Past Treasure of the Month – March 2010

1886 Novelette Triplex Camera
A Novelette Triplex Camera from E. & H. T. Anthony Company.

The Rosenberg Library Museum featured a Novelette Triplex Camera from E. & H. T. Anthony Company as the March Treasure of the Month. Novelette cameras, manufactured from 1886 until 1894, were the first cameras to include the Prosch triplex shutter and assisted in the advancement of photography in the field. These cameras, along with their cases, sold for $40 each in 1890 and were deemed the most portable cameras on the market. If they were still sold on the shelves today, the cameras would cost nearly $1,000.00 each. This month’s featured artifact was donated by Mr. Floyd J. Kavanaugh in 1936.

Anthony Novelette Camera

Until the 1880s, most cameras were designed for studio use and were mounted on stationary carts and stands. Their design was large, bulky, and awkward. The innovative design of the Anthony Novelette Camera in 1886 allowed the entire frame and bellows to revolve, making the transition from portrait images to landscape view immensely more convenient. The camera’s compact build led to artistic advancements in field and studio photography as well as the budding art of the action shot.

The Novelette Camera

The Novelette camera was the first camera to include the triplex shutter, the flagship of the Prosch Manufacturing Company. This shutter consisted of three slides with uninterrupted pass-by movement that decreased vibration in the camera and allowed for better regularity of film slide exposure time. The shutter also included an extra spring made of heavy gauge wire on the outside of the shutter. When prompted, this massive spring had enough power to trip the shutter lens as fast as 1/300 of a second. Simply, the triplex shutter allowed photographers to capture action shots outside of the studio and led to developments in documentary and field photography research.

The 1886 Novelette camera on display is made of mahogany with brass trimmings. Known to camera enthusiasts as one of the more unique Anthony designs, the Novelette has a stereoscopic round wooden face and was sold as a stereoscopic camera. Known for its lightweight but sturdy build, the Novelette camera was the preferred camera for action sequences. Relatively rare today, the Novelette brought photography out of the studios and into the field.

Showing method of reversing camera.

In the nineteenth century, E. & H. T. Anthony Company of New York was the largest distributor, supplier, and manufacturer of photographic supplies in the United States. Edward Anthony began his business in 1842 as a daguerreotype gallery known as Anthony and Co. (Daguerreotype photography, similar to tintype photography, was one of the first photographic processes invented in the 1830s by Louis Daguerre.) The business was a booming enterprise. With the addition of his brother in 1852, the company changed its name to E. & H. T. Anthony Company. They specialized in custom camera designs as well as stereoscopic view cards, detective cameras, and gallery furniture. In 1902, the company merged with the Scovill Manufacturing Company, its long time competitor in photography innovation and supply distribution, and became the Anthony and Scovill Company.