Incredible, Turn-of-the-Century Tale of the World’s Biggest Camera
Unique commission to create a massive photograph of a train led this historic invention.
At the turn of the century, the Chicago & Alton Railways company decided to commission a massive, eight-foot-long photograph of its prized train the Alton Limited. In turn, this project necessitated the building of the biggest camera in the world. A new story in Atlas Obscura looks back at the Alton Limited, the photographer George R. Lawrence, and his Brobdingnagian camera of 1900.
Lawrence, a storied photographer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, went about assembling the world’s largest camera when Chicago & Alton rejected his idea of creating a composite image from multiple pictures. The camera Lawrence dreamed up and put to use weighed in at 900 pounds and, according to a Brooklyn Daily Eagle report at the time, required 15 workers to operate. Lawrence reportedly needed 10 gallons of chemicals to develop the eventual photo.
The final result was not-so-modestly dubbed by Chicago & Alton as “The Largest Photograph in the World of the Handsomest Train in the World.”
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