Wollensak Optical Company, Rochester, New York            1905-1913


                                                                    Skyshade Shutter No. 1


Referenced as being "now on the market" in Camera and Darkroom, Volume VIII, No. 12 for December,1905, Wollensak's Skyshade Shutter for landscape work contained no elements or iris diaphragm. It was capable of time, bulb and instantaneous exposures of 1 to 1/100th of a second.


This earliest reference follows the patent application dates for all the Skyshade's patents that were filed in 1904 and 1905.  Of the few examples I've encountered, all were marked "Patent Appl'd For". One might think this would help to narrow the manufacturing timeline in some cases. However, there is a chance (really a strong possibility) that Wollensak never removed the "Patent Appl'd For" reference once the patents were secured. The last reference for the Skyshade found so far, appears in Wollensak's Catalogue of Photographic Lenses and Shutters, 1912-1913.


The Skyshade mounted to the front of a lens barrel or shade, simply by depressing the shutter's grip clamps at the rear.  The shutter was designed to address the bright sky and the more distant areas of a landscape photograph, which tended to be overexposed before the details in the foreground were evident. The problem stemmed from the sensitivity of the glass plates in use at that time to the color blue.  Wollensak overcame this problem, giving more exposure to the foreground by designing a shutter that changed speeds during the exposure.  The shutter's blade moved more slowly while the foreground was being exposed, and faster for the sky's portion.


Available in four sizes per Wollensak's advertisements, the two smallest sizes are featured here.  The No. 1 for 1-inch diameter lenses is marked with serial number "106" on the plate covering the clamp pivots at the rear.  The No. 2 for 1-1/8 to 1-3/8 inch diameter lenses is marked with serial number "488":

                           No. 1                                                       No.2

                           No. 1                                                       No.2


The faceplates on both examples are marked "Skyshade, Patent Appl'd For.", and below the shutter openings "Wollensak Optical Co., Rochester, N.Y., U.S.A.":





Three patents appear to cover the Skyshade's design.   Wollensak was granted Patent No. 831,202 on September 18, 1906, having filed his patent application on March 2, 1904.  Wollensak was also granted Patent No. 831,256 on September 18, 1906, having filed for this patent on May 23, 1905.  These first two patents, granted on the same day, both appear to contain design elements relative to the Skyshade's operation.  Wollensak's first patent relative to the Skyshade, was Patent No. 819,110 granted May 1, 1906, covering the shutter's clamping mechanism. This date can be found stamped on the clamp of the No. 2 size shutter shown below:


                                                                No. 2


Since the May 1,1906 patent date is found on this No. 2 size shutter, and its faceplate states "Patent Appl'd For.", one could infer that this referenced the two upcoming patents granted on September 18, 1906.  As such, this particular No. 2 size shutter would have been manufactured sometime between May 1, 1906 and September 18, 1906. However, as stated earlier, if the "Patent Appl'd For." was never removed, this shutter could have been manufactured anytime between May,1906 and the end of production. Of the few examples in my collection and those gleaned from the Internet, all have 3-digit serial numbers.


The Skyshade has been seen on at least one example of G. Gennert's Montauk Flexo-Front Multiplying Camera from 1912 (see Rob Niederman's collection at and on a Rochester Optical Company 4x5 Peerless Camera from my own collection, attached to a nickel-plated Waterbury Lens:



                  Montauk Flexo-Front ad from an undated G. Gennert Catalogue  (possibly 1908)





Rochester Optical Company Peerless 4x5 with No. 1 Skyshade Shutter No. 438





Although advertised for a number of years, the Skyshade appears to have been produced in very limited numbers since it is rarely seen today.



                                Wollensak Skyshade Shutter 1907



                                                                                    Source:  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office



                                                                                   Source:  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office



                                                                                 Source:  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office


                            Factory case for the No. 2 Skyshade Shutter