The above carte made by a Wisconsin photographer is one I bought a few years ago at a going-out-of-business antique store in Cartersville, Georgia. I think it is a fine image, and the object on a stand to the right of the gentleman really intrigued me. At that time I asked others on the Photo History list if they had seen anything like the object on the fancy stand, and no one contacted me who had.
A few months ago, in a search for a Georgia man’s patent listing, I was perusing the ever-useful American Photographic Patents – The Daguerreotype & Wet Plate Era 1840 – 1880 by Janice G. Schimmelman, and I stumbled upon an image of the patent drawing (page 99) for an object that looked very familiar. The patent image reproduced in the book was for “Improvements in Picture-Exhibitors” which was granted to a George A. Lauer, of Cincinnati, Ohio, on January 18, 1876. It is noted that Lauer assigned one-half of his right in the patent to a J. W. Taft, of Chicago, Illinois.
I looked closely at the scan of my Wisconsin photographer’s carte-de-visite, and yes, it did seemed to be the very same viewer-object! I sought out the entire Lauer patent data via Google patent search and saved the entire document as a PDF.
In the document G. A. Lauer submitted to the patent office he explained his invention, and here is the pertinent portion:
Figure l is a perspective View of a photoalbum or cabinet, embodying my invention. Fig. 2 .is a partial perspective view of the frame for holding the picture. —- the pictures are exhibited and secured within a stand or case [and it] consists in part of a certain construction of the case or cabinet and arrangement of glasses or lenses, whereby the best light is thrown upon the pictures, —- and the pictures being secured to an endless belt, by operating which, one picture at a time will appear at a given point of view.
I posted the main image from the patent and reposted my own photograph onto the Photo History List and asked if any or all agreed that the two “viewers” – the one in the patent drawing and the one in my photograph – were one and the same.
I received only one comment, and it was all I needed. The commenter and I exchanged photographs, a digital image of my carte in exchange for an image of that exact viewer in his collection!
The label attached to the bottom of this cabinet tells us that the viewer, now known as the Revolving Picture Cabinet, was manufactured by Ta[aft] & Schwame, of Chicago, Illinois. Now we know why Mr Taft was assigned one-half of the patent.
This viewer is the one Lauer designed for cartes-de-visite, but I am told he also designed one to hold cabinet cards.
Could the man in my carte be George A. Lauer? If not, why is this man standing next to this particular photograph viewer? And why go to a Wisconsin photographer if it is Mr. Lauer of Cincinnati, or possibly Mr. J.W. Taft of Chicago?
These are questions that may never be answered. But I would be excited if they could be. Because these are not strictly Georgia-related, I won’t take time to pursue it. Contact me or leave a Comment to this post if you can help to answer those questions. Meanwhile, make the most of your hunting and gathering, even if questions remain!
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