Blair Camera Co.


Cincinnati Reversible Back, Improved, Variation 3


4 x 5"
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Date Introduced: - ; Years Manufactured: c.1895-1900
Construction: front focus via rack and pinion (two gear tracks on top of base rails); single or double swing; reverse by removable back; three-piece lens board
Materials: mahogany body; cherry base; black fabric bellows; brass or nickeled brass hardware
Sizes Offered: at least 4x5"
Notes: The model name Improved Cincinnati RB Camera is known from Blair catalogs from 1890 and 1895.  The catalogs show a camera that is front focus, that has a back tilt mechanism containing a brass plate whose top ends at a 45 ½ angle to the back, and has a simple base (unlike the complex base of the Improved Reversible Back, Variation 2, which, though having the 45 ½ angle piece, was listed as a separate model in the 1890 catalog).  The catalog engravings associated with the Improved Cincinnati RB Camera model name are referred to here as Variation 1.  There are also cameras extant that have that same basic configuration but variations in details - these cameras are referred to here as Variation 2 and Variation 3
Cincinnati Reversible Back, Improved, Variation 1-- This is the camera as shown in engravings in the 1890 and 1895 Blair Camera Co. catalogs.
     Base: a solid back base with two frame-type extensions.  The first extension is hinged to swing up for compact storage; the second is either removable or hinged down (cannot tell from the point-of-view of the engravings).  The base is made rigid by screwing each extension (via knurled knobs) into its adjacent  base part(s).
     Back: has a slotted edge and attaches to the body via two brass tabs at the bottom and a large, spring-loaded tab at the top that fit into the slot.
     Front Rise: a knurled knob threads into a brass plate and, when tightened, presses an internal bearing plate located between the front standard and lens board frame.
     Back Tilt: a full width shaft fits through tilting brass plates having 45 ½ angle tops, and has a threaded knob to tighten.  Note, however, that there is a variation in back tilt between the two engravings, even though they were supposed to represent the same camera when appearing together in one advertisement.  The engraving on the left shows the tilt shaft to be going through a fixed plate that is on the outside of the back standard and attached by three screws to the fixed base that is naturally the same thickness as the hinged base extensions.  The engraving on the right also shows a fixed plate attached to a fixed base, but in this case, the fixed base is only about ½" thick - the thickness of the back standard - and forms the bottom part of a box-like back standard.  The fixed plate attached to it in the right hand engraving is on the inside of the 45 ½ angle tilting plate (and also inside of the wooden side of the back standard) instead of outside, as in the left hand engraving.  The placing of a box-like back standard on top of a base is a commonly used  double-tilt mechanism, in which the box swivels relative to the fixed base around a central bolt.  Regardless of single or double tilt, there is a basic difference between the engravings as to whether the fixed plate for the tilting mechanism is outside or inside the tilting plate.  This difference is represented here as  Variation 1, left hand engraving and Variation 1, right hand engraving.
Cincinnati Reversible Back, Improved, Variation 2-- This is the camera in the images on the Variation 2 page.
     Base: three pieces, but differs from Variation 1.  All three parts of the base are solid wood instead of a frame.  The frontmost hinge is on the bottom, allowing the front base to drop down, presumably out of the view of wide-angle lenses.  To facilitate the drop, both parts of the base have been cut out on their bottom edge at ~45 ½ for about a third of the thickness of the base.   The rearmost hinge is on the top (as usual), for compact storage.  Since the base is solid, knurled knobs as were used in Variation 1 to make the base rigid cannot be used in this variation.  Instead, the front hinge is made rigid by two brads on the top of the extension fitting into two clips on the top of the base, and the rear hinge is made rigid by a kind of tongue and groove mechanism, in that a thick slab of brass is grooved to match a tongue-shaped slot inlet into the base and the first extension; when the brass slab has been pushed forward to a position partially in the base and partially in the extension, it theoretically makes the joint rigid.  In practice, the system has too much play - the brass piece would have to be longer to function as desired.  The slab also is threaded for a standard-sized tripod screw.  One feature that seems to be unique to Variation 2 is that the last extension has a protective brass capping piece inlet into its front.  Note that Variation 2 and Variation 3 are represented by 4x5" format cameras only.  It is possible that solid bases were used in small sizes only, and that frame-type bases were used in large sizes.  However, this is not a universal choice, as solid bases are found in large cameras of other manufacturers.
     Back: slotted and attaches in the same manner as Variation 1.
     Front Rise: controlled via a slotted brass plate and screw rather than the solid brass plate & internal bearing surface of Variation 1.
     Back Tilt: is the same mechanism as Variation 1, right hand engraving.
Cincinnati Reversible Back, Improved, Variation 3-- This is the camera in the images on the Variation 3 page.
three solid pieces, essentially identical to Variation 2, although the front hinges are different in detail.  The extent of the ~45 ½ cut-out in the base at those hinges has been increased to about half the thickness of the base.  This variation does not have the protective brass piece at the front of the base.
     Back: does not have a slotted edge, and so differs from Variation1 and Variation 2.  It attaches via four clips: two clips on the lower side; each clip engages a brad on the lower side of the back, and two clips on the top; each engages a brad on the top of the back.  The two small top clips replace the single large clip that Blair used for many years.
     Front Rise: is the same as Variation 2.
     Back Tilt: is the same as Variation 2, i.e., the same as Variation 1, right hand engraving.
Chronology and Numbering-- Cameras of this era did not generally have serial numbers.  Sometimes, small (up to several dozen) numbers are stamped  onto parts that must be fitted - these are assembly numbers, placed there to ensure that they do indeed fit.  That the numbers are always small indicates the small number of cameras that were made in each batch.
     The engravings in the catalogs are presumed to have been produced prior to or just as the model was introduced, so the model in the engravings was named Variation 1.
     Generally, wooden view cameras became simpler and had less inletting and hand work over time.  Therefore, the variation having the brass protective end on its extension was designated Variation 2.
     Variation 3 was named by process of elimination (at least until another variation is discovered).

No engravings showing this variation have been found.



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