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Camera, Aerial, Hare, Patent Field

Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum

George Hare developed the Patent Field Camera in London in 1882 and this plate camera recevied modifications over the years including adaptation to roll film. American Wesley D. Archer used this camera for photography during his RAF service during World War I.Upon his return to the U.S. in 1920, Archer became a set designer and worked on movie productions. Archer honed his model building skills and assembled numerous replicas of World War I aircraft such as Fokkers, Albatrosses, S.E.5s and Nieuports. With these models and a camera, Archer fabricated aerial combat photographs. People thought they were authentic and boasted them as the best aerial combat pictures ever taken. G.P. Putnam's Sons publishing house in New York featured his photographs in an exhibition of aviation art titled, "The World in the Air." The popularity of the photographs increased when the book, Death in the Air: The War Diary and Photographs of a Flying Corps Pilot, written by Archer himself, was published in 1933. In it he created personas and a story about a RFC pilot who took a camera from a downed German aircraft and rigged it under his wing in order to take the pictures. His wife Betty participated in the hoax by posing as Gladys Maud Cockburn-Lange and sold the photographs, known as the Cockburn-Lange collection, to numerous individuals and publishing companies. The truth about the Archer's hoax was discovered in the 1980's by Peter Grosz and NASM curatorial assistant Karl Schneide when the museum received the collection from Archer's friend, John Charlton.

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  • Title: Camera, Aerial, Hare, Patent Field
  • Physical Dimensions: 3-D (Camera): 24.5 × 32 × 24.2cm (9 5/8 × 12 5/8 × 9 1/2 in.)3-D (Plate): 23.5 × 16 × 2.3cm (9 1/4 × 6 5/16 × 7/8 in.)
  • External Link: https://airandspace.si.edu/collection/id/nasm_A19830206000
  • Medium: Wood, leather and cloth bellows, metal lens ring

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