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Something’s fishy about Bell & Howell Co.


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#1 Simon Wyss

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Posted 22 August 2010 - 06:41 AM

SALVE !

I have a forty-page booklet in front of me with the title Standard Cinematograph CAMERA (sic). Page Two carries the FOREWORD (sic). Sentences Two and Three: “The Bell & Howell Standard Cinematograph Camera is not an experiment. The first Bell & Howell Cameras, built in 1907, are in use today by the side of later models.” Some of you remember.

An official text available via this link http://www.fundingun...ny-History.html reads: During its first year of business, over 50 percent of the new company's business involved repairing movie equipment made by other manufacturers. What made the company famous, however, was its development of equipment that addressed the two most important problems plaguing the movie industry at the time: flickering and standardization. Flickering in the early movies was due to the effects of hand-cranked film, which made the speed erratic. Standardization was needed as divergences in film width during these years made it nearly impossible to show the same film in any two cities within the United States. By 1908, Bell and Howell refined the Kinodrome projector, the film perforator, and the camera and continuous printer, all for the 35mm film width. With the development of this complete system, and the company's refusal to either manufacture or service products of any other size than the 35mm width, Bell and Howell forced film standardization within the motion picture industry.

In 1910, the company made a cinematograph camera entirely of wood and leather. When the two men learned that their camera had been damaged by termites and mildew during an exploration trip in Africa, they designed the first all metal camera.


Others say that the so-called Black Box, the first Bell & Howell camera with wooden housing and black leather finish, was introduced in 1909 (George Eastman House). Jack Robinson in his 1982 company history book tells us that Martin Johnson took the first two BB with him to Africa in 1910. Only after his return “Bell & Howell learned ( . . . ) cameras had been destroyed by termites and mildew.”

So about one and a half years time left to develop the Standard which became ready in 1912.

There is still less time for Bell & Howell, first and foremost Howell, to develop a film perforator (1908), a continuous contact printer (1911) and more for a “complete system”.

I don’t believe it. How did Bert Howell acquire the knowledge about aluminum alloy sand casting as a mechanic absorbed by repair work? Where did that Standard come from?
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#2 Charlie Peich

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Posted 22 August 2010 - 11:14 AM

SALVE !

An official text available via this link http://www.fundingun...ny-History.html reads:
I don't believe it. How did Bert Howell acquire the knowledge about aluminum alloy sand casting as a mechanic absorbed by repair work? Where did that Standard come from?


Greetings Simon!
I want to know, when did Bert Howell acquired the knowledge to make briefcases, table lamps and razors? Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

The "official text" you refer to, from the site you link, of the the current holder of the Bell & Howell name, is from "the 1982 book by Jack Robinson "Bell & Howell Company... A 75-Year History".

The Bell & Howell site you link to is old, the business is gone and no longer in operation. The Tele # (847) 470-7100 is now owned by a bakery named Duncan Donuts.

The owners of the B&H name at the site had none of the B&H records from the film period. A fellow B&H Filmo collector looking into B&H's 16mm history talked to them years ago, they told him all they had regarding B&H history was the Robinson book. They did copy the book for him page by page.

Also, the Robinson book has errors in it and is not 100% factual. The book was written for the stockholders for the 75th year anniversary. The 75th Anniversary diner and party was 100% perfect however.

None of the new "historians" looking into B&H's history today know where the paper records of the early years reside, or if they still exist.

However, the Bell & Howell equipment "museum" was absorbed into DeVry Technical Institute that is now known as DeVry University . Refer to the 1982 book by Jack Robinson "Bell & Howell Company... A 75-Year History" . B&H acquired DeVry Technical Institute in 1966.

The equipment museum was located at the B&H headquarters in Lincolnwood, Il (just north of Chicago). When that plant was closed and turned into a strip mall, it was moved to the DeVry Chicago campus.

