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Part 1: A Cirkut Panoramic Camera and the Photographer Who Owned It

This story follows the Museum’s recent acquisition of a Cirkut Panoramic Camera. It will be told in five parts with the collaboration of Karen Ball-Pyatt, Grace Schmidt Room of Local History, Kitchener Public Library. Together we will trace some of the camera’s history, the photographer who first used it, the Great War, and Canadian contributions to the development of panoramic photography.

Cirkut Panoramic Camera Outfit Century 46, No. 8 Century Camera Division, Eastman Kodak Co., Rochester, N.Y. ca. 1908-15 Artifact no. 2013.0126

Cirkut Panoramic Camera Outfit
Century 46, No. 8
Century Camera Division,
Eastman Kodak Co., Rochester, N.Y.
ca. 1908-1915
Artifact no. 2013.0126

 

The format will be a five part series of short blogs. I will begin Part 1, while Karen will pick up Part 2 next week on her Historically Speaking blog. We will alternate weekly thereafter, and share what we know about the camera and the photographer.

 

We may raise more questions than answers, so we encourage readers to contribute. Who knows, perhaps we will make some discoveries along the way?

 

This Cirkut Panoramic Camera Outfit was manufactured by the Century Camera Division of Eastman Kodak Co. of Rochester between 1908 and 1915. The camera outfit was used by Ernest Denton (1883-1957), a well-known photographer in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, and owner of the Denton Photo Studio (1913-1955) in what was then Berlin, Ontario. The camera remained in use throughout Denton’s career until mid-1950’s, when it was sold to Al Pirak, and then to Dolf Bogad in the 1970’s. The ownership history of the camera outfit is therefore (to the best of our knowledge) unbroken; from Denton, to Pirak, to Bogad, and now in the Museum’s collection. Al Pirak actually last used the camera in 1961 to take a panoramic photograph of the Kitchener-Waterloo Real Estate Board Summer Picnic (Grace Schmidt Room of Local History collection, Kitchener Public Library).

Mr. Nassau stands behind a fully assembled Cirkut camera. This one however was manufactured by the Folmer and Schwing Division of Eastman Kodak. Some interesting history on Century Cameras, Folmer and Schwing, and Eastman Kodak will be touched upon in Part 3.

Mr. Nassau stands behind a fully assembled Cirkut camera. This one however was manufactured by the Folmer and Schwing Division of Eastman Kodak. Some interesting history on Century Cameras, Folmer and Schwing, and Eastman Kodak will be touched upon in Part 3.

 

What is panoramic photography? It is a technique used for capturing wide and uninterrupted views of a landscape or a scene on one single exposure. Improvements in film technology from the first Daguerrotype panoramas in the early 1840’s to flexible rolled film in the late 1880’s made it possible for inventors to capture 360o degree images from one exposure. Panoramic photography became popular in the late nineteenth century when manufacturers combined rolled film with a mechanism that rotated a camera about the optical axis of a lens. A few Canadian innovations brought the system to perfection. The result of these innovations was the ability to capture wide and elongated scenes on film and photos up to eight feet long that exceed the human eye’s field of view. Contributions to the development of panoramic photography by J.R. Connon, W.J. Johnston will be covered in Part 5.

 

 

The connection that brought this Cirkut camera to the Museum was through Mr. Wilhem Nassau, an expert on the history of photography who has had a long-standing relationship with this Museum. He established the Wilfrid Laurier University teaching collection in the 1970’s which was eventually donated to the Museum in 1981, increasing our camera collection significantly. Fast forward to June 2013 and a visit from Willie to Ottawa to show Mr. Bogad’s Cirkut Camera Outfit, and share with us some of its rich history. The camera belonged to Bogad, who lives not far from Willie in Kitchener-Waterloo, and so began our research on its provenance, authenticity, and eventual acquisition.

 

The complete panoramic camera outfit is genuine in every part. The camera, a Century Cirkut No. 8 is worn in the usual spots where one would expect, even the carrying case looks well-travelled, revealing many stories hidden in the 100 year history of this artifact. The date of manufacture, the time when Denton began his studio, even the relative proximity of Berlin, Ontario to Rochester, N.Y. and ownership speaks to the cameras’ authenticity. It changed hands a few times, from Denton’s studio, to (unknown), to Pirak Studio, and then Mr. Bogad of Forde Studio who recognized its value, and would eventually donate the camera to the Museum.

 

I first saw the camera in 1960, and later bought it from Al Pirak in the early 1970’s because of its uniqueness, Denton’s work, and the historical importance of his panoramic photographs.
~ Dolph Bogad

 

When the Museum acquired the camera, the missing link to the whole story were the photos. Making the connection between Denton’s Cirkut Panoramic Camera Outfit and the photos he took would make for an interesting story to tell. Is the story authentic? Did any photos survive? If so, where were they? The search eventually led me to the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History at the Kitchener Public Library.

 

After several emails and discussions with Karen in the Spring of 2014, it turned out the Grace Schmidt Room had in fact some of Denton’s work in their collections. But were they panoramas? A few days later I received from Karen a very nice thumbnail of a military panorama, signed Denton. Wow! In their archives were found over 24 Denton panoramic photos.

