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The Schaub Story
Excerpt from Mike Kessler's 1983 Photographist Article
First - A Bit of Background

While participating in the 1983 American Society of Camera Collectors show in Burbank, California, Mike Kessler was approached by a 'walk-in' asking if he bought old cameras. A couple nice items were first pulled out of a "bulging cardboard container" but then (as Mike describes it) a "multiple-image camera of some sort but the design was completely unfamiliar" was removed from the box.

For Mike, one of the world's most experienced collectors and someone who has seen more than his share of apparatus, to confess any camera as "completely unfamiliar" is practically a revelation, and at the time it must have been quite a startling moment; especially since he almost lost the opportunity to acquire the oddity (a story unto itself).

After successfully buying the box of cameras, Mike set forth on an extensive two year research journey to learn about the camera and its inventor. In his article, Mike described having corresponded with the Logan, Utah Chamber of Commerce, Public Library, Better Business Bureau, the Utah State Historical Society, and numerous Schaub relatives living in Logan. All of this eventually led Mike to Jacob's son, Berkley Schaub who was noted as a "fine gentleman and "family historian" who divides time between Florida and North Carolina." From Berkley Schaub, Mike was able to piece together the story of Jacob, his cameras, and his influence on the history of photography.

As for myself, for many years I had been aware of the Schaub cameras and then lust to acquire one took hold after examining a fine example in the extensive George Eastman Museum (GEM) collection. Given that only three examples were known and the camera's extreme rarity, it never appeared on my Most Wanted list - after all, why frustrate myself with this fantasy? Then while attending the 2009 PhotoHistory Symposium in Rochester, N.Y., unbelievably, opportunity struck, a Schaub was casually offered to me and eventually acquired. I was hooked and ready to start researching the camera's lore and legacy.

I made several enthusiastic calls to Mike to learn more about his camera and do some comparisons; at the same time, similar e-mails were traded with GEM. We learned my camera shared design and features with Mike's and GEM's examples yet there were numerous differences. Ironically, it was Todd Gustavson, a technology curator at GEM, who sent me Mike's fascinating article about Schaub including a copy of a letter from the original owner who donated a camera to the GEM collection. I was now obliged to learn more about my camera knowing two different models of Schaub's multiplying camera exist.

Mike's superb research is so comprehensive, it needs no further commentary on my part except for a description on my website of the otherwise unknown (until now) 30-exposure multiplying camera. What follows, with kind permission from Mike Kessler, is a text excerpt from his informative article. Unfortunately the illustrations that accompanied the original article are no longer available and not included.

Excerpt from Jacob Schaub: Portrait of an Inventor by Mike Kessler (the Photographist Fall / Winter 1983)

Jacob Schaub was born April 17, 1875, in Zurich, Switzerland. In 1889, fourteen year old Jacob and his family arrived in New York City as immigrants on the S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse. The Schaubs had converted to the Mormon religion in Europe, so after a brief stay in New York they moved on to Salt Lake City, Utah, where Jacob apparently apprenticed with the famous western photographer, Charles R. Savage.

In 1892, the Schaub family moved to Logan, not far from Salt Lake City, where Jacob, now seventeen, opened the "Schaub Photographic Parlor" on Third Street. For the next four years he practiced his photographic trade, at one point working with another photographer named Torgenson. Then, one day he photographed a particularly beautiful girl, Betty Anhder. They were married on January 2, 1896.

Feeling perhaps that his business in Logan wasn't sufficient to support his wife and unborn son (Stanley), the Schaubs moved back to Salt Lake City. The City Directory for 1897 lists Jacob as a 'retoucher" for C.R. Savage, but by the next year his is listed as a photographer again.

Jacob's father Conrad had been a civil engineer and Jacob had acquired his father's knowledge of machinery and invention. His first attempt at patenting his ideas came in 1897 with his application for a new type of envelope. The first of many patents to be issued to him came the next year with English patent # 24138 for improvement in photographic plate holders. In 1898 he received American patent # 603,972 for the same invention.

Here Jacob's son Berkley recounts a wonderful story that he heard many time from his father:
"Because of his photographic developments, possibly the multiple-image camera, and especially the plate holder patents, the Eastman Kodak Co. sent a representative to see him in Logan, Utah. He was then told pretty cold turkey that Kodak would not brook such local competition and as a result of this he made a trip to see them in Rochester, N.Y. It is possible Kodak paid his expenses because there was always such a money problem, I do not know where the funds would have come from otherwise. (His father had been killed when a horse bolted crossing a bridge after they moved to Logan and the family was really left destitute while the three sons were still in their teens ... but this is another story.

