1890s Cameras & Cycling

1896 Cycle Poco No 1 Camera

Since their advent, tourists, huntsmen, canoeists, and the public in general have seen the practicability and advantages over the other styles, having become the most popular camera that we manufacture. Other manufacturers seeing its worth have copied the style as closely as possible, trying to avoid our patents. This alone should commend it to the trade in general. For wheelmen there is nothing so pleasing as photography in connection with their tours, as it calls to mind the many beautiful scenes through which they have passed. The Cycle Poco is the wheelmen’s companion, being made very light and compact and can be easily carried on the wheel without inconvenience. It is equipped with two tripod plates fitting our bicycle clamp, which can be placed on the handlebar of the wheel, the wheel serving as a tripod. The case can be attached to the frame of the bicycle with our cycle camera carrier, without injury to the camera, case or wheel. No jar or movement being discernible.

– Cycle Poco catalogue


The Cycle Poco was designed for the cyclist as an extremely compact camera with all the features of the regular Poco. It was quickly adopted by tourists and other mobile sports enthusiasts, and fitted neatly under the crossbar of a bicycle. The lens was a high grade planatograph with automatic shutter with pneumatic release. The camera was available in 4 x 5 and 5 x 7 sizes.

The Cycle Poco No. 1 was manufactured by the Rochester Camera Mfg. Co between 1895 and 1903.

The Cycle Poco No. 2 was built between 1897 and 1899, and featured a B&L Rapid Rectilinear lens and Unicum shutter.

The camera was constructed of a solid mahogany box dovetailed and highly polished. Is was covered with the best seal grain leather with an accompanying leather handle, polished and lacquered brass metal hardware, and High quality red Russian leather bellows with rings and lined with gossamer cloth. The back featured a vertical and horizontal central swing that was detachable, with a spring actuated ground glass with a panel for focusing. The front featured a rising and double sliding adjustment with a detachable lens board and rack and single rack and pinion focusing. Two tripod sockets were provided along with a combination view finder and level.



The Rochester Optical Company was established by W. F. Carlton in 1883. Meanwhile, in January 1884, William Walker joined Eastman to make the Eastman-Walker Roll Holder, and the following year he became secretary to the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company. Shortly after this, Walker was sent to England as Eastman’s representative in that country. The new Rochester Optical Company was located at 9 and then 11 Aqueduct Street, near the four corners in Rochester, and at first they continued to make some of Walker’s cameras. They soon added new models of their own, their most successful innovation being the Premo line, introduced in 1893 and continued for almost 30 years.

In 1890 the plant was moved to 5 South Water Street, and early in 1895 to its final home at 45 South Street, the building being still in existence. In 1891, H. B. Carlton, brother of W. F., decided to set up a rival company in the old building at 13 Aqueduct Street, which he called the Rochester Camera Manufacturing Company, making Poco cameras. This became the Rochester Camera Company in 1895, at that time located at 29 Elizabeth Street, and finally in 1897 the Rochester Camera and Supply Company. In 1899 five camera companies decided to join forces to form the Rochester Optical and Camera Company. They were: the Rochester Optical Company, the Rochester Camera and Supply Company, the Ray Camera Company, the Monroe Camera Company, and the Western Camera Manufacturing Company of Chicago. The new combined company occupied the R.O.C. building at 45 South Street. In spite of this union, their products retained their old names of Poco, Premo, Ray, and Cyclone. The officers of the new company were W. F. Carlton, manager, with H. B. Carlton, B. E. Chase, and F. P. Allen. Unfortunately the new combined company was not a success and lost as much as $100,000 a year, so in 1903 their entire assets were acquired by George Eastman for $330,000, and their name was changed back to the Rochester Optical Company. In 1907 it became the Rochester Optical Division of the Eastman Kodak Company, and in 1918 the Rochester Optical Department. The factory at 45 South Street became Kodak’s Premo Works from 1912 to 1921, after which the name was finally abandoned and the building sold.