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The Chicago Camera Co., 56 Fifth Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, introduced its compact special budget magazine camera Photake in 1896. The company held a patent on this ingenious camera construction. It is a metal camera, mainly consisting of two cans, the one rotatable inside the other. Five 2×2" plates could be placed along the vessel wall of the inner can. The outer can be turned upon the inner can to five marked positions where the lens barrel stood exactly over one of the five light openings of the inner can. These holes were exactly opposite to one plate.

The lever below the lens barrel is the shutter release.

The Photake had a modern design, coloured brown with wildly placed copper-color stripes. The camera was sold in a wooden box together with six dry plates, chemicals for developing and fixing, 12 sheets blueprint paper for making contact prints, one sheet of ruby paper to tinker a darkroom lamp, an instruction booklet and the attachable reflecting type viewfinder, all together for just 2.50 US-Dollars.

The Photake has been copied a number of times. The German Mephisto of 1910 is a fairly close copy, and presumably licensed the design of the Photake. Ernemann produced a cardboard version (the Bob, like many of their cameras) in about 1900; a cheap novelty by comparison, and the French Photo Quint is similar.


  • Photake camera in original wooden box, with pack of six plates, at the George Eastman Museum.
  • US Patent 568422, filed July 1895 and granted September 1896 to Henry E. Willsie, assignor to the Chicago Camera Co.; at Espacenet, the patent search facility of the European Patent Office.
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