|January 25, 2013||Posted by Photo GearHead under Cool Gear Auctions|
First introduced in 1888 by the Boston Camera Company located in… where else? Why, Boston, of course… Hawk-Eye Detective cameras employed the truly ingenious and inspired idea of taking a camera and putting it inside a box. Boxes, I believe, (and I’m almost certainly completely wrong on this) were a fairly new invention way back in 1888, and in that innocent and whimsical time, a wacky fad of putting things inside of cuboid forms was sweeping popular culture. It was only a matter of time, of course, before cameras themselves would fall victim to such tom-foolery.
Yes, modern technology of the era had advanced to such an incredible state in 1888 (that rhymes!) that it was now possible for the most expert of engineers to actually hide a fully functioning camera entirely within a fairly massive, exceedingly noticeable, very heavy wooden crate of considerable bulk. Once this ability was achieved, the possibilities for surreptitious photo taking, as I’m sure you can imagine, absolutely exploded! The age of the creepy pervert-photographer was born.
Unfortunately, that age didn’t last very long. Contrary to what appear to be the beliefs of some, it would seem that the people of the late nineteenth century weren’t actually all that stupid. And, it wasn’t long before folks figured out that any creepy looking guy, following you around, appearing to act aloof, and pointing a very large wooden box, with a round hole cut in the side of it, at you, was probably trying to take your picture — all clandestinely-like.
So, fairly early on, the term “detective camera” ceased to be used to denote a camera’s stealth capabilities, and instead was adopted as a common term used to identify a certain style of camera design — namely, a camera which is completely encased inside a box.
In 1890, the Blair Camera Company (also operating out of Boston, Mass.) purchased the Boston Camera Company and took over production of the Hawkeye line. They continued to manufacture and improve upon the design of the Hawk-Eye camera for the next eight years — winding up with what is known as the Hawk-Eye Detective “Improved Model” — the camera pictured above. The Improved Model Hawk-Eye used 4″X5″ glass plates for its exposures, but was also capable of exposing roll film via the use of a separate accessory roll film holder.
A “guide book” printed by the Blair Camera Company in 1891, lists the original retail price of these cameras at $15.00 — which, at least according to this inflation calculator, puts the price in today’s money at roughly $370.00. Not a bad deal, I suppose — considering that Collectiblend lists the average current fetching price of these cameras at around $350.00 when sold in like-new condition on today’s vintage camera market.
Of course, the particular camera specimen being discussed in this article is most assuredly not in “like-new” condition. The seller describes the camera’s leather upholstering as being “extremely cracked and chipped” and worries that much of it may fall of in the process of shipping the item to its purchaser. However, the seller does encourage interested parties to do an image search for other examples of this camera model, stating that, if doing so, one is likely to see that it is indeed a rarity for these cameras to have any leather left on them whatsoever. Whether this is true, or if, perhaps, the seller just isn’t aware that most of these cameras were actually sold new without any leather covering, I’m not certain. You’ll have to figure that one out for yourself.
The auction for this cool, clandestine camera of considerable… age (I bet your were expecting another “c” word there, huh? I’m sorry, but my powers of alliteration only goes so far.) is located here. The opening bid is set at $200.00, and there are currently no bids on the item at the time of this writing. The auction ends on January 28th.