Blair Tourograph & Dry Plate Co./Blair Camera Co.

Champion Variation 1

Catalogue No. 7, T. F. Indermill, St. Joseph, MO, Oct. 1, 1885, p. 98
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Label on top of front standard
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Date Introduced: - ; Years Manufactured: c.1884 - 1893
Construction: front focus via rack and pinion and a rod (missing above); single swing; reverse by removable back; three-piece lens board
Materials: mahogany body; mahogany base track; black fabric bellows; nickeled hardware
Sizes Offered: 5x8/6x8 (same back size); 8x10

According to the Gatchel 1888 catalog, this model is an improvement over the RB Improved, which it resembles. 

This camera has a very complex design - so complex that few cameras are still in existence that have all their required parts and still function as designed. 

Both the front rise and the rear swing movements are geared; the mechanism is supposed to have two thumbscrews: the inner to drive the gear, and the outer to lock the inner in position.  On the above example, the outer thumbscrew of the rise is missing, which causes the front standard to drop to the base rails - for the photos, the front is held in place by a piece of metal about the right length.  While imparting a great range of rise, an easily lost thumbscrew causes the camera to be non-functional.

The focus mechanism is unusual.  To set up the camera, the front standard is pulled out to its approximate focus position.  The thumbscrew in the middle of the front standard bottom is tightened, locking the front standard to the metal rod that extends through the length of the base.  The rear of this metal rod is toothed to become the rack of a rack and pinion focus.  The large thumbscrew at the rear of the camera can then be used as a fine focus (its outer, locking thumbscrew has been lost and has been replaced by a square nut).  Thus, this is a front-focusing camera for which one does not have to reach the front of the camera to focus.

The Champion Variation 1 model features large, wooden pieces that look rather like blinders on the bottom of the front standard.  Both of these were broken on the above camera, and, during the period of use, were repaired and strengthened by L-shaped metal angles (now removed to show the camera as originally built).  This all-wood construction was also used on the Combination Camera, Reversible Back, Variation 3.  No doubt to strengthen that breakage area, Champion Variation 2 has metal reinforcement installed at the time of manufacture.

This camera has a metal label engraved "Blair Camera Co.  Boston". 

Blair Tourograph & Dry Plate Co. Catalog, 1884, un-numbered page between pages 3 and 4
Catalogue No. 7, T. F. Indermill, St. Joseph, MO, Oct. 1, 1885, p. 98
Illustrated and Descriptive Catalogue with Prices of Photographic Goods and Apparatus, W.D. Gatchel (Louisville, KY), 1888, p. 26

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