Imperial No.30 Triple Extension Camera: 4 x 5 inch format. 1901 - 02
Front view showing ornamental brass
1902 Ralph Golsen catalogue listing.
Imperial No.30 Triple Extension Camera: 4x5 inch format
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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.
1902 Ralph Golsen catalogue listing.