I did see a portion of the collection when it was at the Larchmont Ave plant in Lincolnwood, and later when it was housed at the Chicago campus . It is my understanding that it was subsequently moved to the Oakbrook Terrace location. It is most likely still packed in moving boxes and in a storage room.

I tried a couple of years ago to track it down, but I couldn't get the interest of anyone at DeVry to look into it. When I asked about Bell & Howell motion picture equipment, film equipment, there were long pauses of silence from the other end. I got the impression they had no knowledge of what I was requesting and were not interested in digging it up.

You could try to contact the AV Dept at the Oakbrook Terrace location in regards to the collection.

Contact Sam Dodge , he restores old 2709s and I believe he has some paperwork on the cameras.


"Where did that Standard come from?" Lack of standardization? Termites and mildew?

From the Robinson book:


Posted Image


Posted Image
(type large enough ? sorry.)



I complained about the wooden cameras also. He's a pic of me with my new "all-metal" 2709s. I hated the electric motor at that time. In this photo I was filming a PA being trampled to death by an elephant in front of my tent. The batteries were dead on the other camera.

Posted Image





Regards,
Charlie
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#3 Simon Wyss

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 12:40 PM

Hello, Charlie

Yeah, I know that Robinson sometimes is off by a hair. Still, his book is the most important source of information besides the products themselves. It's about reading technology.

The Standard Camera, when it appeared, afforded such a tremendous leap forward or, let me say, significant difference in most respects of what a cine camera is, that one forgets all the other makes at once. The Akeley of same age looks crazy compared to a 2709, Universal, Ensign, both 1914, any other camera including the Leonard-Mitchell which wasn't that slim any more falls off. I think it is impossible that Howell or any other mechanical engineer had invented, designed, drawn and manufactured the camera within a few months, as Robinson writes. That is more journalism than historiography.

I have no intent to diminish Howell’s œuvre. I believe he was the man who brought many ideas into working parts. But he didn't have the expertise nor the interest in making the motion-picture camera. Ask someone in the street what a movie camera looks like: still many people outline it with Mickey Mouse ears for the mag. That's the Bell & Howell Standard. Somebody brought its brilliant concept into the fresh little enterprise. Somebody who might have known about Léon Bouly (Léon Bollée?). Somebody determined, powerful, revolutionary, conscientious. Each and every element of the 2709 acts as part of a master plan. It takes time for such a OPVS MAGNVUM, long, long years.
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#4 Simon Wyss

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Posted 01 May 2015 - 09:19 AM

1909 or 1910, the Johnsons learn about the Bell & Howell camera. They purchase at least one and take it to Africa.

 

October 25, 1911, Bell & Howell Co. applies for a patent on the camera’s mechanism. The application is renewed on July 26, 1912. US 1,083,586 is issued September 17, 1912. At that time a new camera, the Standard Cinematograph Camera Model 2709, is being sold the first time.

 

Legal protection of a “Motion Picture Machine”, as stated in the patent, after it’s been sold?

 

Something is not clear. George Eastman House says: introduction date ca. 1909, approximate manufactured quantity: 10. Eight allegedly were purchased by Essanay. They might have been kept away from the eyes of third persons, we don’t know. What we do know is that serial number 8 with GEH belonged to the collection of George K. Spoor.

 

The Bell & Howell film perforator was not patented until 1917. Sources tell us about its introduction in 1908. How or why would Bell & Howell Co. have manufactured and sold an apparatus for $1000 (more than $50,000 today) without patent protection? An answer to the question could be a licence agreement with James A. Williamson (1855–1933). Williamson had his son Stuart, a mechanical engineer, design a perforator that they put on the market in 1898. It is well possible that a US patent had run from 1900 to 1917. Resemblance exists between the two products although the Bell & Howell perforator is something more like a refined punch press. It weighs 90 lbs. The Williamson film perforator was much lighter and slender.

