The beginnings of the R & J Beck Company was established in London, by Richard Beck in association with James Smith, and later to be joined by his brother Joseph Beck.
The Becks were nephews of Joseph Jackson Lister, who was a partner to Richard and Joseph's father as a wine merchant and a respected British optician and physicist who experimented with achromatic lenses. Lister perfected an arrangement for the optical microscope and Lister's law of aplanatic foci remained the underlying principle of microscopic science. In commissioning the manufacture of his improved microscope, Lister worked with James smith, an employee of William Tulley to create the stand. James Smith went on to establish his own optical instruments workshop in 1837. Through this relationship, Lister arranged for his nephew, Richard Beck to be and apprentice under smith in 1843. Richard was not excelling in schooling and was in need of a vocation.
In 1847 James Smith entered into partnership with Richard Beck, and the company was re-named Smith & Beck.
In 1851 Smith & Beck received the councils metal for microscopic optics and again in 1855 received the Microscopic prize in Paris Exposition.
In 1854 the company was renamed to Smith, Beck and Beck, as Richard Beck's brother Joseph Beck joined the company in 1851, after a successful apprenticeship with Optician and Instrument maker William Sims. In 1861, The company employed 40 men and 35 boys and girls.
James Smith retired in 1865 and the company became R & J Beck and the name lasted for long time. The company was first located at 6 Coleman St., in London and manufactured a wide range of optical instruments - microscopes, telescopes and trench periscopes for miltary purposes (in WW I), optometer lenses (eye test glasses) for opticians, camera lenses and cart-de-vista and Stereographs. One of Beck plate cameras was used by the British Army oficer, colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as "Lawrence of Arabia".
In 1865 the company moved to new premises at 31 Cornhill, London. Later it also had offices at the same street no. 68. Also in 1865, Richard Beck published A treatise on the Construction, Proper Use and Capabilities of the Smith, Beck and Beck Achromatic Microscopes.
In 1866, Richard Beck died at an early age of 39, and Joseph Beck carried on the business.
In 1870 James Smith died.
In 1880 the company was making several distinctive cameras including the first true twin lens reflex camera designed by G.M. Whipple (1842 -1893).
In 1892 the Becks introduced the popular Frena line of cameras based on Joseph Thacher Clarke's patent for carrying magazine for twenty cut films. The went on to include Rollfilm cameras like the Cornex and the elegant Zambex cameras using inventive daylight loading system.
Most of the cameras were equipped with Bausch & Lomb shutters and the lenses were of Beck or Beck Steinheil make. Some cameras of the Ensign brand name were supplied with Beck lenses.
In 1895 the company became a limited partnership.
In 1924 R. & J.Beck made and marketed the Robin Hills patent Cloud camera.
In 1947, at the British Industries Fair, the R & J Beck company was listed as an exhibitor in the categories: Manufacturers of Microscopes, Photographic Lenses, Opaque Projectors, Spectroscopes, Sound Recording Apparatus, Optical Units etc.
1869 - The Pharmaceutical journal: A weekly record of pharmacy, Page 14-20
1982 - The encyclopedia of microscopy and microtechnique
2008 - Encyclopedia of nineteenth-century photography, p1272
Richard Beck (1827 - 1866)
Joseph Beck (1828 - 1891)
James Smith (unk - 1870)
Joseph Jackson Lister (1786 - 1869),
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