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Part 5: Canadian Contributions to Panoramic Photography

THE BACKSTORY:

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

Figure 1. Cirkut Panoramic Camera Outfit
Century Camera Division,
Eastman Kodak Co., Rochester, N.Y.
ca. 1908-15
Artifact no. 2013.0126

 

After our examination of the Cirkut Panoramic Camera Outfit (Figure 1), one of the first questions that came up had to do with the panoramic photographs. Were there any left? If so, where? Would we be so lucky as to find Ernest Denton’s panoramas and uncover the evidence needed to link them to the newly acquired artifact?

 

Actually…, we were! Beginning about a year and a half ago, some fact finding led me to Karen Ball-Pyatt of the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History at the Kitchener Public Library. Discussions with Karen confirmed the existence of Denton’s 100 year old military panoramas (Figure 2), well preserved, and safely stored in their collections. Our research on the cameras’ provenance, the photographer who used it, as well as careful examination of his photos by Wilhelm Nassau and Dolf Bogad led our team to conclude the links between the camera outfit and Denton’s ‘picture perfect’ panoramas were as close a match as we were going to get. Thanks to Karen’s research on Denton, our examinations of his panoramic photographs and camera, a colourful history began to emerge – the notion of collaborating on a series of blogs really took hold. It is with great pleasure that both Karen and I could actively participate in uncovering the past, reach out to Willie and Dolf, and together share our findings through our Historically Speaking and Collect-Connect blogs.

 

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”.

~ Mrs. Linda Tucker, March 2015.

 

-56th Overseas Battery, Canadian Expeditionary Forces, Petawawa Camp 1916, Denton’s Studio, Kitchener, Canada Photo reproduced with the permission of the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History, Kitchener Public Library.

Figure 2. Panoramic photograph of the 56th Overseas Battery, Petawawa Camp, Ontario, Denton’s Studio, 1916.
Reproduced with the permission of the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History, Kitchener Public Library.

 

CANADIAN CONTRIBUTIONS:

Connon's 1887 patent. Source: Canadian Intellectual Property Office, Canadian Patent Document 30143, Drawings page

Figure 3. Connon’s Canadian 1888 patent.
Canadian Intellectual Property Office, Patent Document 30,143.

 

There are some notable Canadian contributions to the development of 19th century panoramic photography, the technique used for capturing wide views of a scene on one single exposure.

 

The invention of flexible rolled film in the late 1880’s made it possible for inventors, innovators, and manufacturers to combine with a mechanism that rotated a camera about the optical axis of a lens – and this, at the same time as the film advanced passed the shutter. Two Canadians, John Robert Connon and William James Johnston, contributed to bringing the mechanical system to perfection. Advancements in the development of panoramic photography and the design of the Cirkut Panoramic camera enabled photographers to capture wide and elongated scenes on film and photos up to eight feet long that exceed the human eye’s field of view. Both Connon and Johnston obtained patents (Figure 3) for camera designs possible to take 360o panoramic photographs.

 

 

 

 

John Robert Connon (1862-1931) was from the town of Elora, in the county of Wellington, Ontario. He followed in his father’s footsteps as a professional photographer, and is largely credited with the invention of the panoramic camera. In 1887, while using his cycloramic-type camera, Connon took what was likely the first Canadian panoramic photograph (Figure 4), and in 1888, obtained a Canadian patent (no. 30,143) for the invention of the Whole-Circle Panoramic Camera (Figure 3). It is while briefly living in New York that Connon collaborated with C.P. Stirn as the designer of the “Wonder Panoramic Camera”, confirming the photographer from Elora as a true inventor and innovator. In 2007 the Royal Canadian Mint issued a sterling silver coin, ‘celebrating Canada’s technical achievements and the invention of the panoramic camera by J.R. Connon’.

 

An 1887 panoramic view of Elora, Ontario by John Robert Connon. Reproduced with the permission of the Wellington County Museum and Archives / PH 2754.

Figure 4. An 1887 panoramic view of Elora, Ontario by John Robert Connon. Reproduced with the permission of the Wellington County Museum and Archives / PH 2754.

