Wednesday, June 12, 2019

World's Largest Camera in 1900

The qualification of "in 1900" is probably not needed. The a glass plate was 8' x 4.5'. George Lawrence built the camera at Chicago & Alton's request to take an 8' wide photo of their new Alton Limited train. The train was for express service between Chicago and St. Louis, and it "consisted of six Pullman cars built in perfect symmetry: every car was the same length and height, and every window identical." [AtlasObscura]

George Lawrence designed the camera and assembled it in a field near Brighton Park. The camera weighed 900 pounds and each plate holder weighted 1,400 pounds. Fifteen workers were needed to operate it. The Carl Zeiss lenses were also the largest ever made. A plate was exposed for 2.5 minutes, and it took 10 gallons of chemicals to develop the 8' long photo. [AtlasObscura]

A spread from the Chicago & Alton pamphlet, “The Largest Photograph in the World of the Handsomest Train in the World”, including Lawrence’s image of the train. INDIANA HISTORICAL SOCIETY via AtlasObscura

The timing was fortuitous. Chicago & Alton submitted three prints to the 1900 Paris Exposition, where George R. Lawrence won the Grand Prize for World Photographic Excellence. But the photographs were subject to intense scrutiny. Exposition officials did not initially believe a single camera could create such a large image. Both Lawrence and Chicago & Alton had to submit affidavits to verify that the photograph had been made on one plate. [AtlasObscura]

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