Established - Glasgow 1830
John Lizars was born around 1810 and brought up in Berwick on Tweed.
He died in Glasgow in 1879.
In 1830, he founded the Lizars business in Glasgow based on
his faith in his ability to provide a useful service for all afflicted
with defective eyesight.
The original business was at at 12 Glassford Street in the Merchant
City, It later moved to larger premises, a shop and workroom
at 14 and 16 Glassford Street, where all types of optical instruments were
made and repaired. In 1859, the company advertised:
OF THE GOLDEN SPECTACLES
Glassford Street, Glasgow
Spectacles, Eyeglasses, Telescopes,
Microscopes, Barometers, Thermometers, and a great assortment of
other articles, of which an inspection is solicited.
Patronised by Sir David Brewster
Spectacles from 1s 6d
to £3 3s per pair. Every description of Repairs done.
John Lizars died in Glasgow in
1879, and the business was placed in the hands of trustees for three
years, until 1882 when Matthew Ballantine, son of a photogrpaher from
Ayrshire who had married John Lizars' youngest daughter Juliet, was
invited to run the business. Under his management, the company began
to sell photographic apparatus.
From the 1890s onwards, Lizars
began to build their Challenge range of cameras at their Goldenacre
factory in the East End of the City. Here is an advert for one,
placed in Transactions of the Edinburgh Photographic Society:
The Company won a bronze medal for its photographic apparatus at the
Glasgow & West of Scotland Exhibition in 1891 and a bronze medal for its
cameras at the Glasgow International Photographic Exhibition in 1897.
The company also specialised in magic lanterns and lantern slides
from the nineteenth century until the 1960s. They hired out the
equipment together with a "Lanternist" to operate it.
The business continued under the
management of two of Matthew Ballantine's three sons, Arthur and Stanley,
in the early 1900s.
By the 1920's photographers were
increasingly turning to roll film. Some of Lizars' cameras were
designed to operate with either film or plates.
Lizars started to produce
metal-bodied cameras and ceased production of their mahogany cameras in
the late 1920s. However, they were facing increasing competition
from Kodak and other major manufacturers.
1930s, Lizars established further branches in Glasgow
(from 1880s), Belfast (from 1891),
Edinburgh (from 1895), Paisley, Greenock,
Motherwell, Aberdeen, and Liverpool.
have been taken from the following booklets:
- Lizars: A Century of Progress:
- A History of Lizars: 1830-1990 by Rachel
Pateman, The Glasgow File, Glasgow
Lizars' arrival in Edinburgh
The Practical Photographer in
1895 announced the arrival of Lizars in Edinburgh:
Mr J Lizars, of Glasgow and Belfast, has
opened a branch warehouse in Maitland Street, Edinburgh, with a large
assortment of photographic and optical goods.
Lizars have now been based at Shandwick Place
(previously named Maitland Street) close to the West End of Princes Street
for over 100 years.
They are still in business as
Black & Lizars at 6 Shandwick Place, as
opticians, and dealers in cameras, binoculars and telescopes.
They have a selection of second-hand cameras and a wholesale photographic
department selling photographic materials.