At any rate, he did not like the attitude of Kodak and of Mr. Eastman in Rochester and he decided to pack up and go home, also suffering from homesickness. He was most anxious to know about his patented plate holder, which Kodak obviously liked and wanted. He tried unsuccessfully to see Mr. Eastman about this, and finally contrived to wait outside of the executive's men's room until the big man himself came to use it. When Eastman was leaving the men's room my father accosted him, demanding to know what was to be done about the plate holder patents.

Eastman replied immediately they would pay my father $1000 for the U.S. patent, which upset my father, who then demanded to know about the foreign patents. My father said that Eastman then replied: "Oh, those ... we'll simply go ahead and use them. If you've got the guts to fight me, go ahead!"

My father left in high dudgeon and went immediately to a lawyer in Rochester. This lawyer told him that fighting Kodak was virtually hopeless, that "no one has ever won a suit against them" ... and that in order to take on the case he would have to ask a fairly high retainer's fee, which of courser was completely beyond my father's means. In bitter disappointment and anger he returned to Utah."
Living back in Logan again, Jacob contracted with an English lawyer, Thomas Odham, who apparently lived in Logan, to go to England and try and get damages for Eastman's patent infringement on his plate holder which was, by then, quite popular in the United Kingdom and Ireland, but apparently nothing ever came of this. Years later, after Agfa-Ancso won an important suit against Kodak, setting legal precedent, the lawyer he met in Rochester suggested following up on the plate holder patent case on a contingency basis, but by that time Jacob had become so disillusioned and poor that he had let the patent expire.

On October 5, 1899, Jacob Schaub filed a patent application for a camera of unique design. It is interesting to speculate on just why he chose to patent a multiplying camera. Having operated a studio for a number of years it would have been obvious to him that there was money to be made in "penny pictures", the tiny photos that were so poplar with young people at the time. The well-known manufacturer, Simon Wing of Boston, had been making multiple-image cameras for nearly forty years and had, in 1899, just introduced their two most popular models, the New Gem and Ajax, either of which would produce fifteen or more images on a 5" x 7" plate. Why didn't Jacob just buy a Wing Camera?

Wing franchised his cameras, the sale of which included a territory of fifty miles or so, in which he wouldn't sell another camera. Perhaps Jacob was a victim of one of these franchises. Perhaps he saw a Wing camera and decided he could improve on the design. In any event the camera he came up with was certainly smaller and lighter than Wing's and used cheaper 4" x 5" plates. It was, however, far more complicated and probably couldn't complete price-wise. Jacob's Swiss craftsmanship forced him to design and manufacture a camera that was too good for its own purpose.

The 1904 Logan City Directory lists Jacob Schaub as "Superintendent, Western Camera Manufacturing Co." It is interesting that he would choose a name that was already twell-known in the photographic circles. The "other" Western Camera Manufacturing Co. had been based in Chicago and made the popular "Cyclone", a magazine plate box camera. They ahd, hoever, merged in 1899 and the name may have been legally available at the time.

The only evidence that Jacob Schaub ever manufactured anything but the multiplying camera is a rather conventional looking view camera belonging to a relative in Logan. It also has Jacob's identifying label but it doesn't show the ingenuity of design evidenced in his multiplying camera.

During his lifetime, Jacob Schaub acquired 33 patents, on which only there were photographic in nature: one for a camera and two for plate holders. His career as a photographer had led him to manufacturing cameras. This in turn led to running a machine shop. In 1909 he is listed as the Manager of the "Schaub Machine Co.", and by 1911 as "Owner, Schaub Machine Co." His photographic interests were set aside for nearly twenty years, during which time his career moved to other areas and numerous inventions, many of which affect us far more than his cameras ever did.

In 1913 he had a small plant in Logan production stamping metal parts. His 1914 letterhead states: "Consulting Mechanical Engineer and Contract Manufacturer." Then in 1915 he sold part of his machine shop business to the Salt Lake Stamp, Co. and moved back to Salt Lake City becoming a stockholder and director of that company. In 1916, he became employed by the American Linseed Co. of New York, and moved to Newark, New Jersey where he perfected a new product, solidified alcohol. Jacob Schaub invented the product now known as Sterno.