, and it can be argued that finds such as this are less likely to occur today, given the level of digitized historical information now available.
But on the flip side, all that knowledge can work in one's favor when some of the oldest and rarest items crop up when you least expect it....and they will!