Camera, miniature, 'Demon', metal / glass, designed by Walter O'Reilly, made by American Camera Co, England, 1889
The most unusual and rare item in the collection is the Demon Camera designed by Walter O'Reilly, and patented by him in England in July 1888. It was produced and marketed by the American Camera Co, England. Advertising material for the Demon claimed the camera would "defy detection and could be used in Law Courts, Railway Carriages and Divorce Cases". This example is the earlier (c1889), of two models produced. It is 2 1/4 inches square in size, taking round photos on square plates. The later model was of much larger size.
Designed by Walter O'Reilly. Manufactured by the American Camera Co, in England.
During the latter part of the nineteenth century photographic manufacturers and retailers often made generous claims for their products. The American Camera Co of London was no exception to this.
For their Demon camera they stated that "The sale exceeds that of all other hand cameras combined" which was an extravagant claim and one that would have been almost impossible to verify. Additionally, the company advertised at one point that the Demon had an average sale of 2000 per week and 100,000 were sold in twelve months. Later the camera's box advertised "sale has already exceeded 250,000". The American Camera Co also boasted that their camera was superior to other more expensive products:
"In daylight, gaslight, sunshine, rain, Each faithful Demon works the same, And, fills with life the album page; While five guinea cameras groan with rage."
The camera over which these claims and others such as the camera being the "wonder of the world" was made in Birmingham by W Phillips and was the subject of British patent no.10,823 of 26 July 1888. Made in nickel siver it weighed under 3 ozs. and was sold with dry plates, chemicals and instructions. Model 1 produced pictures 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches and model 2, available from 1891 produced pictures 3 3/4 x 3 3/4 inches.
The specific use of this camera is unknown however the marketers of the Demon camera made claims in their advertising that it could "defy detection and could be used in law courts, railway carriages and divorce cases". The camera was collected by Jock Leate from the mid to late 1900s.