This month’s featured auction at phsneusa on eBay is a serious piece of photo history: an 8×10 Deardorff view camera.
Born in Ohio, Laben F. Deardorff grew up in a religious sect that believed “if you need anything, make it yourself” including food, homespun fabric and clothes, ironwork, lumber and furniture. This
helped him later, when he started fabricating cameras. Prior to that, he moved to Chicago to find work, and ended up spending 30 years repairing and modifying cameras before, at the urging of his future customers, he began manufacturing cameras as L. F. Deardorff & Sons Inc.
Most of these cameras were made of mahogany with nickel-plated brass hardware. The early ones reportedly used mahogany salvaged from bar tops when saloons were closed by prohibition.
Deardorff was a significant maker of studio cameras in the USA, manufacturing cameras from 1923 to 1988, making cameras from 4×5 inches to 12×20 inches. They were a standard for studio photography in the United States. Handmade in Chicago, making, perhaps, 200 cameras a year, Deardorff only started putting serial numbers on the cameras about 1949-1951.
The 8×10 inch models started with serial number 500 in May, 1950, and ended in 1988 with 6503. Early models did not have a front swing, though that became standard around 1950, and were often added to older models. The camera up for auction is serial number 6029, making it a fairly recent camera, and it is in excellent condition. It comes with a Schneider Kreuznach Symmar-S 5.6/300mm lens with Copal 3 shutter (1-125, B & T), lens board and caps.
Although using an 8×10 inch camera is not for everyone, this example would be a good choice for someone interested in large format photography. Check the details about the camera at phsneusa on eBay.
The story of Laben Deardorff and his camera company has a number of anecdotes. According to McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 10th Edition, 1997/1998:
“In 1923 Laben [Deardorff] was commissioned by a group of Chicago architects to build 10 cameras to photograph that new Chicago wonder: the skyscraper. Amazingly enough, five of the first 10 cameras built still exist, four of them in daily studio use!”
For more articles and stories about Deardorff, the camera, the company, and the family, follow these links:
“Deardorff Company History” by William Schneider
“For the Love of a Camera” by Stephen Longmire
What the heck…
Are Those Even Cameras?!
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