 

George Eastman began buying Bell & Howell perforators in 1910. We don’t know whether all the parts for the various cinemachinery of Bell & Howell were actually made by the company or bought elsewhere. There are indications that massive outsourcing was the rule with Bell & Howell Co. rather than the exception since its founding. At least the sand casting of the 2709 parts can’t have taken place at 217 West Illinois St. (Chicago Sunday Tribune, June 28, 1931, part 2, page 8), neither the casting of the perforator parts. Some parts of the 2709 stem from other industrial branches that have nothing to do with motion pictures. The perforator punches require highly specialized grinding equipment. Doubt must be allowed that Bert Howell didn’t have the necessary knowledge of producing the pilots, punch pins, and the die. How was it all put together?


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#5 Charlie Peich

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Posted 01 May 2015 - 12:03 PM

Greetings Simon!

 

It's been awhile since we talked about Bell & Howell's early years. I know I referenced the Robinson book a bit, but a few months ago I found another "history of Bell & Howell" article that goes into more detail about the early years of the company. This 2 part article was published in a respected motion picture technology Journal in 1982 (the year of the 75th anniversary of B&H).

 

There may be more info in it to answer some of your questions, for instance, they mention the then popular 'Eberhard Schneider perforators'. They discus the 2709 camera. There is a list of references at the end of the article. There may be other patent numbers for you.

 

The 2nd article discuses the Eyemo's history.

 

Both are good articles, but they may not answer all your questions, nobody left alive to tell the tail!

 

I think you'll enjoy reading it. Please, via privet messaging, send me an address that I can send these scans to. The 1st article is 14 pages.

However, you may have seen this already.

 

Regards,

Charlie


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#6 Simon Wyss

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Posted 10 May 2015 - 09:50 AM

Jack Fay Robinson, 1982: “The first Bell & Howell cinematograph camera was produced in 1910. It was made entirely of wood and covered with black leather. The following year moving picture explorers, Martin and Osa Johnson, wrote that their camera had been destroyed by termites and mildew in Africa.”

 

Martin Elmer Johnson and Osa Helen Leighty first met in April, 1910. Their first shared physical contact with Africa was in 1920.

 

 

The official story and motive for Howell to design an all-metal camera is a debunked myth.


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#7 Simon Wyss

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Posted 03 June 2015 - 08:40 AM

What?

 

Michael Glover Smith and Adam Selzer wrote a book, it got published on January 20 this year:

Flickering Empire: How Chicago invented the U. S. Film Industry. ISBN978-0-231-174480

 

Page 61: In the fall of 1897, Spoor had enlisted Don J. Bell and Albert Howell, founders of the future motion-picture equipment giant Bell and Howell, to make a new projector that he christened the “Kinodrome.” The projector was ready in 1899 and became an immediate hit, far outpacing the sales of the Magniscope. (Any connection between Spoor and Amet beyond that date is unlikely.) Distribution of the new projector included not just the machine itself but also films to exhibit along with it, as well as a projectionist to operate it. The Kinodrome was more advanced than either the primitive Magniscope or the Polyscope, which had the unfortunate tendency to mutilate the film prints that ran through it.

Source indicated: David Kiehn: Broncho Billy and the Essanay Film Company. 2003

 

That’s a blow. Contrary to everything we knew about the coming of the Bell & Howell Co. they should have met in 1897? Howell, born April 17,1879, would have been 18 years of age then. Bell (18691934) would have been 28. In the case of Howell, must I say, faint doubts are appropriate. He was an apprentice mechanic from 1895 on. We don’t have more information.

 

That Spoor didn’t have any relation with Amet before 1899 is also not congruent with the often-told story how Spoor lent Amet money for completion of a projector, the later-called Magniscope, in 1894. http://lakecountyhis...-1860-1948.html

 

It’s getting fuzzy. Let’s try to make contact with the authors. I should appreciate any help.


