Dating 5" x 4" Spring Backs

Paul Kay

Member
Registered User
Can anyone tell me when 5" x 4" sprung backs were first introduced in Britain? I ask because I have such a back made by L Gandolfi (so I assume before 1928) and just wanted to see if there is anyway that I can tighten up its date of manufacture further?
 

Ian Grant

Well-Known Member
Registered User
Well Kodak Ltd were selling some largercameras with spring backs before WWI here in the UK. however the U5x4 Premosold in the US took a standard fit DDS spring back but those sold in the UK had a bookform back. I have a Premo 5x4 DDS in front of me it is interchangeable with a modern DDS the onlt difference is the light trap area is much shorter and the other end doesn't fold over to hold the plate instead it has a sprung piece inside. I also have an Eastman Kodak 5x4 plate holder same fit but the plate sits slightly more towards the end away from the light trap it, lists EK patents 1904, 1906, &1908, so there still wasn't an absolute standard at Eastman Kodak as tehy owned Premo.

I ssuspect the spring back and more modern style DDS were introduced to UK photographers by US troops during WW1, I'm not sure when Kodak Ltd began making field cameras here in the UK but that's the point when British made spring backs seem to have appeared here.

WW1 had a big impact on the photographic industry here, a shortage of specialist optical glass had lead to the Government getting Pilkingtons to enter the market, and they are now the world leader in specialist optical glass. Another change was British made cameras all used mainly British lenses, Kodak Ltd in particular was making almost all cameras for the British and Continetal market in the UK and using British lenses but then they had strong links with Ross who they weer agents for in Australia and New Zealand and Cooke who Eastman Kodak distributed in the US and Canada for a while.

I've not seen a reference to a spring back in any BJP Almanac before the end of WWII except with Korona Banquet cameras imported by Kodak and a Kodak Ltd Wide Angle whole plate camera. I'm only missing one BJP Almanac from 1920-63 I think 1925.

It's probable the back you have was a special order someone who appreciated the Kodak Plate holders they were selling in the UK. It's odd that the spring back and it's greater flexibility didn't become standard here until after WWII.

Ian
 

Paul Kay

Member
Registered User
Thanks Ian, that's really useful. The back is stamped 'L Gandolfi Maker London' inside and '32' which probably links it to a specific camera (I bough the back only and it must have got separated long ago. It takes modern Fidelity DDDs happily. It fits accurately onto a 1950/60s half-plate Precision camera made by the brothers, but not onto an earlier half-plate Tail-board made by Louis (standardisation does not appear to be a Gandolfi strong point although continuity, to some extent at least, does). I'm assuming that anything stamped 'L Gandolfi' is prior to 1928 when he handed the business to the brothers, but this is an assumption. Your suggestion that WW1 saw such backs being introduced from the US into the UK makes good sense, so I may tentatively suggest a manufacture date as being from 1918-1928ish/maybe. Part of the reason I want to date it is because I have two Louis era Gandolfis made of similar wood so they may be of similar age. They also use the same knurling on the brass knobs which is line knurling as opposed to the diamond pattern found on later cameras. Despite the longevity of The Gandolfi firm and number cameras it must have produced, there still appears to be no definitive history of their camera production.
 
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