 

This physical evidence certainly added a new dimension to the camera. The when and the how this Cirkut Panoramic Camera was used began to emerge. It was 1916 when a 31 year old Ernest Denton would have photographed regiments of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. With the discovery last Summer, on the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of World War-1, the camera began to reveal its history. Regimental photographs of young soldiers prior to their departure for overseas fighting, company and church picnics, family reunions, city views, and police and fire departments. A great reason to reach out, connect and collaborate on a blog. 

 

A note on authenticity: As with many historical objects, we cannot say with absolute certainty this was the camera that took the Denton panoramic photographs. The evidence found to date (Winter 2015) however does strongly support the case. The camera, photographer, photos, and their geographic setting are all linked in time. They combine with an almost unbroken chain of ownership that point to the cameras’ link to the photos. New evidence uncovered in the Fall 2015 now suggests a much stronger link to Denton and proves this camera outfit took the panoramic photographs in the Kitchener Public Library collections – the last remaining panoramic found this past Summer was taken by Al Pirak using this camera.
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 View additional photos of the Cirkut camera HERE.

To see some of Denton’s panoramas, come back next Wednesday for Part 2 on Historically Speaking.


Part 2 – Deciphering Denton: the Kitchener Connection

March 4, 2015 on  

HISTORICALLY SPEAKING Blog

Grace Schmidt Room of Local History

@KPL_GSRHistory


References:

  1. Lansdale, Robert, The Inventors of the Cirkut Camera and its Parts, Photographic Canadiana, Vol. 36, No. 1, May-June 2010.
  2. McBride, Bill, Evolution of the No. 10 Cirkut Camera, Photographic Canadiana, Vol. 36, No. 1, May-June 2010.
  3. McKeown, James M., McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique & Classic Cameras 12th Edition, 2005/2006, Wisconsin.
  4. George Eastman House, Rochester, N.Y.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to the following for their contributions: Wilhem Nassau for connecting with the Museum and making the donation possible; Dolf Bogad for donating the camera, answering my many questions and reviewing this post for accuracy; Karen Ball-Pyatt for her invaluable research; the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History and Historically Speaking for agreeing to take on this project; Bryan Dewalt, for his review and insight, and to Lynn Wilson for her valuable edits.

Photos:

Photos appearing in this article are by the author.

M. Labrecque / CSTMC

9 replies
  1. Michel Labrecque
    Michel Labrecque says:

    What is amazing are the unintended results on connecting with others! Was very happy to find out Denton photos still existed, and that they are well cared for in the collections of @KPL_GSRHistory.

    I am looking forward to hearing from readers who may have information to contribute on Denton, his studio and photographs. Wondering if there are any cameras out there that would have been used by Denton, as well as photos?

    Reply
  2. Linda Tucker
    Linda Tucker says:

    I just wanted to say that Ernest Denton was my Great-grandfather.We as kids knew him as Pop and he was a wonderful man.I never knew he was so great as a photographer because he was just Pop to me.In reading all that I have as of late I must say I am very proud of who he was and what he had become.

    Reply
    • Michel Labrecque
      Michel Labrecque says:

      Linda thank you so much for the comment. There are three more parts to our series so stay tuned. That being said, if you have content you want to contribute or add, please leave a comment. We could include it in the posts. In part four, Karen will focus on his panoramic photos.

      Reply
  3. Linda Tucker
    Linda Tucker says:

    I have spoken with my Mother today who was the granddaughter of Ernest daughter of Fred Manning she told me there are several pictures that Pop had taken over the years including their own wedding pictures.she also said that there are pictures taken when my Grandfather Fred Manning was a member of the Kitchener fire dept.

    Reply
    • Michel Labrecque
      Michel Labrecque says:

      Linda:

      Karen-Ball Pyatt has asked me to post this message on her behalf for your follow-up…

      ———————————————-
      Hi Linda,

      I am the Kitchener Public Library Local History Librarian and author of the Historically Speaking blog. I wanted to let you know that I’ll be doing an update to my research on Ernest Denton in the fall. I’ve had so many people contact me about his work, photographs and his contribution to Kitchener and Waterloo Region. It’s been a fun project and bit of a puzzle too!

      If you are interested, I have clippings on Ernest, Samuel and Douglas Denton that I would be happy to share with you. I’m still trying to track down information on Ernest’s Manchester roots. I’ve contacted several archives and libraries in Manchester and environs, but Ernest does not turn up (neither does Samuel). I have a few possible lines of inquiry left which might yield some clues.

      Do you happen to know if Rose ever married? I found a Rose Manning (wife of Charles Reginald Chadwick) buried in Hamilton, but the birth year is slightly off. I know that she was still listed as single in 1957 when Ernest died.

      Best Regards,
      Karen Ball-Pyatt
      Local History Librarian
      Grace Schmidt Room of Local History
      Kitchener Public Library
      85 Queen St. N. Kitchener, ON N2H 2H1
      Phone: 519-743-0271 ext. 252

      Reply
  4. Peter Esztelecky
    Peter Esztelecky says:

    Today I bought a photo taken by Denton Photo dated July 14, 1928. It shows some one hundred people of all ages posed at the large boat house at Victoria park in Kitchener. It says: Woods, reunion, and the date. I’m very pleased to find this article about my photo.

    Reply

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