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#8 Michael Cleveland

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Posted 09 February 2018 - 09:48 PM

Simon Wyss:  I'm just curious, upon what do you base your assertion that Howell did not have the expertise to design and build the 2709?  The meager information I do have says that he was a mechanical genius who designed the camera based on his experience building the projection equipment that the company started with.  That may also be myth, but the fact of the camera says  somebody had to build it, and there was no army of design engineers in those early days of the company.  I also disagree that it would necessarily have been a process of years and years to develop.  As for sand casting, these were the days when automobile engines were being invented in village machine shops, so it's not surprising that a trained machinist would have that knowledge.  Someone above mentioned the lag between patent application and grant for the perforator.  Nothing unusual in that, either, as that was often a process of years. 

 

I also have been looking for Bell & Howell documents.  Patricia Zimmermann (Reel Families) told me several years ago that she had been given access to the company records when they were stored in a warehouse somewhere in the Chicago area, but the very large amount of incorrect historical information in her book leaves one wondering, and she couldn't say where it had been located (though if it still exists and one could find the right person at DeVry...).  My interest in this is more related to Bell & Howell's early role in 16mm equipment production, which is even more obscure, since they didn't get around to putting anything in print until 1925.  I can tell you the exact dates that Kodak and Victor introduced their cameras, but in spite of the usually offered 1923 date for Bell & Howell, which I have reason to believe is wrong, can't even state the year with any certainty.  

 


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#9 Simon Wyss

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 05:03 AM

I admit being short of evidence of the date of publication. Bell & Howell was a different company from 1917 on when Bell left. The US were pulled or pushed into the war, B. & H. built a prototype of a small gauge film field camera. That was a camera for split regular film with a hand crank mechanism called Filmo. When B. & H. was invited to the 16mm film project by George Eastman along with Alexander Victor it was not yet clear which way they would go. Victor’s first 16mm camera is a hand crank apparatus like the Pathé-Baby. The first Ciné-Kodak has a crank, too. The early B. & H. Filmo Automatic Cine-Camera as its name was is larger than the prototype by the height of the drive spring. The designation 70-A was added later.

 

Years of experimenting and collecting things did go into the 2709 design. My theory is that Louis Augustin Le Prince stands behind it. He had a first single-lens cinematic camera made in 1888. Note that he didn’t build it himself, all parts were machined and fitted by a mechanic and a joiner in Leeds, England, James William Longley and Frederick Mason. Le Prince was 47 of age then. It actually was a double-lens design, a similar lens to the taking serves as finder lens. That twin-lens system appeared again with Akeley’s camera of 1915. The first 2709 model bought by Essanay and handed over to the cameraman Jackson Rose for use bore two pairs of similar lenses. The idea was still to focus both lenses at the same time, the taking one in front of the aperture, the other one in the opposite turret position in front of a ground glass that can be observed through a loupe. The 1888 camera has a ground glass uppermost viewed from the back.

 

The 2709 camera was ready in 1911 but not used and sold before the summer of 1912. The reason could have been the Lumière US patent in force since 1895. The claw actuating groove cam of the Cinématographe finds itself in the Bell & Howell Standard Cinematograph Camera. Le Prince could have been the stranger who had a Lumière apparatus rebuilt by Andrew Schustek in 1896. http://streamline.fi...n-film-history/

 

Of course a shaky story of mine. But without doubt the Bell & Howell Company was incorporated with a lack of $500 to the founding capital of $5,000. Jack Fay Robinson states it in his 75-year history of Bell & Howell, 1982. Who held the complement to $4,500? Le Prince through the notary?

 

It was clear to Bell & Howell that one will lose the ground of the professional camera to Mitchell in 1924 when Vitaphone had B. & H. make 1,000-ft. magazines for the Standard. They tried to silence the clapper-gate mechanism. The Mitchell had a simpler focusing system making the rotation of the turret unnecessary. Also the sleeping giant of everybody became more attractive than the saturated studio market. Filmo 70s sold well and Filmo 8s still better from 1936 on. The Filmo Straight Eight flopped.


