Chicago hosted the 6 month long Columbian
Exposition of 1893, the last and best of the 1900's World's Fairs. Along with
hamburgers, carbonated soda, and the Ferris wheel, the 27 million visitors
were also introduced to the airbrush. The fair was an incredible opportunity
for national and international exposure and Liberty Walkup was there with his
Airbrush Manufacturing Company and he had great expectations for the fair.
Unfortunately he was upstaged by Thayer & Chandler, a Chicago mail order
art supplies and crafts Company that exhibited a new type of
airbrush in the same Manufactures/Liberal Arts building. Norwegian Henry
Thayer, and Englishman Charles Chandler’s new internal mix airbrush, made
since 1891under an agreement with it's inventor, Charles Burdick, was given
an award declaring "the effects in shading are delicate and the results
presented good." The new internal mix airbrush was not only easier to
use and simpler to maintain, it gave better results with less training. This
was not lost on the members of the photo retouching industry, the primary
users of the airbrush at the time and well into the 1920's. Walkup was
incensed but the handwriting was on the wall, his star as on the wane and he
was never to be the force he once was.
Thayer & Chandler continuously promoted
and improved their airbrush. In 1896, Olaus "O.C." Wold, a foreman
at Thayer & Chandler, filed a patent for an airbrush that used a replaceable
nozzle that protruded slightly from the front of the body. This eliminated
the paint buildup on the inside of the
body, a problem with the Burdick design. Wold also incorporated
a removable aircap to protect both the needle and the photo being worked on.
Any paint accumulated on the aircap is easily removed. The needle
assembly is much simplified and the needle can easily be changed. A true
valve is used to regulate the incoming air instead of crimping a rubber tube.
The paint cup remained in the body as in Burdick's, but it's manually
refilled instead of having the fount in the handle. For the craftsman using
the brush, Wold's design was as much a step forward as Burdick's, if not
more. It was easier to control the air, the needle was easily replaceable,
although it now had to be replaced less often thanks to the protective
aircap. There was also less damage to the artwork from a protruding needle
and paint clogs were greatly minimized. Wold truly streamlined the airbrush
and its use. Unfortunately for Wold, he is the inventor and Thayer &
Chandler are the assignees (owners) of the patent.
In 1897, a patent is issued to Wold, also
assigned to Thayer & Chandler, for an airbrush that uses a trigger that
slides fore and aft to control both the air and paint. He claims ease of use
and better control at the finer range of the spray pattern. It also could be
disassembled without any tools, another nifty Wold idea. It was produced
and you can see the only known model by clicking here. Wold would never totally
give up on this uni-directional trigger concept, more on that
in part 2. The most important idea to come out of this airbrush is that the
paint is isolated from the trigger assembly. The paint sits in its own trough
ahead of the trigger; no more messy trigger to clean. Around 1899, Thayer
& Chandler introduces a model that uses a side mounted cup that could be
put in and tilted to any angle thus allowing the airbrush to be used at
any angle. It also makes cleanup easier because the cup can be easily
removed and the body flushed out under pressure with a syringe or rubber bulb
filled with the necessary thinner or water depending on the medium
used. The early Thayer & Chandler side cups (photo on left) are gorgeous.
Beautiful, fanciful but impractical because of the
long path the paint has to travel; basic geometry, the
shortest distance between two points is a straight line.