Portable Darkroom Hood — 1924

by Paula Bosse

This “portable darkroom” is nothing if not eye-catching. The illustration accompanied a short article in the December, 1924 issue of Popular Mechanics.

portable-darkroom_popular-mechanics_dec-1924
Popular Mechanics, Dec., 1924

I’d be a little concerned about the heady cocktail of chemicals wafting around inside that rubber hood — there must have been some sort of opening to allow the fumes to escape. Still, it sounds a little better than an earlier portable darkroom from 1911, invented by an unnamed “Illinoisan,” which also was part-hood, but the hood on this one tied around the neck (!):

portable-darkr-oom_syndicated_oct-19111911

Another portable darkroom. from 1907, below, did not have the fetishistic trappings of rubber or a hood — it had roomier cloth “walls” which tied around the user’s waist. (AND it had a “ventilating tube.”)

portable-dark-room_canton-PA-independent-sentinel-031407
Canton, PA Independent-Sentinel, March 14, 1907

Here’s another one along similar lines which was put into use during World War I:

military-portable-darkroom_philadelphia-inquirer_110516_det

military-portable-darkroom_philadelphia-inquirer_110516
Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 5, 1916

But back to the hoods. Read the patent submission from 1887 by Isaac Griscom of Woodbury, New Jersey for his “Portable Dark-Room” here. It seems very similar to the one featured in Popular Mechanics almost 40 years later.

griscom_portable-dark-room_google-patents_1889
Griscom patent, Google Patents

I hope those hooded photographers were not overcome by the fumes in such a tight space. This Griscom detail looks like a befuddled character from an Edward Gorey book who has found himself somehow entangled in his overcoat. But since it was meant to depict a photographer at work, mixing chemicals and developing plates, I’ll just silently hope he’s not at the precipice of unconsciousness. …He’s probably okay — he’s still standing. …For now.

griscom_portable-dark-room_google-patents_1889_det

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Sources & Notes

Top clipping is from the December, 1924 issue of Popular Mechanics: it can be found in a scan of the magazine here, or on the Modern Mechanix blog, here.

That top image is really strange-looking — I can’t help but think of the creepy images from Victorian photography in which mothers “hid” themselves in photos of their children by disguising themselves as furniture or drapery (see some of those fantastically odd examples here).

Check out a really great illustrated article, “The Portable Darkroom,” on the Battle Born Historical Photography site, here.

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Copyright © 2019 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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