Born in Seignelay, France on September 3, 1828, Alphonse Darlot started his training at the age of twelve and received his optical apprenticeship at the optical firm of Noel Lerebours and Secretan. After receiving his Mastership, the 21-year-old optician went to work for Jean Theodor Jamin, a successful optics manufacturer since 1822 located at 14 rue Chapon, Paris. Mr. Darlot began his association with J. T. Jamin at a time when there was a great demand for photographic lenses. They produced primarily Petzval lenses.
In 1855 Jamin & Darlot began to offer the celebrated Cone Centralisateur. It featured a plain brass mount with rack-and-pinion focusing in the front, while the rear of the lens was supported by a black cone that prevented sunlight from reflecting onto the plate. The firm also made the Hemispherique and Hemispherique Rapide landscape that were popular in the United States and Great Britain as well as Rectilinear lenses. The smaller lenses were characterized by their distinctive three swing-out stops. Darlot lenses were popular choices for landscape and astronomical photography.
After Mr. Jamin's retirement in 1860, Mr. Darlot became factory manager. For the three years, the company's lenses bore both names before Jamin’s name was removed in 1863, only to be re-added briefly in 1864 to show the succession as "Anc. M.Jamin DARLOT Opt.n Succ.r"..
In 1867 Jean Theodor Jamin died, however his studio continued for a few years to follow. Also in 1867, Darlot was given a silver medal at the International Expo of Paris.
Darlot lenses were imported to the United States and distributed by Benjamin French & Company. One photographic writer of the period described the lenses as extremely affordable and of high quality, well suited for both the amateur and the expert photographer. As demand for his lenses grew, Mr. Darlot needed more factory space and relocated to 125 Boulevard Voltaire in 1877.
The Darlot factory manufactured several types of photographic equipment and cameras, including a strut camera in circa 1887 that bore considerable resemblance to the Shew Eclipse called the Rapide. There were two versions with one for single plates and the other that could change plates in the back.
Throughout his lifetime, Mr. Darlot received many honors in recognition for his optical achievements, including a silver medal from the Paris International Exhibition in 1867. However, no award was more prestigious than the Knight of the Legion of Honor medal, France’s highest decoration, which he received in 1892. Alphonse Darlot died on October 5, 1895 at the age of 67. After his death, his factory was purchased by L. Turillon, and was the company moved to 99 rue Lafayette, where it continued producing Darlot lenses for several years. Alphonse Darlot was a shrewd entrepreneur who always gave consumers what they wanted – excellent products at good prices.
2008 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 384.
1989 A History of the Photographic Lens (San Diego: Academic Press), pp. 38, 225-226.
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