Some of the Finest Western Aircraft Museums

Aircraft enthusiasts and historians will enjoy what is one of the best collections of vintage aircraft in the western U.S. There are two fascinating venues you’ll want to note make a note of.

vintage beechcraft

Vintage Beechcraft

Chino California

The first location is Chino California. The museum operates as an independently operated non-profit organization. The Chino California location of the Planes of Fame Air Museum is at the corner of Merrill Avenue and Cal Aero Drive, on the north side of Chino Airport. The entrance is off Cal Aero Dr.

Valle Arizona

As more and more vintage aircraft were restored and the Planes of Fame collection grew, an additional display location was opened in 1995 in Valle, Arizona. This site is located halfway between Williams Arizona and the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The Valle-Grand Canyon site displays over 40 of the Museum’s vintage aircraft with many of them being flyable. In Arizona the Planes of Fame Air Museum is located at 755 Mustang Way, Valle Williams, AZ, on the southeast corner of Valle Airport. This is between the town of Williams Arizona and the south rim of the Grand Canyon. This location is easily reached for those traveling through northern Arizona on Interstate-40

ford trimotor aircraft

Ford Trimotor Aircraft

A Great Display of Vintage Aircraft

Many of the vintage aircraft are kept flyable by the many people who donate both funds and aircraft parts to the two museums. People have also donated their time to help maintain the aircraft. Aircraft restoration is a big part of what this organization does.

Per the museum’s web site “Our mission is to preserve aviation history, inspire interest in aviation, educate the public, and honor aviation pioneers and veterans“. The organization claims to have the oldest air museums west of the Rocky Mountains. These fascinating museums feature a total of over 175 aircraft.  These museums offer the visitor absolutely stunning collection of vintage and famous airplanes.

The museum was first established in 1957 in Claremont California by Ed Maloney as the Air Museum. Today the museum is known by that name and also as Planes of Fame. The museum expanded at it became apparent that a second location should be added. The Arizona location is located at the reopened Valle-Grand Canyon Airport which at one time served as a TWA facility.

From time to time some of the Planes of Fame collection may be unavailable because of their participation in air shows, movie productions and often displays at various military airbases. Below is a very partial list of the flyable aircraft on display at each of the two Plans of Fame Museum locations.

uboat patrol aircraft

Aircraft used for Uboat patrol in the Gulf of Mexico during W.W. II

At the Chino California museum...Grumman Bearcat, Grumman Avenger, Vought Corsair, Grumman Hellcat, North American Mustang, Misubishi Zero, Lockheed Lightening.

At the Valle-Grand Canyon Arizona museum…Standard W.W. I Trainer, Curtiss Robin Flying Replica, Martin Airliner, North America Trojan, Billy Walker Nieuport Flying Replica.

Two additional articles you’ll enjoy are on the links below…

American Military Aircraft

Who Was the First American Aviator?

Take a Plane Ride on an Historic C-47

Static Displays and Restorations

In addition to the above, there are many aircraft models on static display and some in various stages of restoration.

The Chino California location places an emphasis on Naval aircraft where a part of one building features the aircraft of the U.S.S. Enterprise, a naval air museum within the museum.

At the Arizona location one of the most interesting aircraft on display is the 1929 Ford 5-AT Trimotor. This aircraft was built by the Ford Motor Company as a passenger aircraft. The plane was sold all over the world for both civilian and military use.

grumman hellcat airplane

Grumman Hellcat

The Trimotor was very popular in it’s time for providing both luxury and speed. During it’s years of production, a total of 199 Ford Trimotors were produced. The last Trimotor was built in 1933. The author had the opportunity to ride in a Ford Trimotor from Port Clinton Ohio to South Bass Island a short distance island off the Ohio coast in Lake Erie. It was a great historic type adventure and I would recommend it to anyone. If your travels include a northern Ohio vacation or weekend trip you may want to check with Island Airlines at the Port Clinton Ohio Airport for schedules and more information.