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#10 Michael Cleveland

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 02:16 PM

Lot to add to this, but not much time at the moment.  There is a possibility that the 17.5mm Filmo made it into very limited production before it was scrapped in favor of 16mm.  Bell & Howell had gone so  far as to print advertising brochures, one of which I have.  Externally it was a very different camera from the Filmo.  If there are extant examples, they would most likely be in one of those stored boxes at DeVry.  I have a very solid history of the Cine-Kodak and Victor from the beginning; in fact, have the two known metal prototypes of the six that were produced, as well as the Victor prototype and first production model, and the earliest known Filmo, the sixth one produced.  The problem with Bell & Howell's early work in amateur equipment is that the initial marketing of the Filmo was literally door to door, so there was no advertising literature produced that can be used to derive dates, until early 1925, and the company records are very likely destroyed by now.  There would have been instruction books with the first cameras, possibly dated, but the earliest ones have remained elusive.  
 
I didn't mean to suggest that the 2709 was designed out of a vacuum.  Earlier inventions certainly had contributed to the general knowledge of mechanical possibilities, but it was a huge leap beyond anything that existed prior to its creation, and there is no evidence to suggest it was anything but the work of Howell, who had knowledge of the mechanisms of motion picture taking and projection.  
 
Le Prince could not have been the other backer of B&H's incorporation, because he was long dead by then.  He disappeared from a train (1888?--maybe earlier; have to look up the date, but it was about the time William Kennedy Laurie Dickson was putting together Edison's camera and projectors.  In fact, there is a conspiracy theory that Edison himself was behind Le Prince's disappearance, but scoundrel that he was, I doubt there is any substance to it.)  The rest of Le Prince's family were frustrated by his disappearance, but to my knowledge, none continued involvement in motion picture development in any capacity.  
 
I'm sure Jack Fay Robinson's book served it's intended purpose, but it is agonizingly deficient in details.  Someone at what's left of Bell & Howell was kind enough to take the time to Xerox the book, page by page, several years ago when I could not find an original copy, but it contained little of the information I was looking for.  I knew someone who may have known when the first Filmos went to market, and published a definite date without a reference, but he was quite elderly when I asked for his source and could not remember.  He died a couple of years ago, but he was a careful historian, so I am inclined to accept his date (which fits with some other very tenuous evidence), though I can't back it up with anything solid.  
 
It always struck me as odd that B&H's straight 8 failed in the market (and now marks two of the rarest of B&H cameras), while Univex sold millions, and double 8 went on to great success with virtually everyone who made it.  Price was surely the market maker for Univex, but I suspect Bell & Howell's marketing may have been a factor in that early failure.  

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#11 Simon Wyss

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 06:58 AM

The Straight Eight cost $69 in 1935 which would have been $1,234.55 in 2017. Ciné Kodachrome was processed only in 16mm width, so buyers of that camera stood in a trap after a year. The only film available was a reversal black and white stock made by Agfa-Ansco. As much as I could find Filmopan was last sold in 1942. I think the marketing was not too bad, pricing was.

 

Le Prince was said to have embarked on a train from Dijon to Paris on September 16, 1890. Second last contact with people who knew him was on September 13 when he parted with the Wilsons of Leeds in Bourges, France. His disappearance could well have been prepared by him. The absence of traces points in that direction. The photograph of a dead resembling Le Prince allegedly found in France in 2003 is hardly evidence of his death.

