Images of Lost US Seaside Camera Obscuras in Our Collection
We are always on the lookout for references to camera obscuras that no longer exist. We are aware from the literature of the time that many beaches and ocean resorts included a camera obscura building. In some cases we have found only mentions in texts and no images. In other cases we have found wonderful pictures with no identification as to location. We are always working to pair location and images. On this page we will share images of "lost" camera obscuras located at the seaside in the United States.
Ocean Grove, New Jersey

We bought a ticket to the Camera Obscura on the Board Walk at Ocean Grove, New Jersey for the 1887 season shown below. This kind of clue sets us looking for other references to "lost" instruments. We found a view book of Asbury Park and Ocean Grove from the 1890s and "JOY" found it contained a picture of a camera obscura next to the board walk.

Below on the left is a close-up of the camera obscura. The booklet is dated 1896 and it seems very likely that this is the same camera obscura for which the ticket was used.

Coney Island, New York

The trade card on the right advertises Janton's Georama and Camera Obscura West Brighton, Coney Island while the back quotes praise of the attraction in newspapers of the day. Since the camera obscura from the Illustrated Police News seems to stand alone on the beach with nothing to suggest a "Georama" this appears to be a different instrument from the same period. The card carries a hard to read copyright date from the 1880s. If anyone can give us a source of information on the Georama we would be grateful.

References to a number of different camera obscuras at Coney Island, New York appear in accounts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

On the left is an 1880 tabloid newspaper The Illustrated Police News. It appears to be the 19th century equivalent of the papers like the National Inquirer of today. Filled with sensational stories of murder, kidnapping, celebrities in trouble, child abuse and cows falling from the sky, it would not be much out of place at a supermarket checkout. The cover illustrates a story of an unlucky husband who takes a young lady (not his wife) to Coney Island only to have his wife and her friend visit the camera obscura which overlooks the spot where they are sitting.

This is especially interesting to us since it is an example of the metaphor of the camera obscura as voyeur we have noted before.


A recent find that delights us is the stereo card on the right. It shows a stand-alone wooden camera camera obscura of the type common at parks and beaches in the 19th century. We feel this could be the same instrument featured in the Police News story. Below is shown an enlarged view of the stairs and doorway. It has not one but three signs proclaiming it a Camera Obscura.

The sign on the railing reads "The Wonderful Camera Obscura" and lists open time that can not be read. Two men, a woman, and several children stand on the steps.

The card is labeled "Popular Series" "American Views". This was not a high quality series and the card shows several flaws in coating and cutting but camera obscura cards are so hard to find that we were happy add it to our collection.

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What is a camera obscura?

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Frequently Asked Questions about the Camera Obscura (please check this page before sending email questions)

Links and a Bibliography about the camera obscura

Map and illustrated diary of
our visits to
US camera obscuras

Map and illustrated diary of
our 1996 trip to
Great Britain camera obscuras

Images of camera obscuras from our collection.

Some Images from our collection
The Camera Obscura at War
Advertising flyer for a Camera Obscura
Trade Cards with Camera Obscuras
Lost UK Seaside Camera Obscuras
Other Lost UK Camera Obscuras
Lost US Seaside Camera Obscura < You are here
Lost US Park Camera Obscuras
Melville Garden Camera Obscura
Other Lost US Camera Obscuras
Lost European Camera Obscuras
No, it's not a camera obscura

Portable and box camera obscuras from our collection.
Wooden Camera Obscuras
Metal Camera Obscuras
Camera Obscuras with the Lens at the Top
Cardboard Camera Obscuras
A French Artist's Camera with supplies
Vermeer's Camera, a 1934 teaching camera
Camera Obscura Publications

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Modified 9/2004