(Article copyright 2014 Trips Into History. Photos and images in the public domain)

 

Historic Steam Engine Exhibits

 

The steam engine could arguably be The most significant invention ever invented by man. Although we think of the steam engine coming into being on the old steamboats and railroad locomotives, history tells us that experimenting with steam goes back many centuries. Interest in steam didn’t begin when the steam from a tea kettle was first noticed. It’s interest goes back as far as the first century.

beam steam engine

Beam steam engine. Diagram from the public domain.

Did you know that the first steam engine manufactured is still operating as of this writing? This is a steam engine that today is over two centuries old. The steam engine was manufactured in 1812 by the Boulton and Watt company of Birmingham England.

It is considered the world’s oldest continuously operating beam steam engine and is still fed with hand stoked coal. You could refer to this engine as one of the many antique steam engines displayed around the world but in this case this engine is still doing the job it was built to do.

A beam steam engine uses a pivoted overhead beam to apply force from a vertical piston  to a vertical connecting rod. These engines were also used to drain water from mines.

The Boulton and Watt steam engine is both working and on display at the Crofton Pumping Station near the town of Great Bedwyn in county Wiltshire. The engine provides water for the Kennet and Avon Canal.

Visitors can view the beam steam engine at the Crofton Pumping Station. It is open everyday during the summer. For more detailed information on planning your visit see website www.croftonbeamengines.org

donkey steam engine

Donkey Steam Engine

The Donkey Steam Engine

There’s a reason why this steam engine is referred to as a “donkey engine” or a “steam donkey“. The steam donkey engine got it’s name from the work it did on old sailing ships.

The donkey engine operated as a winch. It was considered a relatively small secondary engine and could help load and unload cargo as well as help to lift the sail rigging. Something this small and transportable had many other uses.

The steam donkey engine was used widely in the logging industry. The typical logging steam donkey engine would have a boiler and winch and could be moved by skids built under it. The logging engine would have a cable attached which would be taken out and secured on a log. When the donkey engine operator would open the valve the steam power would drag the cable (and log) toward the engine. The donkey engine would lift, drag, and move logs from the stump to an accumulation point  Donkey engines were also used to load logs on rail cars that transported logs to distant mill sites.The steam power generated from the boiler could move massive logs.

donkey engine

Piston mechanism of the Donkey Engine

The Magic of Steam Power

Unlike an internal combustion engine requiring petroleum, a steam engine uses water and heat to produce power. Two easy things to acquire…water and fire. You can’t produce steam without water which is why water filling tanks would be placed at railroad stations and other sites for locomotives to refill their tanks.

With a steam engine, the high pressure steam produced forces a piston to move. When the piston moves a connecting rod then power is transferred. There is also a double acting steam engine which alternately allows steam to be put on both ends of a piston.

The Dangers of Early Steam Power

Harnessing steam as a power source came into being before a great deal was learned about it’s characteristics. Pressure from a boiler could cause disasters, and it did, many times. Calculating the strength of a boiler needed to withstand a certain amount of pressure was in it’s infancy. You could say it was learned by trial and error. The many steamboat disasters, especially from the 1840’s onward, are good examples.

sultana explosion

Drawing of the 1865 Sultana steamboat explosion near Memphis Tennessee, photo from the public domain

Among all the dangers a steamboat might face…snags, collisions with other vessels, running aground, boiler explosions were the most devastating. Thousands of lives were lost on the Mississippi and other rivers. Two of the most deadly were the Sultana explosion in 1865 just a few miles north of Memphis Tennessee and the Saluda explosion just a few yards from the dock in Lexington Missouri in 1852.

These were among steamboat disasters that prompted the federal government to finally get serious about rules and regulations for steamboats. Boilers in a wooden steamboat were typically below the decks. You can imagine the destruction and carnage caused by boiler explosions beneath wooden decks of often times overcrowded steamboats.

Some of the early steam boiler explosions on steamboats occurred because the boilers were not monitored properly. Sometimes they were left unmonitored for periods of time. Also, the pressure gauges were not used as they should have been and the gauges themselves were not up to the standards we have today. Uniform training of boiler operators and improvements in boiler construction were the main goals of the new federal laws. As years passed more was learned about boiler construction and the monitoring gauges were greatly improved.

Below are links to photo articles on our sites that you’ll find interesting.

