Very Rare Lewis-Style Whole Plate Daguerreotype Camera with Early Modifications
Whole plate (6.5 x 8.5 in.) Lewis-type daguerreotype camera with rosewood veneer body, blackened bed, and single top-loading trap door with original ceramic knob. The firm of W. & W.H. Lewis, in New Windsor, NY, was the first to incorporate bellows into an American daguerreotype camera design. The bellows look to be original. With the chamfered front characteristic of the early Lewis design. 25.25 x 13.25 x 16.25 in. high.
Although originally manufactured as a full-plate Lewis-style daguerreotype camera, ca 1857, this example was modified for swings and tilts of the rear box not long after it was originally made. Camera movements such as these were first patented in America in the mid-1860s. The materials and expert craftsmanship employed in the modification of this camera would indicate that the camera was not very old when the photographer decided to have it modified.
The camera is fitted with a brass lens engraved Holmes Booth & Haydens / New York / N. 3957. Like the camera, the lens likely dates to ca 1857, although that is not an indication that the lens is original to the camera. A Waterhouse slot was hand-cut into the lens at a later time, and 3 Waterhouse-type aperture plates are included, as is the original lens cover.
This is apparently only the second whole plate Lewis-style daguerreotype camera known. The early, specific and expertly crafted modifications do not detract from the rarity of this probably unique daguerreian-era camera.
Our sincere thanks to Ken Nelson and Mike Robinson for providing a wealth of information regarding this camera.