A bit of History 

Since 1884....
The Camera Club of Cincinnati was founded in January of 1884, making it one of the oldest camera clubs in the country. The club was originally part of the Cincinnati Society of Natural History and officially known as "The Photographic Section of the Cincinnati Society of Natural History".

By 1890, the membership numbered over 130 and had headquarters at 108 Broadway. Meetings were held on the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month. The club had an annual excursion every Decoration Day and an annual lantern-slide exhibition each winter. The club was a member of the American Lantern-Slide Interchange and "monthly exhibitions of lantern slides are given in at the club rooms".

Sometime between 1890 and 1944, we think in the 1920's, the club separated from the Cincinnati Society of Natural History and in 1944 the club incorporated as the Camera Club of Cincinnati.

Little is known about the clubs past activities. During one of the clubs many moves, the club records were not preserved. We have one book of minutes from the meetings in late 1941 and a few newspaper clippings from the 50's and early 60's. We do however; have an article from the September 1887 issue of "The Century Magazine" and a program from the "Seventh Annual Exhibition of Lantern Slides" in 1890, both articles fix the founding date as January 1884.

In the 50's the Camera Club of Cincinnati was a member of the Associated Camera Clubs of Cincinnati, which was comprised of The Camera Club of Cincinnati, The Queen City Pictorialists, the Ohio Valley Camera Club, the Seven Hills Photographers and the Professional Photographers Club. Of these clubs, only the Camera Club of Cincinnati survives today. In 1961 The Camera Club of Cincinnati and the Southern Ohio Camera Club held a joint exhibition and open critique at St. John Unitarian Church. Alas, the Southern Ohio Camera Club has faded into history.

We know that as late as the mid-70's the club was a men's-only organization. The club was originally founded to allow for the "admission of others, males, interested in the gentle art of light-writing". We have a copy of a letter sent to a prospective member denying membership because they didn't allow women. We are much more enlightened now, and although our membership is still primarily male, we do not discriminate in any way for any reason.

Over the years meetings were held in different locations in the downtown area. The club-rooms were on Hammond Street from 1940 to 1960. In 1960 the club moved to 123 E. 5th Street, in 1967 to above the old Part Theater. In 1980 the club moved to 3837 Spring Grove Avenue, then in 1987 to 5917 Hamilton Avenue where it remained for 13 years. In 2000 the club moved to its current location at 7045 Vine St. in Carthidge.

Membership has fluctuated too. The club started out with around 10 founding members in 1884 and had grown to 50 by 1887. By 1890 the club had 130 members. Later, the club had enough members that it was very selective about who it allowed in. A prospective member had to submit a portfolio for review and be interviewed by committee before being recommended for membership. In the 1980's membership had significantly declined. In 1997 it was on a rebound with around 25 members. Since the club has moved to it's new facilities on Vine St, membership has once again grown to respectable levels with around 70 members.

The Second Third Oldest Camera Club in the United States.  by Bill Sylvester

When I joined the Camera Club of Cincinnati one of the members mentioned to me that the club was "the second or third oldest camera club in the country". Of course my next question was, "who is the oldest", but the member didn't know. I didn't think much more about it until a couple of years ago when we were moving into the new building. I found a file folder that had an article in it from The Century, Volume XXXIV, Issue 5, September 1887. This sparked my interest, who IS the oldest camera club in the US?

So I got on google and started looking. I was amused at the number of clubs in the US which claim to be the "oldest" but as far as I could tell the Camera Club of Cincinnati, which was founded in January 1884, is the third oldest camera club in the US. The oldest, again as far as I can tell, is the Boston Camera Club which according to their logo was founded in 1881. The fourth oldest club is the Camera Club of New York which was founded in March 1884. These claims are based on their web sites.

As I was checking the dates for this article, I found the Baltimore Camera Club, which I had previously missed.

The CCofC drops to third oldest. As I find more info, I will update this list.

The oldest clubs:

  • Boston Camera Club  circa 1881
  • Baltimore Camera Club  circa 1883
  • Camera Club of Cincinnati  January 1884
  • Camera Club of New York  March 1884
  • Syracuse Camera Club  circa 1886
  • Clevleand Photographic Society  circa 1887
  • Greater Lynn Photographic Association circa 1888
  • St. Paul Camera Club  circa 1893
  • Grand Rapids Camera Club  prior to 1899
  • Portland Camera Club (Maine)  May 24, 1899
  • St. Louis Camera Club February 12, 1914

The Camera Club concept came from Europe and spread across the United States from east to west, or so it seems to me from research on the net.