The Baldwin Locomotive

The River Steamboats

The Donner Pass Steam Locomotive

Two excellent books about steam engines and steam power include The Most Powerful Idea in the World by author William Rosen and Water Trails West published by The Western Writers of America.

steam bus

A French Steam Autobus from 1875, public domain photo

Exploring the World of Historic Steam Engines

As mentioned above, the world’s  first steam engine is on display in England at the Crofton Pumping Station near the town of Great Bedwyn in county Wiltshire.

The Donkey Steam Engine shown in this article was displayed at the San Francisco National Maritime Historical Park on the west side of the Fisherman’s Wharf area. To get detailed information on current exhibits there see website /www.maritime.org/index.htm

Another great site to explore some of the more famous steam locomotives is the California State Railroad Museum in the Old Town section of Sacramento. Among other things you can view one of the first locomotives used by the Central Pacific Railroad, the western link of the first transcontinental route.

horizontal steam engine

A very small horizontal steam engine on display at the California State Railroad Museum

The New England Wireless and Steam Museum is located in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. This is strictly a volunteer museum and generally handles groups. They are only open a few days a week so if you want to visit this very interesting five building museum you’ll probably want to call in advance.

For more information see the website www.newsm.org  Among the may exhibits are the world’s oldest surviving wireless station and a collection of stationary steam engines.

(Articles and photos copyright Trips Into History. Steam Autobus and Saluda steamboat images from the public domain)

Roswell 2013 UFO Festival

 

Roswell New Mexico, a town that grew from only two adobe buildings in 1869, once again hosted a well attended UFO Festival July 5-7, 2013. The three day festival featured guest speakers, authors, live entertainment, a costume contest, a pet costume contest, parade, and many family friendly activities.

roswell new mexico ufo festival

Roswell New Mexico

If you have not yet attended one of these events you may want to consider doing so next July. The Roswell UFO Festivalis an annual event which brings together authors, scientists and others who have investigated the 1947 events there. It was a long time ago that reports first surfaced that a UFO and it’s occupants had crashed about forty miles northwest of town. The crash site today is on ranch land. While decades have passed, the interest in the subject has not faded. If anything it has grown.

Discussing the Facts of Roswell

A key part of the festival are the lectures and panel discussions comprised of people who have meticulously investigated the crash. This is not a wild conspiracy discussion but rather a detailed presentation of the evidence collected through decades of research. It’s essentially a discussion and presentation of the facts.

2013 roswell festival

Jesse Marcel Jr. and daughter at Roswell 2013 event

Among the 2013 research participants were nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman who it can be said was the man who began serious inquiry into the Roswell crash during the 1970’s. Many may have heard of Stanton Friedman through his years of discussion as a guest on the radio program Coast to Coast. In fact, it was Friedman’s analysis of what occurred outside Roswell in 1947 that encouraged others to join the unofficial investigation.

Another key attendee and lecturer at the 2013 Roswell UFO Festival was Donald R. Schmitt. Scmitt along with Kevin D. Randal are the authors of several books regarding the Roswell UFO crash. These include The Roswell Files and UFO Crash at Roswell. Donald R. Schmitt is the former co-director of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies, where he served as Director of Special Investigations for ten years. Prior to that, he was a special investigator for the late Dr. J. Allen Hynek for the International UFO Reporter.

roswell ufo

Roswell UFO Museum and Research Center

Another very interesting guest at the 2013 event was Jesse Marcel Jr. Marcel is the son of the first military officer present at the Roswell crash site. Marcel Jr., a physician,  wrote the book The Roswell Legacy. Jesse Marcel Jr. was eleven years old when his father Major Jesse Marcel Sr., after visiting the crash site with Chaves County sheriff George Wilcox and rancher William Brazel,  brought small debris from the crash site home in a box.

