THE ASBURY BARKER SHUTTER
Bausch & Lomb Optical Company, Rochester, New York, for
Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, New York 1892-1893
Asbury Barker Shutter with brass casing
Asbury Barker Shutter with aluminum casing (possible prototype)
Billed as the Asbury Barker "frictionless shutter" in some Eastman Company advertisements, the between-the-lens, two blade, scissor-type design was patented by Asbury Barker of Peekskill, New York, under Patent No. 477,588 issued June 21, 1892. Barker was already involved in other photographic pursuits, having designed a printing frame capable of accommodating two or more negatives to produce a panoramic view under Patent No. 466,000 dated December 29, 1891.
Per Eastman's advertisements, they had purchased the exclusive right to manufacture Asbury Barker's shutter. In all probability, Bausch & Lomb actually manufactured the Barker, since during the early to mid-1890's they were supplying most of the shutters found on Kodak cameras. According to Kodak's 1892 catalogue, they were able "to apply it to the new Folding Kodak's at the low extra price of $5.00, which barely covers cost of manufacture". The Barker appeared on Eastman's Folding Kodak (Satchel) series for 1892, having replaced Eastman's Sector Shutter on earlier models. The Barker is shown and referenced in an Eastman Kodak advertisement in Scovill's American Annual of Photography & Photographic Times Almanac for 1893.
Somewhat troublesome, the spring within the regulator valve was prone to breakage and the Barker was discontinued after about a year. The standard version was produced with a brass casing and a nickel-plated spring cylinder (regulator valve), speed dial and a "gull wing" styled release lever. It's unclear as to whether the Barker was ever produced in aluminum for the Folding Kodak (Satchel), or whether the example shown above is a factory prototype. However, with two aluminum examples in the collection being the only ones I've ever encountered, and never having seen one mounted on a camera, there is a strong possibility they were prototypes. Aluminum versions, if ever produced, would be considered very rare.
The Barker has also been found with a pneumatic release valve in lieu of the gull wing lever, that was also capable of being released manually. From research so far, the pneumatic release appears to have never been an advertised option. Maybe it was an improvement that occurred later in the production run. But it appears factory in all respects and has been seen in several instances on the No. 5 Folding Kodak. It's interesting to note that the original patent drawing shows a pneumatic release, although the patent drawing differs from the production model in the position of the pneumatic valve and the linkage arm which has no grip extension. The majority of Barker examples found today are equipped with the "gull wing" style release.
Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Asbury Barker was also granted Patent No.491,794 on February 14, 1893 for a "Pneumatic Regulating Device". This second patent, following the Barker's introduction, may have been an attempt at improving the shutter's operation by replacing the spring-dampened cylinder with a pneumatic unit. The patent contains the wording "My invention relates more particularly to that class of devices, in which compressed or inclosed (sic) air is used to cushion or retard or check certain mechanical action, that would otherwise be too quick or violent, such as the closing of steam engine valves, the swinging of doors, etc., the more particular application in this case however being the control of camera shutters, doors, etc." This pneumatic-dampened version appears to have never reached production.
Possibly the most intriguing shutter to ever grace a Kodak product, the Barker is not seen very often. Despite the fact that most surviving examples are found inoperative, the Barker with its massive regulator valve and speed dial housing, ranks as one of those great "golden age" shutter designs that evokes the collector in all of us.