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The Thornton-Pickard Manufacturing Company Ltd. was a camera maker based in Altrincham, Cheshire (later to Greater Manchester), UK. It made the famous Ruby and Rubyette hand cameras. The company made its own shutters, for example the patent Panoptic shutter or the Unit focal plane shutter. Many Thornton-Pickard cameras were equipped with Dallmeyer lenses.
From 1880 to 1886 John Edward Thornton (1865-1940) was in apprenticehip at the renowned printing company George Faulkner & Sons. There he began to invent a new camera (the Jubilee) and the Time roller blind shutter. In 1886 he founded a trading company that sold cameras and shutters. Among these items were those on which he had received patents. They were produced by others. The Jubilee for example was made by Billcliff of Manchester. Already in 1887 Thornton could present a whole palette of products in a Royal Jubilee Exhibition. At the same time he launched his Thornton Manufacturing Company to take over the production of his shutters and cameras. At the end of the year he already owned 12 patents. He could win engineer and business manager Edgar Pickard (1862-1897) as partner with whom he relaunched his company as Thornton-Pickard Manufacturing Company Ltd. in 1888. They focused themselves on the production of shutters which were highly in demand, and added the camera model Artist to their other products. Some years later they moved from Manchester to Altrincham. Until then George Pickard, the father of Edgar Pickard, had to help financially to launch the business. For a while they reduced camera production to making only their newest model, the Ruby camera, later adding the Amber.
J. E. Thornton's relation to Edgar Pickard was a little bit troublesome. But things came worse for him in March 1897 when Edgar Pickard died at the age of 35. Edgar Pickard's oldest brother George Arthur Pickard (1850-1919), a business manager, took over the leading role at T-P shortly after its relaunch as public limited company. In May of the same year he could announce to the company's shareholders' first general assembly a rapid increase of camera sales. The shutter maker had been successfully transformed into a camera maker. But J. E. Thornton and G. A. Pickard were strongly opposing to each other so that Thornton's leave was announced in an extraordinary general meeting in 1898. G. A. Pickard led the company until his death in 1919.
Thornton's engineering talent wasn't limited to cameras and shutters so that he could make several new attempts in entrepreneurship. One attempt was to build up a film making business. When he had founded his Thornton Film Company Ltd. he got a patent on a film pack which he called 'Daypack'. Rochester Optical Co. got interest in that film pack, an interest that resulted in a treaty with Thornton. Since Kodak took over Rochester Optical Co. in 1903 Thornton received royalties for his patent since that time. He died in 1940.
Despite of the loss of its two founders the Thornton-Pickard Manufacturing Company Ltd. Photographic Apparatus flourished under G. A. Pickard, becoming a leading British camera maker. With modern machines it could achieve cost reductions in some areas so that some budget camera models could be offered. For example the Imperial Triple Extension Camera was sold as the 17-Shilling-Set. And the Tribune was offered for a guinea as camera for beginners. Later a series of cheap snapshot cameras was added: Snappa, Clipper, and Limit. On the other hand Thornton-Pickard's new flagship series was born: The Ruby Reflex SLRs.
After WWI there was a hopeful restart when worldwar security policies concerning photography ended. After G.A. Pickard's death Arthur Gray Pickard took over the lead. Beside new cameras the company launched the Picabrik construction kit for children. But the 1920s started with a trade depression that turned the company's hopeful restart into its slow decline. But the company remained as a maker of quality cameras until its end in 1939. A repair service was kept alive until ca. 1960.
Camera list Edit
- Royal Ruby stereo camera
- Imperial Double Extension
- Imperial Triple Extension
- Royal Ruby
- Imperial Perfecta
- Nimrod Automan hand camera
- Folding Ruby hand camera
- New Folding Ruby No.2
- Focal-Plane Folding Ruby Tropical camera
- Stereo Unit Folding Ruby camera
- Special Ruby
- Vest Pocket Minim
- Imperial Pocket No. 2
- Safety Magazine camera
- Ruby Reflex
- Folding Filma
- Special Ruby Reflex (6" x 6" x 8" high body) with countersunk interchangeable lens
- Type "A" Aero Camera
- Type "C" Aero Camera
- Type "E" Aero Camera
- Mk. III Hythe Gun Camera
- Imperial Portrait Camera
- Thornton-Pickard at Science & Industry Museum Manchester
- Thornton-Pickard cameras on Wood & Brass Cameras by Eric Evans
- Thornton-Pickard Camera Listing with detailed information at Historic Camera
- Thornton-Pickard Company History at Historic Camera
- Douglas Rendell: The Thornton-Pickard Story, Prudhoe (Northumberland) 1992