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  Western Camera Mfg. Co. History

In February 1897 The Western Camera Manufacturing Comany was established at 84 Adams street, Chicago, Illinois. A wood working shop was located at 215 Clinton St. The new business was the consolidation of two other firms which manufactured the Zar Camera and the Cyko cameras. The company started out making a simple line of glass plate box cameras called Cyclone focused on the young beginner.

The Western Camera Mfg. Co. was a major investor of the Zar Camera Company located at 12 Quincy Street Chicago, who manufactured by the Zar camera as early as 1895. The Zar camera was also sold through the Chicago Photo Stock Co. located at 38 E. Randolph street. In 1897 Western Mfg. Camera Co. took control of the Zar Camera Company to simplify the chain of command. The new company continued to manufacture the Pocket Zar camera with the Western Camera Mfg. Co. label. The Zar camera was an inexpensive box camera which used a special 2 x 2 inch glass plates. The camera was constructed of cardboard which made the materials cost low and provided the market one of the first, very competitively priced, beginner cameras.

In 1898 the company expanded and improved their line of cameras to include a full line of box cameras, folding Bicycle and hand cameras, a long focus camera and a view camera. The most popular proved to be the magazine cyclone. The firm advertised as being located at 131 Wabash Ave, Chicago, ill.

In 1899, competition grew from the distribution of photographic paper that was manufactured by the Rives & Steinbach company. Five companies led by Eastman set out to control the sale of the German photographic paper in the American market. The firms included the Eastman, Aristo, Photo stock, Artisto and Brown & Palmer. Western Camera set to compete against this front by securing a paper from the Holyoke Paper company who developed a new method of manufacturing raw photographic paper. The Nepera chemical company joined Western.

In 1899, Due to competition from Eastman, the Western Camera Mfg. Co. joined the consolidation of the 5 major Eastman competitors including the Rochester Optical Company, the Rochester Camera and Supply Company, the Ray Camera Company, and the Monroe Camera Company. The new combined companies office occupied the R.O.C. building at 45 South Street, Rochester NY, and was headed by W.F. Carlton. They continued all of the old product lines including, the Poco, Premo, Ray, and Cyclone box cameras. The Zar camera production was not continued.


1897, Photo Beacon, Vol. 9, p 96
1899, The Bookseller, newsdealer and stationer, Volume 9, p 610.
1900, The Photogram: Volume 7 - Page 64

CLICK HERE for a list of cameras made by the Western Camera Mfg. Co.

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2019-01-23 21:20:42

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