The Cheapest Snapshot Camera In The World These are the words boldly
printed on the side of the box for the Shure Shot Detective Camera sold by
Robert H. Ingersoll & Bro., of New York.
The Shure Shot is definitely an inexpensive camera that lives up to its billing.
It's tiny, cheap, and has no viewfinder or other features. It's nothing more
than a 3" x 3" x 3-7/8" polished wood box with a meniscus lens and simple
spring shutter at one end and a removable back for 2½" x 2½" glass plates.
The camera was advertised around 1897 for $1. Although advertisements
proclaim the camera made 2"x 2" photos, there are no examples of that
format known in collections. Ingersoll also made a 3¾" x 3¾" model and
"Improved" black leather covered version.
Shure Shot Detective Camera, c.1897
Robert H. Ingersoll & Bro. NY.
Robert H. Ingersoll is best known as a successful mass marketer that
issued catalogues of $1 "specialties." One of his best-known and
popular items was the "Yankee" watch introduced in 1892 with the
Waterbury Clock Company. This was the model that made watches
popular with the masses. By 1916 Ingersoll was making 16,000
watches per day and ultimately sold 40 million Yankee Watches. Their
slogan was, "The Watch That Made The Dollar Famous."
Could this same strategy have been Robert Ingersoll's vision for
cameras? Was it Ingersoll's intent to further popularize photography
by bringing a cheap $1 camera to the public?
The idea definitely had merit but George Eastman had already
brought photography to the masses with his historically important
"Kodak" rollfilm camera.
Although Eastman's pre-loaded rollfilm Kodak cameras were bigger
and a more expensive, they were more convenient to use. On the
other hand, Ingersoll's camera could only shoot one glass plate at a
time and each plate had to be developed by the owner.
Ingersoll continued to make cameras for years and introduced the
famous "Mickey Mouse" watch in 1933. It is widely believed that
Robert H. Ingersoll & Bro. eventually merged with other companies to
become the Timex Corporation.