Antique & Vintage Photographic Equipment

Hawk-Eye [Detective] Camera

Blair Camera Company

Name: Hawk-Eye [Detective] Camera
Manufacturer: Blair Camera Co.
Country of Origin: USA
Construction: A large wooden box camera with internal bellows for plates or rollholder. It is usually found in the plain polished light wood finish but a leather covered version was also available.
Production Period: 1893 - 1898
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The Hawk-Eye camera was originally made by the Boston Camera Company and was continued by Blair Camera Company after they acquired the Boston Camera Co.

The camera is seen under several different names in the advertising material of the period.  When advertised by the Boston Camera Co. it is commonly identified as the Hawk-Eye Detective & Combination Camera.  In later Blair advertising it is usually just shown as the Blair Hawk-Eye Camera, but according to McKeown [1] it is also identified sometimes as the Hawk-Eye Detective Camera.

Model / Variant: First Blair Version
Plate / Film Size: 4 x 5 plates
Lens: Unknown
Shutter: Self-capping, cocked by a knob
Movements: None
Dimensions (w x h x l):  
Date of this Example: 1893 - 1894
Serial Number: Serial #258 stamped inside door.
Availability:
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [x]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 340

 

ClicPic Photos copyright 2012 David Purcell. Do not use without permission.
Click small picture to enlarge.   ClicPic Gallery Software.

Description

This example of the Blair Hawk-Eye Detective camera is finished in polished wood. It came with three dark slides and the original viewing screen. The internal bellows are dark brown and appear to be in very good order. Apparently the side door provides access to the lens on versions fitted with the more expensive RR lens.

There is an original ivory label inside the main door "The Blair Camera Co. Boston, Patented March 27 87, Other patents pending". A serial is stamped into the top edge of the door (258).

The wooden box shows some minor scrapes and dings, but generally is in very good condition. The handle is intact and presumably original. Some of the brasswork is a little tarnished with age, but remains sound.

The focusing scale is still readable through the slit in the side, set by the brass knob on the side of the camera. The woodwork is in good order, as is the brasswork though the latter shows some signs of its age.

~ # ~ # ~

Model / Variant: Improved Version
Plate / Film Size: 4 x 5 plates
Lens: Unknown
Shutter: Dual speed T & I
Movements: None
Dimensions (w x h x l):  
Date of this Example: 1895 - 1898
Serial Number: Serial #573 stamped inside door.
Availability:
  • Common [ ]
  • Uncommon [x]
  • Hard to Find [ ]
  • Scarce [ ]
Inventory Number: 294

 

ClicPic Photos copyright 2012 David Purcell. Do not use without permission.
Click small picture to enlarge.   ClicPic Gallery Software.

Description

This is a later example of the Blair Hawk-Eye Detective camera, again finished in polished wood. It came with a single dark slide and the original viewing screen. The Improved version has separate releases on the top face for time and instant shutter settings. The focussing knob is moved to the top face and incorporates the distance scale.

I purchased a 4 x 5" Blair rollholder previously, which fits the camera very well and therefore provides a valid alternate format to the single plate holder.

This example has some minor scrapes and dings on the wooden surface, but generally it is in very good condition.

Notes

The Improved version is more common than the early model, which in turn is more common the the original Boston model. The leather covered variant is quite scarce and the few examples I have seen to date have been in poor condition. (For comparison, you might also look at the Premier by Rochester Optical Company). The polished wood versions however are usually found in good condition and many seem to have survived the years remarkably well.