Jesse Marcel Jr. chronicles the sequence of events and describes the type of material he viewed first hand. He also strives to clear up some of the misconceptions about the crash and of his father’s role in the series of events that unfolded afterward including the supposed display of crash debris at the Army Airfield in Fort Worth Texas. Marcel Sr. later in life denied that the material displayed in the official photograph with General Remy in Ft. Worth was material retrieved from the crash site. General Remy’s command at the time included the Roswell Army Airfield at which Major Jesse Marcel Sr. was stationed.. That statement alone says quite a lot and created many more questions than answers.

ufo roswell new mexico

Panel discussion at Roswell 2013. Stanton Friedman is at center. Donald R. Schmitt is second from right

Visiting Roswell New Mexico

The Roswell UFO Festival is an annual event. The International UFO Museum and Research Center is open year round. The museum has a treasure trove of UFO information and photos taken from around the world. It also has documents and written testimony given by various citizens of Roswell at the time of the incident. Whether you are a skeptic or believer in UFO’s you will enjoy a visit to this quite unique museum. There is quite a bit of tangible information presented at the museum and it’s essentially up to the visitor to decide for him or her self whether the available evidence supports the crash theory. One of the most interesting exhibits at the Roswell Museum is the section detailing the timeline of events in 1947 and the testimony of solid citizens of the community.

Below is a link to another Trips Into History article you’ll enjoy.

The First American Aviator

On our Western Trips site you’ll enjoy our tour of the Roswell UFO Museum.

roswell ufo crash site

roswell crash site model exhibit

Roswell New Mexico is located about 190 miles southeast of Albuquerque and about 200 miles northeast of El Paso Texas. An interesting fact is that Roswell has been the home to New Mexico Military Institute since 1891.The institute serves as a four year high school and two year junior college. Some of it’s most noteworthy graduates include Conrad Hilton, Roger Staubach, and news reporter Sam Donaldson.

Visitors to the area will find many excellent hotels and restaurants in Roswell. In addition to the annual festival and the International UFO Museum and Research Center, the Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located about 75 miles  south of Roswell.

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)

 

First In Flight / The First American Aviator

 

There are many fine aviation museums in the United States which make great additions to vacation planners and short weekend trips. We’ve listed several of our favorites near the end of this article. Each one is unique and makes an excellent fun stop.

Connecticut Mulls Change

The story below addresses a controversy in Connecticut which may indeed result in a new law being passed in that state which in essence declares that the Wright Brothers were not the first in flight.

A Connecticut House Bill which is being prepared for the governors approval states…“The Governor shall proclaim a date certain in each year as Powered Flight Day to honor the first powered flight by [the Wright brothers] Gustave Whitehead and to commemorate the Connecticut aviation and aerospace industry,” Republican state Sen. Mike McLachlan made the statement…”There’s no question that the Wright brothers will retain their place in aviation history and rightfully so. They just weren’t first.”

The following story addresses the subject of who exactly can claim the phrase “First in flight.” Who really could claim that they were the first to successfully fly an aircraft?

The Controversy

wright flyer

Wright Flyer I in 1903

One of the biggest controversies concerning early aviation revolves around the questions of...Who was the first in flight in the United States? Were the Wright brothers the first to succeed with a controlled flight within the borders of the U.S.? While the common wisdom has always been that indeed it certainly was the Wright brothers and the flight took place in 1903, the naysayers to this claim say it is untrue. Thus the continued controversy, at least with some doubters.

The “First in Flight” Controversy

The Smithsonian Museum displays the Wright Brothers 1903 Wright Flyer,  described as the world’s first successful airplane. The exhibition at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. also displays historic photographs and cultural artifacts, along with instruments and personal items associated with the Wright Brothers.

There have been some historians who contended that an earlier powered flight took place aside from the hot air balloons of the 1800’s. In other words, some have stated that a powered airplane or aeroplane flight took place in St. Joseph Michigan in 1898.

A man named Augustus Moore Herring who had some background with gliders had carried out a several gliding experiments.  Herring found financial backing and constructed a biplane hang glider in 1898. The glider was equipped with a small compressed air engine. Newspapers reported that Herring flew this powered, heavier-than-air craft 50 feet on October 10, 1898  over the lakeside sand dunes of St. Joseph, Michigan.

gustav whitehead flight

Drawing of Whitehead’s 1901 flight that appeared in newspaper

The Case For Gustav Whitehead

Another story involves a man named Gustav Whitehead and this is the claim now accepted by Connecticut lawmakers. . Whitehead increased his knowledge step by step and evolved a series of both gliders and airplanes, each one a modification of its predecessor.

