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.
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’.
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).
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.
By M. Labrecque, Assistant Curator, Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation Posted February 25, 2015
By Karen Ball-Pyatt, Librarian, Grace Schmidt Room of Local History, Kitchener Public Library Posted March 4, 2015
By M. Labrecque Posted March 11, 2015
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’.