It was not until the 1890s that a new generation of self-casing, folding-bellows cameras would be accepted by the public and distinguish
themselves from view cameras. Photographers now had the opportunity to own a portable camera for 'stand' or 'hand' use. On the stand, a
folding-plate camera with movements could do the work of view cameras -- landscapes, architectural, and interior photography. As a hand camera,
folding cameras were small, portable, easy to use, and able to make instantaneous snap shots of street scenes or other events.
The Henry Clay Camera, No.4 Folding Kodak, Blair Folding Hawkeye, Rochester Premier, and the Folding Rochester represent the earliest folding
camera designs that contributed to the increased popularity of dry plate photography during the 1890s. Even though the No.4 Folding Kodak is
credited as the first mass produced self-casing camera, the Henry Clay Camera represents the first dry plate version. More importantly, it offered
extensive movements (i.e., rises, double shifts and swings) for controlling pictorial perspective. However the No.4 Folding Kodak is interesting
because it was exclusively a roll film camera until 1893, at which time it was redesigned to also accept glass plates. In 1892, American Optical made
modifications to the Henry Clay Camera allowing it to accept glass plates and a rollfilm carrier.
Popularity of dry plate cameras further increased with the introduction of simpler, yet lower priced models such as the Premo (1893) and Poco
(1895) camera series by Rochester Camera Manufacturing and Rochester Optical. These cameras were smaller in size and could be used on a stand.
In response to lower priced competition, Scovill & Adams created the Henry Clay 'Junior' (Jr.) and 'Second' (2d). The Henry Clay Jr. was designed as
a full featured hand camera that retained full movements for use on a stand at a lower cost. However the public continued to have a desire for
simpler cameras and the 2d was quickly introduced the following year. It was priced lower than the Henry Clay Jr. to possibly compete more directly
with Rochester's inexpensive cameras.
The last references to Henry Clay Cameras were in 1899. Discontinuation of the line may have been because of the strong public interest in roll film
cameras that allowed the continued miniaturization of cameras.
Henry Clay Cameras A Timeline of Self-Casing Cameras
The first successful attempt to coat glass plates with a gelatin based emulsion was achieved by Dr. Richard L. Maddox in 1871. Dr. Maddox was
inspired because Collodion plates were expensive, difficult to work with, and emitted unhealthy fumes. After the process was perfected, use of dry
plates significantly increased from 1880 to 1895. While the foundation for roll film systems was established in the late 1880s, dry plate and roll film
systems and apparatus continued to coexist throughout the 1890s and early 1900s -- sometimes in the same camera.
The earliest apparatus to use gelatin dry plates were view cameras, while many consider the 1883 Pearsall Compact Camera as the first self-casing,
folding camera that set forth a new body style from which others followed. It had the benefit of being smaller than a view camera and self
contained. The Pearsall was advertised for a little over one year and only a few examples exist in collections. Dry plate photography was not
embraced by the public at this time even though the Pearsall (and the later 1888 Gibbs Camera) incorporated many innovative features and
established the standard design for Eastman's Folding Kodak introduced in 1890.