It was reported that Whitehead flew several times in his own powered aircraft (high wing monoplane) design in both 1901 and 1902. The 1901 flight, which is the event most discussed, apparently took place in Fairfield Connecticut in August of that year. A newspaper story at the time, which seemed to lack an author, reported that Whitehead’s heavier than air craft flew about one-half mile and reached up to 50 feet in height.

To this day there are historians who do credit Gustav Whitehead with this flight experiment. Conversely there are those who do not. The doubters point to the lack of concrete evidence that the event actually took place. In other words, an absence of solid documentation. Although, in addition to local coverage, it’s been reported that the Evening World newspaper in New York reported on the event. There were also stories about Whitehead’s achievements in a 1903 Scientific American. There were additional reports as well. Supposedly Whitehead’s unsheltered craft was destroyed during a storm and hence there wasn’t a craft to display to the public as the Wrights were able to do.

wright brothers airplane

Wright Flyer II in 1904

The Whitehead doubters also point out that Whitehead’s control of the craft was by shifting body weight which they claim would not be sufficient to control an aircraft. In addition, it’s quite questionable that a charcoal fueled steam engine, which was reportedly used, could provide enough power to lift itself off the ground.

In Whitehead’s favor however is the fact that today’s light aircraft have many similarities to the high wing monoplane design of his 1901 flight.

Whitehead Ignored?

The real story about Gustav Whitehead’s achievements faded from the public eye until the mid 1930’s. At that time Popular Aviation magazine published articles where the author obtained affidavits from people insisting they witnessed Gustav Whitehead’s flights. The witnesses had several different recollections of what they saw in regards to height and distance. A year after the Popular Aviation story, a Harvard professor disputed the claim in an article and then, after further investigation and speaking with witnesses, wrote another article supporting Whitehead’s claims.

heath parasol airplane

Heath Super Parasol

There were articles written decades after that criticizing the Smithsonian in particular with giving scant attention to the achievements of Gustav Whitehead.

It does appear that Whitehead’s flights received much more credit in publications and articles other  than from anything the Smithsonian put forward.

As it turned out, in 1968 the state of Connecticut honored Gustav Whitehead with the recognition of “Father of Connecticut Aviation“.

The Historic Significance of the Wright Brothers

The Wright Brothers had the advantage of keeping extremely detailed records of both the construction of their aircraft as well as the flights afterward not to mention a surviving model. In some respects you could say that the Wright Brothers were quite successful in touting their accomplishment. In regards to the achievements of Gustav Whitehead, I believe that there is certainly ample evidence that he did experiment with powered flight. He may very well have done this prior to the Wright Brothers four successful flights at Kitty Hawk.

whitehead glider

Gustav Whitehead in one of his gliders

In a way, there is also somewhat of a similarity to the achievements of Henry Ford. There was much experimentation with automobiles in the very late 1800’s. Several people put together motorized buggies with a variety of steering mechanisms and power plants. In fact, some of these were former horse buggy builders. Henry Ford however was recognized as an automobile industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company. While Henry Ford did not invent the concept of the automobile, he developed and manufactured the first automobile that many middle class Americans could afford to buy. He achieved this by creating the assembly line which turned out more cars for less money. There is no better example of Ford’s achievement than the famous Model T.

While there have been questions raised as to who exactly invented the airplane (I’m not sure there will ever be a consensus on that issue), a big factor in favor of the Wright Brothers achievement is the fact that they had controlled flight without using body weight as a primary instrument.

curtiss aircraft

1916 Curtiss Model N

According to the Smithsonian, the instruments the Wright’s employed were arranged so all could be turned off, along with the engine, the instant the flight was over by a single movement of a wooden lever mounted on the lower wing. Instruments the Wright Brothers used included a Richard anemometer and a stopwatch that were mounted on the front strut to the pilot’s right. These recorded distance through the air in meters and the duration of the flight. From these of course airspeed could be calculated. In addition, a Veedor revolution counter was mounted at the base of the engine to record engine revolution.

