The Scientific Lens Company, 708 East 166th Street, New York (attributed)          1904-190?

The Coursen Shutter was designed by George L. Coursen of Newark, New Jersey.


Taken from the patent's wording, the design permitted the shutter's leaves to "be moved in reversed directions across the opening for exposure, in succession at each compression of the bulb, thus being able at each time and during each reverse movement of the leaves in either direction across the opening in the frame of the shutter to take a picture, and that without the further use of  an additional bulb for releasing the mechanism to produce such reverse movement of the leaves of the shutter, and, furthermore ,dispensing with the use of an additional regulating lever or levers for producing a time or instantaneous exposure and also dispensing with the use of other independently-operating parts of mechanism now ordinarily employed for producing the results desired."

Coursen was granted at least five photographic patents, three relating to shutters:  Patent No. 718,983 granted January 27, 1903, Patent No. 946,657 granted January 18, 1910 and Patent No. 2,002,109 granted May 21, 1935.  With this shutter citing the 1903 patent date and other patents pending, this suggests that it was manufactured after January 27, 1903.

This holds true as the Coursen Shutter, along with the Scientific Lens Company's "Ocular" Portrait Lens was announced in the June, 1904 issue of Camera Craft, A Photographic Monthly, Volume VIII.   An ad for the Coursen Shutter and the "Ocular" appeared the following month in Camera Craft's July, 1904 issue.  Having a 1/300th of a second speed capability and equipped with a Scientific Double Anastigmat lens composed of 8 lenses made by Jena Glass, the shutter was marketed by the Scientific Lens Company, 708 East 166th Street, New York:



            Advertisement for the Coursen Shutter and the "Ocular" Portrait Lens from Camera Craft monthly for July, 1904



                             Source:  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office



                                 Source:  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office



                               Source:  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office


With the shutter being sold in 1904 by the Scientific Lens Company, and the second patent having been assigned to Wollensak in 1910, its manufacturer is attributed to the Scientific Lens Company for now, pending more information.

Having a beautiful lacquered engine-turned pattern, the shutter is very substantial weighing in at 1-1/2 pounds. It measures 4" wide (including speed regulator), 3-5/8" in height and 2-1/2" front to back.  The nameplate at top reads "The Coursen Shutter, Pat. Jan. 27, 1903, Other Pats. P D G.".

The speed regulator is mounted, so as to be movable from the 1 o'clock position to the 4 o'clock position.  Again, more review is needed to explain this feature which controls some aspect of the blades.  Complicated patent language along with this example being inoperative, has made an accurate assessment of its operation difficult. The shutter appears to mount via the lens shroud at rear, retaining it in lieu of a threaded flange. Other than the nameplate, there are no markings or identification on the shutter, lenses or shroud.

The last shutter patent, applied for in 1934 and granted in 1935, and which details the speed dial and housing in the patent drawing as shown on this example, would suggest that the shutter was built closer to that period. However, shutters of this style having brass finishes and external pneumatic valves (for either release or to regulate speed), were all but gone from the marketplace by 1916/1917.  Even Wollensak Optical's catalogue for 1916/1917 doesn't feature any shutters with external valves, and 1917 is a long way away from 1935.

Yet, here is this shutter advertised in 1904 with a 1/300th speed, that was no doubt enabled by this speed regulator unit.

As to George L. Coursen, other than his patents, little has been found regarding him or his connection to the Scientific Lens Company or to Wollensak Optical.  The last patent granted to Coursen in 1935 was assigned in one-half to H. Theodore Sorg of Newark, New Jersey. Harrison Theodore Sorg (1888-1955) is believed to have been an attorney (possibly Coursen's attorney and/or business partner?) and an alumni of Wheaton College.


Research so far indicates the Coursen Shutter was short-lived, few references have been found and it's the only example I've ever seen.  Among early 20th Century American shutters, it can be considered rare.