Renowned photographic equipment merchant Emil Busch was born in Berlin, Germany on August 6, 1820. He was the grandson of Johann Heinrich August Duncker, a minister who founded Rathenow's esteemed Optische Industrie Anstalt, one of the first manufacturers of reading glasses. Mr. Duncker's son Edouard succeeded him, but since he had no sons of his own, Mr. Busch inherited the family business in 1845. Trained as a mechanic and a merchant, Mr. Busch quickly expanded the business to include the production of optical equipment for the military. With no direct competition in the area, his business flourished in its first few years.
However, around 1850, several competitors relocated to Rathenow, which prompted Mr. Busch to enlarge the factory and add a steam engine to increase mass production. The Busch-Rathenow Company, as it became known in 1852, began specializing in photographic lenses and equipment. The company produced several types of Petzval lenses with wide aperture settings of six or seven inches.
In 1865, Mr. Busch received a patent for the Pantoscope (known by the Germans as the Pantoskop), believed to be the world's first anastigmat lens. The wide-angle Pantoscope lens featured two deeply curved symmetrical combinations and an aperture setting of f/22 for sharp focus. The Pantoscope was a popular choice for landscape photographers for its effectiveness in capturing clear architectural subjects and panoramic views. It was also the lens of choice for photographers working within limited spaces. The Pantoscope was soon out-performing the famous Globe lenses produced by Harrison and Schnitzer, the Busch-Rathenow Company's main competitor.
Mr. Busch was constantly experimenting with progressive production methods, and his manufacturing operations were among the most modern in the world at that time. During the Prussian-Danish War, which lasted from 1864 until 1871, the Busch-Rathenow Company became the leading supplier of photographic equipment for the German military, which included lenses, field cameras, and telescopic glasses. The company successfully changed with the times, as did its name, which became the Rathenowner Optische Institute and then was later known as Emil Busch AG. Under Mr. Busch's capable management, the company became a publicly owned stock company, which provided many employee benefits. The Busch Company workers, who often worked out of their homes during the war years to supply the heavy military demand for photographic products, were generously rewarded for their efforts and enjoyed employment security that was rare within the fledgling photographic industry.
Emil Busch died in Rathenow on April 1, 1888, but his company remains very much alive and well. Up until World War I, it was Germany's leading manufacturer of optical supplies and mirrors, and today it continues to produce top quality ophthalmic machinery.
1974 Cassell's Cyclopaedia of Photography (New York: Arno Press), pp. 390-391.
2008 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 231-232.
1989 A History of the Photographic Lens (San Diego: Academic Press), pp. 211-212.
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