Imperial No. 30, 1901 - 02 Imperial Camera and Mfg Co., La Crosse, WI.
There are very few articles that combine so many arts as the
manufacture of the hand camera of today. There is the accuracy
that must be in a precise instrument of its nature-the mahogany
must bear that exquisite polish that is seen on the highest grade of
musical instruments; the metal should be polished to the brilliancy
of a mirror and then carefully lacquered; the mechanical parts
must work with ease and precision; the adjustment should be
complete and convenient for operation. All these qualities Imperial
Cameras possess. -1902 Ralph Golsen catalogue.
Every once in a while, I am shown a camera I've never seen before.
The 4x5 inch format Imperial No.30 is rare and this is the only
example I've heard of over decades of collecting. The Imperial
Camera and Manufacturing Company, based in La Crosse, WI., was
only around for two years. The overall design is a classic American
self-casing pattern with typical features offered by competitors.
Construction is mahogany, brass, black body leather, and dark
maroon leather bellows.
This particular model is what is known as a long-focus body
pattern. The camera's front and back opens to make an extra-long
extension for using long lenses. It's an uncommon design and most
cameras of this type are in poor condition. In 1902 the No.30 was
listed for $45.00, which is about $1,457 adjusted for 2021.
What's fun and distinctive about Imperial cameras is the large brass
crown decorating the front standard.
Does anyone remember the old Imperial margarine television
commercials from the 1970s and 1980s? A person eating something
with Imperial margarine would, with trumpet fanfare, have a crown
suddenly appear on their head!
This camera predates Unilever's margarine, and after cleaning the
camera, a crown didn't pop on my head!
Front view showing ornamental brass hardware in the shape of a crown.