Montgomery Wards & Co., Chicago, IL

The Chicago View, Variation 2

5 x 8

Date Introduced: - ; Years Manufactured: c. 1901
Construction: front focus via rack and pinion (two gear tracks on top of base rails); double swing; reversing by removable back; three-piece lens board
Materials:  mahogany body, cherry base, brass hardware, black fabric and rubber bellows
Sizes Offered: 5x7; 6x8, 8x10, 11x14

Montgomery Ward did not have camera manufacturing facilities, but rather contracted with the camera manufacturers to produce cameras.  The only difference between such cameras and the model sold by the manufacturer was the label installed.  Contracts could be renewed over decades or a new contract could be negotiated with a different manufacturer.  One of the complicating issues of a contract change is that the model designation didn't necessarily change when the manufacturer changed.

The Chicago View was just such a contracted model.  That is, every Montgomery Ward catalog contains a camera called Chicago View, but there are no fewer than four different variations from at least two different manufacturers.

Chicago View Variation 1, c.1897: Known from the 1897 Montgomery Ward & Co. catalog; it is identical to the Rochester View Var. 1 made at various times by the Rochester Camera Manufacturing Co., the Rochester Camera Co. and the Rochester Camera & Supply Co.

Chicago View Variation 2, c.1901: Known from a camera bearing a celluloid label marked "Chicago View"; it is identical to Rochester View Var. 2 made by the Rochester Optical & Camera Co.

Chicago View Variation 3, c.1905: Known from the 1905 Montgomery Ward & Co. catalog; it is identical to the Seneca View Camera  made by the Seneca Camera Manufacturing Co.  Outfit K392 included camera, lens, shutter, tripod and developing and printing outfit; Outfit K393 was the same without the developing and printing outfit; K394 was camera, carrying case and one plateholder.  The 11x14 size was only offered as K394.

Chicago View Variation 4, c.1905-c.1925: Known from a camera bearing a celluloid label marked "Chicago View  Montgomery Ward & Co."; it is identical to the Seneca View Camera, Improved made by the Seneca Camera Manufacturing Co.

The camera shown in the photographs above is an example of Variation 2, the one that has the celluloid label identifying it as the Chicago View.  This camera also bears a serial number (2008) on its base, as do many Rochester Optical & Camera Co. cameras.  That its format is 5x8 makes it a throw-back to the 19th century; by the early 20th century, 5x7 became the common medium size view camera.


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