Special Folding Hawk-eye cameras were offered
in only two sizes; 4 x 5 inch and 5 x 7 inch formats.
For those who desire a first-class folding camera (1896 reference)
Thomas Blair was known for unusual and overly complex field camera designs
and very few were the self-casing body pattern; a unique American
creation. Although it was Kodak that made the self-casing design popular,
the 1890s could be characterized as a decade of very popular leather
bodied, red bellows cameras made by numerous American and European
Thomas Blair's first self-casing cameras were the 1892 Folding Hawk-Eyes
No.1 and No.2. By 1896, Blair's interpretation of the self-casing camera
evolved into something more along the lines of other makers' cameras with
the introduction of his Special Folding Hawk-eye models, yet it still retained
some unique 'Blair' features such as a top loading plateholder design
(whereas most other companies opted to build side loading bodies).
For some reason, this particular camera is extremely rare, which baffles me
given public acceptance of the self-casing, red bellows style and Blair's
reputation. The Blair Camera Company was a successful operation but it was
their roll film cameras from the late 1890s to early 1900s that later
dominated the company's offerings.
In 1896, the 5x7 inch Blair Special Folding Hawk-eye sold for $50 with the
higher grade Bausch & Lomb iris diaphragm shutter shown here. That's about
$1,360 in 2012 currency - a very expensive camera for the time!
The 5 x 7 Special Folding Hawk-eye, c.1898 Blair Camera Company, Boston, Mass.