The Mammoth Camera by the J.A. Anderson Company
The Mammoth camera was manufactured by the J.A. Anderson Company, Chicago in 1900. It was designed as the largest camera every made in order to capture a complete train with cars.
The following is an excerpt from the Railroad magazine, 1901:[sic]
The Chicago & Alton Railway had built a special train to go into fast daylight service from Chicago to St. Louis and wanted it photographed. Mr. Charlton, the director, believed his train to be the handsomest in the world and he wanted a photograph of it, six long Pullmans, engine, tender and all. He called the company’s photographer, George R. Lawrence, and instructed Mr. Lawrence that it was necessary to have a photograph 8 feet long of the ” Alton Limited. ” The photographer explained that the train would have to be photographed in sections, and these sections fitted together during the process of printing. But he felt obliged to add that this was an ordinary method which was not conducive to absolute truthfulness of perspective, and one which would certainly show the joints, no matter how carefully the different sections were blended together.
But the directors did not want a half-and-half photograph. They had built a faultless train, of which they demanded a faultless photograph, and it must be a photograph at least 8 feet long. The photographer assured them of his helplessness in the matter, but the directors were more than obdurate; they insisted. At last a truce was called, and the railway photographer left the boardroom with an idea.
When, sometime after the conference, the photographer returned, it was with the plans for a camera holding a single plate 8 feet by 4 1/2 feet, this being three times as large as the largest plate ever before exposed. The Chicago & Alton Railway, then and there gave Mr. Lawrence, their photographer, carte blanche to have such a camera made.
The lenses were ground at great expense and trouble. They arc the largest photographic lenses ever made. The wide angle lens has an equivalent focus of 5 1/2 feet; the other lens, a telescopic, rectilinear lens, is of 10 feet equivalent focus. The latter was the one used when taking the large photograph of the ” Alton Limited. ”
The plates for this gigantic camera are also the largest ever manufactured. They are made in St. Louis, and have to be coated entirely by hand. They cost $70 per dozen. Five gallons of developer arc used to develop one plate, and the services of eight men arc required to manipulate it during the process in the dark room.
The camera was transported on a flat freight car, but when away from the railway was moved in a specially padded van. Fifteen men were necessary to handle and set up the monster camera, to focus and photograph the train.
There was no snap-shotting this subject. On the occasion of this, the first exposure, the day was clear, but an exposure of 2 1/2 minutes was given. An isochromatic plate was used to preserve the colour-value of the train, and from the first exposure a perfect negative was secured, resulting in the largest photograph ever made on one plate, or, to quote the proud boast of the railway concerned,
the largest photograph in the world of the handsomest train in the world.