 

Less is known of William James Johnston (1856–1941), especially of his adult life. He was born in Portsmouth, Ontario, but lived in the United States from about 1870 to 1905, first in Wyoming, then in Rochester, N.Y. (Lansdale, PHSC, 2010). While with the Rochester Panoramic Camera Co. (with Reavill et al.) he obtained two US patents for panoramic cameras, one of which is stamped on the inside of the panoramic back of this Cirkut camera (Figure 5). In 1905 Johnston returned to Canada, settled in Toronto where he founded the Panoramic Camera Company of Canada (1907). Johnston died almost penniless in a Toronto rooming house in 1941 (Lansdale, PHSC, 2010).

 

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Figure 5. US patent no. 776,403, November 29, 1904, for having invented “certain new and useful improvements in panoramic cameras”.

 

The take home lesson in this series of blogs has been the wealth of histories and narratives that have been revealed, especially when combining a ‘reading artifacts’ approach to an objects’ textual and iconographic records, no matter where they may be located. ‘Historically speaking’, when taken together, the multiplier effect of collecting, connecting, and collaborating becomes almost undisputable.

 

Note: The evidence found to date strongly support the case this was the Cirkut camera that took the Denton panoramic photographs. As with many historical objects, research at times uncovers more questions than answers. We welcome your comments, contributions, and any new evidence found on the camera, the photographer, and Canadian contributions to the development of panoramic photography.

 


Click on the titles to read the complete series.

 

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

By M. Labrecque, Assistant Curator, Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation Posted February 25, 2015  

 

Part 2: Deciphering Denton: the Kitchener Connection  

By Karen Ball-Pyatt, Librarian, Grace Schmidt Room of Local History, Kitchener Public Library Posted March 4, 2015  

 

Part 3: The Challenge of Dating Denton’s Cirkut Camera

By M. Labrecque Posted March 11, 2015  

 

Part 4: Picture Perfect Panoramics

By Karen Ball-Pyatt Posted March 18, 2015  

 

Part 5: Canadian Contributions to Panoramic Photography

By M. Labrecque Posted March 27, 2015


 

References:

1. Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

2. Connon, John Robert, Application for Patent for Photographic Instrument, Department of Agriculture, Elora, Ontario, August 21, 1888.

3. George Eastman House, Rochester, N.Y.

4. Lansdale, Robert, The Inventors of the Cirkut Camera and its Parts, Photographic Canadiana, Vol. 36, No. 1, May-June 2010.

5. McBride, Bill, Evolution of the No. 10 Cirkut Camera, Photographic Canadiana, Vol. 36, No. 1, May-June 2010.

6. McKeown, James M., McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique & Classic Cameras 12th Edition, 2005/2006, Wisconsin.

7. Silversides, Brock, Panoramic Photography, Photographic Canadiana, Vol. 10, No. 6, March-April 1985.

 

Acknowledgements:

Much owed to Karen Ball-Pyatt for agreeing to take on this project, for her enthusiasm, invaluable research, and reaching out. To the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History and Kitchener Public Library for sharing their collection of Denton’s work. Special thanks to Wilhem Nassau and Dolf Bogad for making the camera donation possible and for sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge of panoramic photography. Thanks to Bryan Dewalt for his expertise, review and insight, the Wellington County Museum and Archives and the Canadian Intellectual Property Office for use of photos. We would especially like to acknowledge and thank Mrs. Linda Tucker, the Great-granddaughter of Ernest Denton for sharing her memories of ‘Pop’.

Cirkut B&W

Part 3: The Challenge of Dating Denton’s Cirkut Camera

In part two of the story, Karen Ball-Pyatt focused on Deciphering Denton: The Kitchener Connection (click on the link). Part three of the series will focus on the Museum’s Cirkut Panoramic Camera, some history on the Century Camera Company, and the challenges we had in accurately dating the artifact.