The Wright Brothers achievement at Kitty Hawk and the design they utilized is said by many to be the model from which aviation grew from. Therefore, the motto “First in Flight”. One might also argue that their Kitty Hawk flights were much more documented. There’s more to the story explaining why the Wright Brothers Kitty Hawk accomplishment is presented today the way it is…..

After his brother Wilbur passed away, Orville Wright was determined to defend the fact that the brothers be considered the inventors of the airplane. In fact, the Wright Flyer was actually moved to a London museum during a period of disagreement with how the Smithsonian was presenting the Wright Brothers Kitty Hawk achievement. This finally seemed to be settled once and for all in 1948.

An Agreement With The Smithsonian

beechcraft 18

A Beechcraft 18

Not to be understated, and certainly in response to the controversy regarding Gustav Whitehead’s 1901 flight, is an agreement entered into between the Wright heirs and the Smithsonian in 1948.

The agreement reads as such...” Neither the Smithsonian Institution nor its successors nor any museum or other agency, bureau or facilities administered by the United States of America, by the Smithsonian Institution or its successors, shall publish or permit to be displayed a statement or label in connection with or in respect of any aircraft model or design of earlier date than the Wright Aeroplane of 1903, claiming in effect that such aircraft was capable of carrying a man under its own power in controlled flight”.

It’s an interesting controversy and one that probably will always be with us for a long time. I think it’s viable that many, including Whitehead, did experiment with powered flight design  at about the same time the Wright Brothers were working on their designs. The question than is...Who of all the inventors or experimenters contributed the most to what today we call the aviation industry? Another way of saying it is...Was there any one early aviation development that stood out from all the others?

curtiss jenny

Curtiss Jenny in 1918

According to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., it is that of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk. Smithsonian contends that the Wright Brothers were the  “First in Flight”.

Two links on our Western Trips site you’ll be interested in is to a photo article about the Beechcraft Model 18 and the F-15 First Responder.

Also, on Trips Into History see our article on the Glore Psychiatric Museum in St. Joseph Missouri. This is one of the 50 most unusual museums in the country.

Some Great Places to Visit

If you’re traveling in the Tucson Arizona area you’ll want to make a stop at the massive Pima Air and Space Museum. The museum is located just off Interstate 10 east of Tucson and covers 80 acres. The museum is open seven days per week and exhibits over 300 aircraft and spacecraft.

pacific coast air museumA much smaller but very unique museum is the Pacific Coast Air Museum located just a few miles north of Santa Rosa California and about 65 miles north of San Francisco. One of their very special displays is of the F-15 First Responder. This is one of the actual aircraft that scrambled during the attacks on September 11th 2001. Many other military aircraft are displayed as well.

The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque New Mexico is a real treat to visit. Aircraft among their outdoor display include a B-52 Stratofortress and a B-29 Superfortress from 1945. Also many displays of rockets as well as a conning tower fin from a retired nuclear submarine.

b 52 tail photo

B 52 Stratofortress tail close up

While traveling in the state of Oregon make a note to visit Hood River. Here you can explore a fascinating aircraft and vintage automobile museum. The Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum (WAAAM) displays one of the largest collections of historic propeller driven airplanes in the United States, with each and every plane in flying condition. Every plane has been beautifully restored and represents the growth of aviation. Among the many aircraft on display is a 1917 Curtiss JN-4D, a 1928 Boeing 40 C, a 1929 Curtiss Robin and a 1929 Heath Parasol. There are many more. The Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum is located just a few miles south of Hood River. The museum also hold a fly-in each year the weekend after Labor Day. Offered are food, fun, exhibits and plane rides.

(Photos of Beechcraft 18, Heath Parasol, Pacific Coast Air Museum, B 52 tail photo from authors collection. Remainder photos and images from the public domain)

 

Vintage Camera

Similar to all technology, the camera kept evolving and improving with years. Trips Into History visited several exhibits of vintage cameras that we found quite interesting.

Cameras have a history beginning with the direct positive made in the camera on a silver copper plate. This was called a daguerreotype. This was the first commercial photographic process. Today of course we have the highly advanced digital process.

vintage studio camera

Late 1800s studio camera

Many different cameras and processes were introduced through the decades and we wanted to present just a few of them. Below are several vintage and classic cameras we found particularly interesting.

