The date and birthplace of nineteenth-century American lens maker and daguerreotypist Charles C. Harrison are unknown. The earliest biographical information involves his studies in lens making under the tutelage of optician and telescope maker Henry Fitz. Dr. Fitz also shared his optical expertise with Alexander S. Wolcott while he was constructing his daguerreotype camera. In 1846, Mr. Harrison opened a daguerreotype studio and lens manufacturing company at 45 Duane Street in New York City. Of his photographs, little is known except they were exhibited in New York throughout the 1850s and were featured at the Crystal Palace's exhibitions in 1853-1854.
Harrison's camera lenses were of the highest quality, and in 1849, he expanded his business to include the manufacturing of superior cameras and photographic equipment. For his efforts, he received a silver medal at the American Institute for Daguerreian Apparatus in 1851. That same year, the illustrious Scovill Manufacturing Company became the official agent for Mr. Harrison's photographic apparatus, and his daguerreotype studio was sold to George S. Cook, who would later cement his professional reputation as a Civil War combat photographer.
In 1852, Mr. Harrison established a photographic manufacturing and product dealership business on 142 Chatham Street in New York City. The following year, one of his cameras was awarded a bronze medal at the Crystal Palace Exhibition. Though continuing his association with the Scovill Manufacturing Company, Mr. Harrison entered into a partnership with photographer and entrepreneur Edward Anthony in 1855. From this point on, the Anthony Company stocked and sold Mr. Harrison's impressive camera inventory.
But it remains camera lenses for which Charles C. Harrison is best known. Along with Joseph Schnitzer, he was awarded a patent for a lens diaphragm in 1858. Two years later, he collaborated with Mr. Schnitzer on a "Globe" lens, for which they received patent #35,605 in 1862. The wide-angle Globe lenses were Mr. Harrison's masterpiece, and their stereo and field photography applications were without peer. The lens' flat viewing field eliminated distortion and produced clear, detailed photographs. By the spring of 1863, Mr. Harrison had made an astonishing 8,817 lenses and nearly 400 Globe lenses.
During the early 1860s, James Scovill and Edward Anthony had retained joined ownership of Mr. Harrison's manufacturing operations. However, when they sold their shares to Nelson Wright, Mr. Harrison remained as chief lens designer and production supervisor until his death on November 23, 1864. Charles C. Harrison's Globe lens is his crowning achievement and remain highly sought after by antique camera collectors worldwide.
1855, The Photographic and Fine Art Journal, February, p.48
2008 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 634.
1997 John S. Craig (URL: http://craigcamera.com/dag/h_table.htm).
1873 The Silver Sunbeam: A Practical and Theoretical Text-book on Sun Drawing and Text-Book (New York: E & H. T. Anthony & Co.), p. 165.
1865 Treatise on Photography, 4th Ed. (Cincinnati: H. Watkin), p. 268.
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