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Fig. 1 Panoramic Camera Attachment

 

 

The No. 8 Century Cirkut Panoramic Outfit appears for the first time as a division of the Eastman Kodak Company (EKC) in the 1908 Century Cameras catalogue. The base price for the outfit was $175, and this depended on which lens and what options were selected. The complete camera outfit included the Century camera Model 46 (a 6 ½ x 8 ½ inch view camera), a Series II Centar lens, No. 1 automatic shutter, panoramic attachment, revolving back, double plate holder, crown tripod, and sole leather carrying case.

 

 

 

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Fig. 2 Crown Tripod

 

For panoramic photography, part of the mechanism which rotated the camera is visible in these photos. The photographer would fit the panoramic camera attachment (fig. 1 foreground) to the back of the No. 46 camera (fig. 1 background), and the whole camera rotated on the base of the crown tripod (fig. 2). It was engaged by a gearing mechanism which exposed the film as it traveled past the shutter. In this instance, Eastman Daylight-loading film 8 inches wide, and up to 8 feet long was used. For standard photography, one would replace the panoramic attachment with the double glass plate holder.

 

Founded in 1900, Century Camera Co. took its name for ‘the new millenium’ and produced cameras in Rochester, N.Y. Early production included Century Compact Models (10 to 16), Century Grand, Grand Junior, Long Focus, and Century Stereoscopic Cameras to name a few. In 1903 Eastman Kodak Co. (EKC) acquired shares of Century Camera Co. In 1905 Century Camera Co. acquired the Rochester Panoramic Camera Co., which held patents on William J. Johnston’s panoramic mechanism, including the name Cirkut. By 1907, Century had become fully absorbed as a division of EKC. In Part 5 I will conclude the series by exploring J.R. Connon’s contribution to the development of panoramic photography, as well as Johnston’s patent as it applies to our Cirkut Panoramic Camera.

 

 

The Museum’s Cirkut camera, serial no. 749 and bearing the markings “Eastman Kodak Co., Successors to CENTURY CAMERA CO.” has proven a challenge to accurately date, even with a serial number. After consultations with Mr. Nassau, Mr. Bogad, and George Eastman House, our best approximation using the available information is between 1908 and 1915: the 1908 date for when Century appeared for the first time in their catalogue as a division of EKC, and the 1915 date for when Century became fully absorbed by the Folmer Division of EKC. Both dates are consistent with when Ernest Denton established his studio, his acquisition of the camera, and appearance of his 1916 panoramas of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Many thanks to Wilhem Nassau (left) for connecting with the Museum and making the donation possible, Mr. Dolf Bogad for donating the camera, answering our many questions, and Mrs. Karen Ball-Pyatt for her invaluable research and for agreeing to take on this project.

Members of the Cirkut Camera Project met to inspect and discuss Ernest Denton’s panoramic photographs. Thanks to contributions by Mr. Wilhem Nassau (left), Mr. Dolf Bogad (right), and Mrs. Karen Ball-Pyatt, the body of knowledge on the camera and on the photographer have greatly increased. Photo: Grace Schmidt Room of Local History.

 

The military panoramas are carefully preserved in the collections of the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History, Kitchener Public Library. They will be the subject of Karen’s Part 4: Denton’s Cirkut Panoramic Photos, appearing March 18 on Historically Speaking.

 


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Part 4: Denton’s Cirkut Panoramic Photos

by Karen Ball-Pyatt

Available on HISTORICALLY SPEAKING March 18, 2015

Grace Schmidt Room of Local History, Kitchener Public Library

@KPL_GSRHistory


To see more photos of the Cirkut Panoramic Camera, click HERE.


 

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. Silversides, Brock, Panoramic Photography, Photographic Canadiana, Vol. 10, No. 6, March-April 1985.

4. George Eastman House, Rochester, N.Y.

 

Acknowledgements:

Thanks to Wilhem Nassau, Dolf Bogad, Karen Ball-Pyatt, and Bryan Dewalt for their review and insight, the Grace Schmidt Room of Local History, Kitchener Public Library, and Historically Speaking blog.

 

We would also like to acknowledge Mrs. Linda Tucker, the Great-granddaughter of Ernest Denton for taking the time to write back.

 

Photos:

Photos appearing in this article are by the author.

Labrecque / CSTMC

IMG_0267

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.


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