Tourist - Antique and Vintage Cameras



Thornton-Pickard Manufacturing Co.



Image of Tourist

8 " Watson Brothers rapid rectilinear. Iris diaphragm without aperture markings. Watson Brothers were active in the late 1880s to the early 1890s. Serial no. 9057 .

Polished Spanish mahogany with brass fittings. Leather bellows with square corners.

6 " x 4 " plates held in double dark-slides.

Bellows. Double extension. Rack and pinion movement to inner frame, second movement to front standard moving along inner frame.

Revolving back. Three plumb bobs. Turntable in base. Multi-lens front standard.

Version of c. 1888, brass front standard forks, McKellen's folding arrangement, brass turntable.

Rising front, central tilting front, swing back, central tilt back.

J .E. Thornton's first camera was the Jubilee introduced in late 1886 in readiness for the 1887 season (Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee). It incorporated several innovative features including a rotating lens panel able to hold up to four lenses and a flexible focusing screen mounted on a spring-loaded roller, in other respects it was a conventional field camera with a rear standard fixed to the baseboard, an inner focusing frame and a front standard that could be disengaged to close the camera. The Jubilee was manufactured by Joshua Billcliff to designs and patent specifications by Thornton, it was fitted with Billcliff's rotating back and had a hole in the baseboard with a turntable to which the tripod legs were fixed.

The Jubilee was replaced during the following year (1887) by the Tourist, this was very similar but included 'Thornton's Improved Patent' revolving back and a conventional focusing screen.1 Although described as a distinct model there was probably an easy transition from the Jubilee to the Tourist.

Early models of the Tourist had a front standard that disengaged from the baseboard to close the camera, similar to the Jubilee. In 1888 McKellen's method of collapsing the camera using a swivelling lens board was fitted as was a new pattern of central tilt back with curved guide slots in the bracket that attached the rear standard to the baseboard. The company name changed at the start of this year from Thornton Manufacturing Co. to Thornton-Pickard Manufacturing Co.

The Tourist was not listed after 1891 though the name was later (1903) resurrected for a field camera.

The most unusual feature of the Jubilee and Tourist was the provision for multiple lenses to be fitted to the lens panel. The panel rotates (released by a small catch) and clicks into one of four positions for up to four lenses. Although this works well there is a restriction on the diameter of the lens flange, also, the rear of the lens must not project past the lens panel. Behind the lens panel is a velvet-covered baffle that prevents light entering through the unused lenses.

In addition, the lens panel and baffle can be set in one of four positions, the two vertical positions give more or less rising or falling front. The two horizontal positions give the equivalent of a cross-front movement or could possibly be used for stereo photography (the 7 " x 5" model could be fitted with two stereo lenses). To change the position the top of the front standard is removed and the lens panel is removed, the baffle can then be moved to one of the four positions (there are recesses to locate the panel).

The rising front is operated by simply lifting the lens board, two bolts on the lens board connect to a non-return ratchet on the front standard forks to hold the lens board in place. The bolts can be withdrawn to lower the lens board by a pair of spring catches situated below the lens. The lens board is also able to tilt forward when the bolts are withdrawn.2

A central tilting back is fitted, to operate this the bottom of the rear standard moves in a curved track within a bracket fixed to the baseboard (the back sits in a notch and has to be lifted into the curved track). The back is only able to tilt backwards using this arrangement. The brackets also provide slots to operate the swing back, springs on the baseboard engage the bracket when the rear standard is in the neutral position.3

On the example shown here the front standard forks and the cross piece connecting them are of brass, this was also used on the Jubilee, on other, probably later, models of the Tourist the forks and cross piece are of wood and brass. The later models do not have a ratchet for the rising front, there are no bolts on the lens board and therefore no catches on the lens board to retract the bolts. Another known example of the Tourist does not have a swing back, the central tilting back is present. The heavy brass corner pieces are not always present. On early models the wood used is a very dark Spanish mahogany (as on this example) on other examples the wood is much lighter. Early examples probably had a wooden tripod fitting, the example shown here has a brass turntable and fittings.4

Some aspects of the example shown here are typical of Billcliff cameras and he was probably the manufacturer of at least the wooden case work. Thornton-Pickard were manufacturing cameras during the lifetime of the Tourist but it is not known at what point Billcliff ceased making the camera. Rendell, Thornton-Pickard Story, states that manufacturing started during 1887 but initially this was shutter production, he goes on to quote from correspondence dated June 1888 in which Thornton states that they have been compelled to start manufacture themselves due to the delay in getting cameras made and the poor quality of finish.5 This is interesting as it shows that Thornton was manufacturing, though the term can mean different things, by mid 1888. The reference to the delivered cameras being of poor finish cannot apply to Billcliff who did high-quality work at that time. Possibly the relationship with Billcliff ended during late 1887 and early 1888 leaving Thornton with a small stock of completed and partly completed Billcliff cameras that he then finished in-house or had finished by jobbing shops prior to starting complete manufacture within Thornton-Pickard. If this was the case it would account for early (Billcliff) cameras carrying the Thornton-Pickard name plaque without mention of Billcliff and for later features, such as the brass turntable, being fitted, as parts would have been upgraded when the camera was assembled.6 Another point to consider is that the Tourist is advertised as being fitted with Thornton's revolving back rather than Billcliff's, if this is true for all Tourist models it might indicate that the relationship ended earlier, at the start of Tourist production.

The camera includes many elegant features but gives the impression that it was designed on paper without due thought to practical usage. The camera is heavy due to the amount of brass work, it would also be hard to operate the rise and tilt movements when on a tripod.

The Jubilee and Tourist cameras are important not for their individual features but because they were the first of a long line of popular field cameras from one of the leading manufacturers in Britain. After the design extravagances of the Tourist, Thornton-Pickard settled down to make good quality conventional field cameras aimed at the amateur market starting with the Ruby in 1890.7

References & Notes

BP 2670/1886. BP 14421/1886 (not applicable to this example). BP 13240/1886. BJA 1888, p. 684. BJA 1889, p. 726. YBP 1887, p. xciii. YBP 1888.

[1] Although advertised as 'patented' Thornton's revolving back was not patented.

[2] Similar to the spring-loaded bolts later used on the front panel of Sanderson cameras.

[3] A similar swing back arrangement was used on the later Royal Ruby camera.

[4] A photograph reproduced in Rendell of the St Mary's St works shows a large field camera with a brass turntable.

[5] Thornton was having financial problems at the time, possibly the delay in delivery of cameras was due to late payment by Thornton.

[6] Billcliff's name is present on the plaque of a Jubilee camera.

[7] Other pre Ruby models were the Cyclum, Artist and the Popular.

Further Information:
Rendell, Douglas. Thornton-Pickard Story. Provides very good information on the company and shows a Jubilee model.
Davies, David A. The Manchester Camera Makers, pub. in the Photographist. Gives information on Thornton and Thornton-Pickard.

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