Wet-plate Dark Tent - Antique and Vintage Cameras

Wet-plate Dark Tent

1860s

Image of Wet-plate Dark Tent

When opened the case forms a base section which is covered in a black rubber material and has a removable 'sink' of rubberised canvas. In the centre of the sink is a water outlet. At the rear of the base is a door, this opens allowing a nitrate bath to be inserted into a pocket. The back section has a door which opens to reveal a red glass safelight. At the top of the back section is a door which when opened allows a water tank to be connected.

A yellow/brown cloth is fitted to the inside of the back and base and folds out to cover the operator.

Construction:
Pine box 24 " x 18 x 5 ", dovetailed joints and leather handle.

Format:
6 " x 8 " plates

With:
Water tank. Ebonite silver nitrate bath. Dipper for bath. Clamp for water tube.

At a time when the glass plate had to be sensitised, the photograph taken and the negative developed whilst still moist, some form of portable darkroom was essential for the travelling photographer. These were often home-made affairs consisting of poles stuck in the ground with a covering of cloth. More elaborate examples included horse-drawn vans, hand-carts, wheelbarrows and many types of commercially available tent.

A popular form was a tray resting on a tripod with supports to hold the cloth covering clear of the operator. From 1859 Rouch sold a tent that, when closed, resembled a suitcase. It opened to form a tray on which to work, the top hinged up to form the back of the tent and contained a safelight window and sometimes shelves for the chemicals. The design may have been based on a tent produced by Ernest Edwards at around this time. Patrick Meagher sold a similar tent advertised as "The Improved Edwards' Tent" which cost 6.10.0, the same as the Rouch. Both Rouch and Meagher sold brass bound mahogany versions suitable for the tropics. A wheelbarrow model is described in the 1873 catalogue by Cox as folding flat so that it can be transported on a train, at only 3.3.0 it must have been of light construction.

The dark tent remained in limited use after the wet-plate period, later models can be distinguished as they are not fitted for a nitrate bath. These provided a temporary workspace that was easy to set up for photographers without a permanent darkroom or who were away from their home or studio for a long period.

The nitrate bath with this example is fitted with legs so that it can be used outside of the tent.

References & Notes:
PN 27/7/1866, p. 352, description of the Edwards' tent. BJA 1877, p. lxxiii. BJA, 1884, p. cv, Rouch advertisements. Cox, Cat. 1873, p. 25. A Manual of Photographic Chemistry, p. 326.

Further Information:
Coe, Cameras, p. 26.
Information on the Wet Collodion Process.

Illustrations:
Bland Cat. 1859, p. 27. Shows a tray type with supports at each corner. Christie's Cat. 11/12/2002 lot 125. Shows a model by Wratten & Wainwright from the Barron collection. Christie's Cat 13/5/98 lot 103. Model by Murray & Heath. Christie's Cat 19/5/88 lot 109. Model by Rouch. Sci. Mus. Cameras. p.9. Shows a very complete hand-cart model previously in the Science Museum London. PA 1891, p. 510. Shows several later dry plate tents.

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