THE MATHEIN SHUTTER

  Wale & Mathein, Marksboro, New Jersey           1892-1896

 

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Among the most beautiful shutters ever built, the Mathein exhibits pneumatic valves front and rear, fancy etchings, and an offset lens configuration that's unmistakable. The Mathein Shutter's design was filed on June 23, 1893 and patented by Franz J. Mathein of New Haven, Connecticut, under Patent No. 534,337 granted February 19, 1895.  This patent was assigned to the Scovill & Adams Company who began placing the shutter on the Henry Clay Camera by 1892:

 

       

                           Source:  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

       

                          Source:  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

 

Prior to the Mathein Shutter's appearance, the Henry Clay Camera was introduced in 1891 with Scovill's Instantaneous Lens and Shutter:

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             Scovill's Instantaneous Lens and Shutter

 

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Scovill's Instantaneous Lens and Shutter depicted on the Henry Clay Camera    (From Scovill & Adams' How to Make Photographs, October, 1893)

 

The Mathein Shutter depicted on the Henry Clay Camera   (From Scovill's The American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1894)

 

Scovill's Instantaneous Lens and Shutter would continue to be seen in catalogue engravings for the Henry Clay Camera through 1893. By 1894, the Henry Clay's engravings were changed to reflect the new Mathein Shutter. However, as in many other instances during this period, factory engravings were not always updated. This is evidenced by several examples of the original Henry Clay Sliding-Bed model from 1891/1892 having been seen equipped with the Mathein.

No advertisements have been found showing the Mathein as being marketed as a separate item.  And in many cases, manufacturers offered cameras equipped with a lens or shutter that was only available by purchasing the camera. Also hindering its identification, is that most Mathein shutters found today are not marked with the Wale & Mathein name, patent information or serial numbers.  I say most, since at least three known examples in private collections bear the inscription "Wale & Mathein, Marksboro, N.J." along with their format size, focal length and serial number:

 

      

         Mathein Shutter with the manufacturer's name, format, lens type (R.R. for Rapid Rectilinear), focal length and serial number

 

The Mathein Shutter has been found, almost exclusively, on American Optical Company's Henry Clay series of self-casing cameras produced between 1891 and 1899; the exceptions being the Henry Clay Stereoscopic and Stereoscopic Special Order 5x8 Models (equipped with Prosch's Stereo Triplex, Bausch & Lomb Stereoscopic or Unicum Triplicate depending on the model) and later production Henry Clay Cameras equipped with Bausch & Lomb's Iris Diaphragm or Unicum Shutters. 

 

The Mathein was available in several sizes, as evidenced by those found on the larger 5x7 Henry Clay Camera/Henry Clay Regular, and the smaller Henry Clay, 2nd (1895-1897) and Henry Clay, Jr. (1895-1897) 4x5 cameras.  The smaller Mathein Shutters differ from the larger sizes seen, with both the retardant (or speed regulating) valve and the pneumatic release valve being located on the front of the casing:

                      Henry Clay, Jr. 4x5 with smaller size Mathein Shutter

 

The Henry Clay, Jr. shown above is equipped with a Mathein Shutter having both a front and rear lens. Ad engravings seen for the Henry Clay, 2nd depict the economy version of the Mathein having a single achromatic objective (one lens element at the rear), although the double-lens combination was also offered. This single-lens version of the Mathein Shutter is particularly rare:

 

From Scovill's How to Make Photographs and a Descriptive Catalogue of Photographic Materials Illustrated, 1895

 

From Scovill's How to Make Photographs and a Descriptive Catalogue of Photographic Materials Illustrated, 1895

 

Scovill's How to Make Photographs and a Descriptive Catalogue of Photographic Materials Illustrated, 1895

 

Irrespective of size, all of the Mathein Shutters I've ever encountered are equipped with a rotary (or wheel stop) aperture.

 

The Mathein continued to appear in Scovill's advertisements for the Henry Clay Camera/Henry Clay Regular through at least 1896. An 1897 ad for various Henry Clay models, listed a "Henry Clay, Second, with Double Combination Lens".  This ad had no engraving and could have been referencing either the Mathein Shutter or Bausch & Lomb's Iris Diaphragm Shutter, as about 1896 Scovill & Adams was willing to mount the Bausch & Lomb Iris Diaphragm at no additional cost, in lieu of the standard Mathein. 

 

The Mathein Shutter is rarely encountered today, and when seen, most are in the larger 5x7 size.  Along with every model of the Henry Clay that this shutter is famously found on, the Mathein is highly prized by collectors.

 

For more information on Henry Clay Cameras or Scovill's Instantaneous Lens and Shutter, look for them under the "Antique Cameras" and "Shutters" sections of this website.

 

                                                                    5x7 Henry Clay Camera with the Mathein Shutter

 

    Close-up of another Mathein Shutter mounted on a 5x7 Henry Clay Camera

 

9-20-2012 Mathein Shutter Colucci 001

Smaller size Mathein Shutter with the double-lens combination, found standard on the Henry Clay, Jr., and as an option on the Henry Clay, 2nd

 

 Ad from Scovill's American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1895