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Rochester Optical Company History
The Rochester Optical Company became one of the most dominant and influential camera companies in the 1880's and 90's, prior to the rise of the Eastman Kodak Company.
In 1880 William H. Walker, Opened up a photographic camera manufacturing business called the "Wm. H. Walker and Company" in Rochester New York.
In 1882 Walker joined with W. H. Reid and J. Inglis making Photographic dry plates, a business continued by Inglis for several years.
In 1883 W. F. Carlton purchased Walker's camera making business, and called the new company the "Rochester Optical Company". Walker then joined the Eastman Company after the sale.
In 1893, after Carlton established his business selling Walker cameras, He introduced one of the most successful camera product lines in early American history, the "Premo" camera. The Premo Line stayed in production until 1921.
In 1890 the plant was moved to South Water Street and his brother H. B. Carlton, decided to set up a rival company in the old building in 1891. H. B. Carlton called his company the "Rochester Camera Manufacturing Company", making Poco camera's, which were similar to his brothers successful Premo line. The name was changed to the Rochester Camera Company in 1895, and finally in 1897 the Rochester Camera and Supply Company.
Due to hard times and competition from Eastman, in 1899 five camera companies decided to join forces to form the new "Rochester Optical and Camera Company". They were: the Rochester Optical Company, the Rochester Camera and Supply Company, the Ray Camera Company, the Monroe Camera Company, and the Western Camera Manufacturing Company of Chicago. The new combined company occupied the R.O.C. building at 45 South Street, and was headed by W.F. Carlton. They continued all of the old product lines including, the Poco, Premo, Ray, and Cyclone.
In 1903 George Eastman purchased the Rochester Optical and Camera Company for $330,000, after it had suffered massive losses due to market conditions and competition. Eastman changed their name back to the Rochester Optical Company.
In 1907 it became the Rochester Optical Division of the Eastman Kodak Company, and then in 1918 the Rochester Optical Department of the Eastman Kodak Company. They continued to produce the Premo line until 1921.The Rochester Optical Company became one of the most dominant and influential camera companies in the 1880's and 90's, prior to the rise of the Eastman Kodak Company.
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