In 1878 Thomas Henry Blair, an immigrant from Nova Scotia, founded the Blair Tourograph Company and incorporated in Connecticut. The company was based on his portable wet plate camera and system, in which he called the tourograph. The tourograph camera was first introduced through manufacture by the America Optical Company division of Scovill. The tourograph camera and system was a portable camera that folded into a box to be carried like a suit case. It allowed the photographer to prepare the plates with collodion, take picture and develop the plates while covered under a black tent-like cloth. However, with collodian phasing out and the rapid introduction of the dry plate, Blair quickly adapted the tourograph for the emerging amateur market using dry plates.
In 1881 Blair broke his ties to Scovill manufacturing and moved his manufacturing to 471 Tremont St., Boston Massachusetts. He incorporated his business as the Blair Tourograph & Dry Plate Co in Massachusetts. He found continued success and financial support from the Goff family and Darius Goff later became president of the Blair company.
In 1884 Blair enters the detective camera market with the Boston detective camera.
Around 1885 Blair introduced the Lucidiograph after 2 years of personal design. The name meaning "light writer" in greek. The Lucidiograph similar to the Tourograph it folded into a convenient box for carrying. However Blair patented the design in 1887.
by 1886 competition in the photo materials and dry plate manufacture business reduced profits and Blair concentrated his business on apparatus manufacture and shortened the companies name to the Blair Camera Company.
In 1888, Blair established a relationship with Samuel Turner the sole proprietor of the Boston Camera Company. The Boston camera co was a manufacturer of many cameras including the hawkeye. Blair was a master of marketing and sales and acted as Turner's sales agent.
At this time Blair countered the Eastman-walker roll film back with a roll film camera of his design. Eastman imposed his patent rights and a deal was made to provide eastman a royalty for the roll sytems sold. However in 1889 supply from eastman grew short and Blair countered by aquiring part of boston camera company and began to manufacture his own roll holders and roll film which experience success for a few years.
In 1889 Blair began to acquire essential assets to support a full product line of photographic equipment, including the Greenpoint Optical Company and partial assets of The Edward Anthony Company, mainly the vicotria manufacturing company and anthony's paper factory.
In 1890 Thomas Blair acquired the Boston Camera Company and the hawkeye line of cameras, following Eastmans foot steps in the newly created and quickly growing amateur market.
By 1891 Blair was in stiff competition Kodak. To counter the introduction of the Kodak camera from Eastman, Blair patented and introduced the first american camera to move the film spools to the front of the camera called the Kamaret. Like the Kodak, the Kamaret was capable of taking over 100 exposures.
In 1899 Goff gained control of the Blair Camera Company and sold it to Eastman to recoup his losses. Eastman moved it to Rochester, NY, where it continued to operate independently until 1907.
Beginning in 1908, Blair-made cameras were marketed as "Blair Camera Division of Eastman Kodak Company".
The Blair Camera Company was a very significant force for ushering in the Amatuer Photography revolution. Although George Eastman ended up with most of the fame and assets, Thomas Blair was a fomitable competitor both on the introduction of cameras and patents that threatened and rivaled Eastman. Thomas Blairs strong ability to market and capitalize on amatuer photography will place the Blair company on equals with the other Rochester based camera companies including the Rochester Optical Company and the Eastman Kodak Company as the pionering influence to the wide spread use of photography in America.
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Reference: Images & enterprise - Reese V. Jenkins# 1405
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