DR-4 Aerial Camera

This early example of an American aerial camera was made by the Burke and James Company of Chicago, Illinois, in 1910. The box-type design was retained for decades in use by the American military. These cameras were fixed to planes or held and operated by trained flight photographers, sometimes known as observers, capturing reconnaissance images of enemy territory below. The U.S. War Department Air Service transferred this camera to the Smithsonian’s Section of Photography in 1924.
From its invention in 1839, the camera has evolved to fit many needs, from aerial to underwater photography and everything in between. Cameras allow both amateur and professional photographers to capture the world around us. The Smithsonian’s historic camera collection includes rare and unique examples of equipment, and popular models, related to the history of the science, technology, and art of photography.
Currently not on view
Object Name
camera, aerial
Burke and James
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
glass (overall material)
overall: 35 cm x 34 cm x 66 cm; 13 3/4 in x 13 3/8 in x 26 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Artifact Walls exhibit
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Photographic History
Artifact Walls exhibit
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Transfer War Department Air Service

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