The Blair Stereo Weno

The Blair Tourograph Company was founded in Connecticut in 1878 by an immigrant from Nova Scotia. The tourograph camera was based on the wet plate system. The collodion process (wet plate)  produced a negative image on glass. The developing of this process usually had to be done within fifteen minutes which meant that it wasn’t great for field work photography unless you carried a portable dark room along. The reason the process had to be done so quickly was that the wet plate still needed to be wet. If the plate dried you were out of luck. It’s advantages were it’s excellent photographic detail. It’s disadvantages were the time constraints mentioned above plus some trouble with chemical staining.

blair stereo weno camera

Blair Stereo Weno

The Blair Tourograph Company like several other early camera companies were bought out by Eastman Kodak. In the case of Blair’s this occurred in 1899. The first of the Blair Stereo Weno cameras came on the market in 1901 after Eastman had acquired the company. Although the company was owned by Eastman Kodak, the Blair cameras still carried the Blair name for several years.

The stereo camera like the one shown above is a stereo camera because it has two lenses. The spacing between the two lens is about the same as with a human’s two eyes. Some stereo cameras were built with more than two lenses. Because the camera essentially operates similar to a human’s vision, it’s able to capture three-dimensional images. The camera lenses folded up into a case which made it very easy to carry.

1934 kodak brownie junior camera

Brownie Junior

1934 Eastman Kodak Brownie Junior

George Eastman introduced the  first simple camera to the public in 1888. Eastman’s original camera came preloaded with a 100-exposure roll of flexible film. After finishing the roll, the camera’s owner mailed the camera back to the factory to have the prints made.

Over the next century Kodak cameras made taking pictures affordable and simple. The Kodak cameras were low cost and put a good camera into the hands of non-professionals.

The first Brownie camera was introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1900. The camera itself cost one dollar. It was manufactured in a black leatherette covered box.

The film included with the camera price was six exposure. When you purchased more film the cost was only 15 cents per roll. Eastman produced many different cameras through the 1900’s and many varieties of film. The camera shown in this article is the 1934 Brownie Junior.

The Kodak Brownie models had a long run and more than anything they introduced the public to low cost photography. The Brownie was meant for taking snapshots. It was immensely popular. The Kodak Brownie cameras were simple to use. The Kodak slogan was…”You Press the Button, We do the rest“.

1951 rolleiflex camera

1951 Rolleiflex

1951 Rolleiflex Twin Lens

The Rolleiflex twin lens is a high end camera. Their first camera was introduced in 1929 as the first medium format film roll camera. The camera shown here is a vintage 1951 Rolleiflex Automat 6X6 K4A twin lens reflex camera made by Franke & Heidecke of Germany. It’s a very popular collector’s camera. The Rolleiflex camera was noted for bright accurate reflex viewing and smooth focusing. The reflex camera uses both a reflected image from the camera’s lens and a viewfinder image. In the twin lens camera, one lens is used for actually taking the picture while the other lens is used for the viewfinder.

You will also enjoy our Trips Into History article on the Norden Bombsight that was crucial during World War Two.

See Vintage Cameras

There are a number of interesting museums around the United States that exhibit vintage and classic cameras. You may want to add some of these to your next road trip planner. Many vintage and classic cameras are in private collections and when you have an opportunity to visit a public camera museum it can be a rare adventure.

The Camera Heritage Museum– Located in Staunton Virginia, this museum houses a unique collection of antique cameras dating from the 19th century to modern times.

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History– Located in Washington D.C., the museum collects and preserves more than 3 million artifacts of American history. Here you’ll find some of the first Kodak cameras manufactured by George Eastman.

The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Center– Located in Oklahoma City Oklahoma, this very large museum shows everything cowboy and western. Included in the museum is a frontier exhibit with a photographers shop of the era. There you will also find a good collection of classic and vintage cameras.

UCR/ California Museum of Photography– This museum is part of the University of California Riverside “Artsblock.” Located in downtown Riverside California,  ARTSblock is composed of the California Museum of Photography, the Sweeney Art Gallery, and the Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts. A large collection of classic and vintage cameras are on display.

(Photos from author’s collection)