Recording with the huge photographic room(chamber) of the engineer Lawrence (weight 634 kg). It(he) executed at the expense of the Company of Railroads Chicago and Alton of photos measuring 2,40 metres on about 1,50 metres. BOY-8935. (Photo by Boyer/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)

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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.”

Read the full story at Atlas Obscura