cyclo camera_mod

Part 5: Canadian Contributions to 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

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.



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).



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



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.



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’.

The Manitoba II , Physics Department, University of Manitoba

Field Notes: Mass Spectrometry at the University of Manitoba

On the 1st and 2nd of October, I visited the Physics Department at the University of Manitoba to learn more about their program in mass spectrometry. It has been over one hundred years since British scientists developed methods to deflect ions (charged particles) of different mass in order to study the constituents of materials. Scientists at U of M have since become masters of these effects, making significant contributions in two areas of mass spectrometry – the determination of fundamental mass units, and the analysis of large biological molecules. Researchers, engineers and instrument makers around the world use U of M findings and technologies in physics, chemistry, health sciences and industry.

Why Winnipeg? I found answers in some of the original instruments, and of course, the people who made, developed and used them.

The “Manitoba II” is a central instrument in Mass Spec studies at U of M. It is a room-sized, high-resolution mass spectrometer that has set international standards for determining atomic masses. Ions are deflected and detected after racing through a curved one-meter radius electromagnetic track. Physicist R.C. Barber designed the Manitoba II with many small, precision parts built in the departmental machine shop headed up by Bob Batten, a British-trained technician. It replaced the “Manitoba I” that came to U of M in the early 1960s from McMaster University with H.E. Duckworth.

The Manitoba II , Physics Department, University of Manitoba

The Manitoba II , Physics Department, University of Manitoba

The room and instrument document over forty years of toil and triumph – there are shelves of log books, abandoned parts, tools, signs, layers of black board sessions, trade literature, texts and aged off-prints. The instrument shows countless modifications, inscriptions, warnings, heat streaks, and tape – lots of tape. “It really is built from scratch,” says Physics Chair, Kumar Sharma who was a student of Barber’s in the early 1970s when the instrument was built. The Manitoba team constructed the parts for the electrostatic analyser (ESA)  in collaboration with Canadian Westinghouse in Hamilton. The stainless steel for the case was cut and bent there with the actual welding done by a workshop in King Township, Ontario.

Sharma remembers the Manitoba II being covered in black welding soot when it first arrived in the lab. They had to electro polish it to prevent unwanted contaminants from entering the high-vacuum chamber. “It was the best vacuum I had ever worked with,” recalls Sharma, “made possible by the homemade metal to metal seals.” The vacuum chamber had to be machined, annealed with some surfaces ground flat.

Manitoba II laboratory

Many careers such as Sharma’s have been built (and shaped) around this instrument. Barber had trained under H.E Duckworth, who had trained in Chicago under A.J, Dempster (of Toronto bakery fame). Sharma is now working on the next generation of MS instrument at the Canadian Penning Trap at Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago.

In the late 1970s ion deflection turned into straight flight when Ken Standing and his post doc, Brian Chait, developed a way to analyse big organic molecules using Time of Flight (TOF) mass spectrometry. TOF had been invented earlier, but Standing and Chait developed a method for accurately timing the flight of the big molecules produced by ion bombardment. Werner Ens joined Standing as a PhD student just as this instrument began to work, and with contributions from many others, there followed a succession of advances that lead to major patents and spin-offs in industry. Their work is now a fundamental part of the emerging field of proteomics, the study of protein quantity and structure in life forms. Ens joined the faculty in 1987, and in 2010, Standing and Ens won the Manning Innovation award for their achievements.

Standing attributes his success to good students. “I tend to leave my students alone,” he says. In fact, Ens recalls that his first job was to re-build a filament (for a surface ionization ion source) from scratch. On one of his first days in the lab he burned out a filament that Chait had spent weeks preparing and testing. “I was about as green as graduate student could be,” he recalls. Standing came by this pedagogical approach honestly; In the early 1950s his supervisor, Princeton physicist Rubby Sherr went on leave and left him alone in one of the best nuclear labs in the world. “I was lucky to think of something to do, and I did it.”

The first U of Manitoba TOF instrument from 1979. “It’s just a pipe” says Ken Standing in jest. Photo: Storage room, Physics Department, University of Manitoba.

The beauty of collecting physics is that the most abstract of variables such as time and space become concrete, local and sensory. In the TOF labs, I surveyed a vast landscape of electronic equipment that transformed molecular flight times into accessible digitized data. In the early 1980s Ens had spent much energy building software to interface with time-to-digital converters – a pivotal part of their innovations in precision timing.

Ken Standing with TOF2

Ken Standing with TOF2 representing key developments in TOF mass spectrometry at the University of Manitoba.

Precise vacuum production is basic to the TOF enterprise. When visiting the laboratory, one experiences a constant drone of vacuum pumps for precisely managing experimental vacuum conditions. Ken Standing took me into a backroom of their laboratory to see the original TOF 1979 instrument. I could barely hear (record) him through the clamour of vacuum pumps, each connected to different machines in the lab.

TOF 3 Mass Spectrometer, built at the University of Manitoba, Physics Department c. 1990.

Part of TOF 3 Mass Spectrometer, built at the University of Manitoba, Physics Department c. 1994. The TOF3 combined three innovations – orthogonal injection, MALDI techniques and collisional cooling.

Many factors contributed to the development of Mass Spec at the U of M – post-WWII research in several areas at the department ( e.g. nuclear) drew top faculty and students (local and international); there were good instrument makers – “at one time, you heard many British accents in the machine shops,” Standing recalled; there were connections to the Chicago physics scene through Duckworth and Dempster; there were pivotal Russian (Soviet) influences brought in by Standing as a result of a fortuitous tour he made in preparation for a possible conference; and there was an entrepreneurial leaning that opened the door to successful commercial collaborations (AB SCIEX)

And, there were local questions deriving from agriculture. In the mid 1970s Standing and Chait used the new U of M cyclotron to analyse protein levels in kernels of grain. “They were looking for new applications for the cyclotron,” Ens said. “That’s what gave them the connection to the biological world, and they began to see that maybe mass spectrometry was a better way to look for those proteins.”


Connor, R. D. and University of Manitoba. Dept. of Physics and Astronomy. (2004). The expanding world of physics at Manitoba: a hundred years of progress: Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Manitoba. Winnipeg, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, University of Manitoba.

Hughes, Jeff. “Making Isotopes Matter: Francis Aston and the Mass-Spectrograph,” Dynamis: Acta Hispanica ad Medicinae Scientiatumque Historiam Illustrandam 29, (2009), 131–166

Nier, Keith A. “A History of the Mass Spectrometer,” Instruments of Science: An Historical Encyclopedia. Robert Bud and Deborah Jean Warner, editors. 1998. New York & London: The Science Museum, London, and The National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, in association with Garland Publishing, Inc. Pages 552-56.

Sharma, K. S. (2013). “Mass spectrometry—The early years.” International Journal of Mass Spectrometry 349–350(0): 3-8.

Standing, K. G. (2000). “Timing the flight of biomolecules: a personal perspective.” International Journal of Mass Spectrometry 200(1): 597-610.