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La Crosse County Historical Society discovers, collects, preserves, and shares the history of La Crosse County, Wisconsin.

Object Record

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Object Name Camera, View
Catalog Number 1984.036.01
Description Imperial No. 6 folding view camera. Wood body with leather covering. Front opens to allow red leather bellows and lens to be pulled forward on a metal track. Metal cut-out crown at top of lens board. Rauber & Wollensak optical lens. Back opens on hinge to access ground glass. Right side opens to access three 5x7 film holders. IMPERIAL No 6 imprinted on white plate under lens board.
Collection LCHS Photography Collection
Provenance Made in La Crosse, WI. and used by Charles Loveland, founder of the Northern Engraving Co.
Used By Charles Loveland
Date c. 1900
Material Leather/Metal/Glass
Dimensions H-7.5 W-9.5 D-12.25 inches
Height (in) 7.5
Width (in) 9.5
Inscription Type Manufacturer's Mark
Makers mark IMPERIAL No 6
Inscription Location Under lens
People Loveland, Charles
Search Terms Advertising
Imperial Camera Co.
Imperial Camera
Northern Engraving Co.
Featured in Things that Matter
Relation Show Related Records...
Notes This Imperial No. 6 folding view camera was made by the Imperial Camera Company. The Imperial Camera Co. began in La Crosse as the Aiken-Gleason Camera Company and was incorporated by its camera designer, Eugene P. Gleason, and his business partner and father-in-law, Frank Aiken, in the summer of 1896. Later in 1901 the company changed its name to Imperial Camera Company and was bought out a few years later by Conley Camera of Spring Grove, MN. While in business in La Crosse, the camera company specialized in folding plate cameras, most of which were 4 x 5 and 5 x 7. In 1898, the company, located at the corner of 7th and La Crosse streets, had fifty male employees, 10 females and three people under the age of 16 working in their shop. Despite only being in business a few years, the Aiken-Gleason/Imperial Camera Company was one of the only manufacturers at the time that still produced folding-plate cameras.

Featured in Things that Matter

"At the turn of the century, this striking camera captured images of many businesses in La Crosse. Photography itself was growing in popularity and studios opened up all over La Crosse, including floating studios that travelled on barges up-and down the Mississippi.  As La Crosse evolved from a lumber mill town, other businesses grew and so did the use of photography in a commercial setting.  The idea to “sell” items along with their businesses was the “job” of this camera.  An enterprising young man, Charles Loveland, used this camera to create his own commercial advertising company, Northern Engraving.  Northern Engraving specialized in commercial photography and companies such as Pamperin Cigar and La Crosse Plow Works utilized Loveland’s expertise.

Even the Imperial Camera itself was made right here in La Crosse.  In 1901, the Imperial Camera Company of La Crosse was located at the corner of 7th and La Crosse Streets.  They had 50 male employees, 10 female and 3 people under the age of 16 working at the company.  The Imperial Camera Company began as the Aiken-Gleason Camera Company, co-owned by Frank Aiken and son-in-law Eugene P. Gleason.  With the change of business name to Imperial, the business began to catch the eye of a larger camera company located in Rochester, New York-the Eastman Kodak Company. Although the Imperial Camera Company only remained here for a few years before becoming part of the Eastman Kodak product line, the impact on the business and legacy of La Crosse is evident in Loveland’s photographs and the creation of the Northern Engraving Company."

This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune.
Title: The Imperial Camera Co. of La Crosse
Author: Tami Holtslander
Publish Date: May 7, 2016