 

Albert Summers Howell had very lttle to no knowledge of motion-picture cameras up to 1907. His main activity was concentrated on projectors of which there were practically just uniques and imported models. There was the 1893 Marvellous Cinematographe of Jean LeRoy, the 1895 Eidoloscope of Eugène Lauste for the Latham family business, the 1894 Phantoscope of Charles Jenkins, financed by J. P. Freeman, three copies of which were brought to Atlanta GA, the 1897 Biograph, Ed Amet’s Magniscope from 1893 to 1900, followed by the Kinodrome, financed by George Spoor, the 1897 Criterioscope of J. B. Colt & Co., Optigraph and Motiograph models by the Enterprise Optical Mfg. Co., Chicago, from 1896 on, the 1896 Projectoscope after Charles Webster, Sigmund Lubin’s Cineograph from 1897 to 1899, Nicholas Power’s Peerless projectors from 1897 on, the Veriscope 1897 projector built by Enoch Rector for the use of 60mm film, the 1898 Selig Polyscope after a cinématographe Lumière or Franck Cannock’s 1903 Cinematograph. Imports were mainly from France—Lumière, Pathé, Gaumont, and from Germany. The MPPC was organized effective January 1st, 1909 to block them out. Contrary to a hundred years of false information the first Debrie camera was commissioned in 1906 by the English cameraman Charles Raleigh and one of the first examples sold to Norman O. Dawn. He took it to California in April 1907. The Pathé industriel, first made in 1908 in succession of the Lumière project, came to America that year.

 

US-made cameras were the Meredith-Jones, patented December 1909, the Hamáček, patented 1908, a camera made by Joseph T. Bianchi in 1908 with terrible results only as an anti-trust blind, the Leon Wagner “battleship” camera of 1911, actually the Sterling, also an anti-trust measure. The Bell & Howell Black Box is in my eyes a younger variant of the 2709. Different from the other makes the Black Box belongs amidst the trust.


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#12 Michael Cleveland

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 03:07 PM

I wouldn't be too literal with the dollar equivalents between 1935 and now.  It's a lot more complicated than a simple multiple.   As for Le Prince, I think you may be indulging in a bit of wishful thinking.  The lack of trace and other evidence say just the opposite, that he was made to disappear.  First, he had no reason to make himself disappear.  He was on the verge of announcing successful completion of his work of many years (his prototype camera works), work that was virtually obsessive.  He scraped to keep that work going, so he did not have the means to slip away and support himself comfortably for the rest of his life, and would not have abandoned his family, to whom he was devoted, to fend for themselves.  He would hardly have continued in secret to support someone else's efforts in a field in which he should have earned credit as the pioneer, and there is absolutely no evidence of his survival.  It just doesn't hold up.  If I recall correctly, it was his family who suggested that Edison might have had him killed.  Not impossible; Edison was far from the legend that everyone wants to remember;  he was, in fact, a thief and a scoundrel, a very evil, greedy man, but connecting him with Le Prince's disappearance is purely speculative, based on his greed and their mutual (therefore conflicting) objectives.  His own relative lack of interest in motion picture at that stage also would make such an act extremely unlikely.  It wasn't until later, after he had stolen the Jenkins/Armat projector that monetary interest took over.  I think the evidence points to Le Prince's death on the train.  He may have fallen off, or been pushed off, but there is nothing to suggest that he survived the trip. 

 

Then there is Albert Howell.  There is no great difference between projection mechanisms and basic camera mechanisms, especially for a person mechanically inclined.  He had a solid knowledge of projectors, and would have gained experience converting that knowledge to camera use in building the original wooden camera.  I see no problem crediting him with creation of the 2709.  It would have come down to the question of "What do you want this camera to do?" followed by a skilled machinist's translation into a working mechanism. 


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#13 Michael Cleveland

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Posted 11 February 2018 - 03:47 PM

I meant to note also, that Bell & Howell had completed the tooling for the 17.5mm Filmo, and had at least a couple of demonstration cameras prepared by the time they saw the 16mm demonstration at Kodak.  It was a huge decision to scrap all of the investment in the original Filmo in favor of 16mm.  The brochures I mentioned suggest the possibility of a limited production run of the earlier Filmo, but may themselves also be from a run printed for the demonstration.  There was one other situation in the company's history when they did a similar about-face.  The Morgana Color System was announced in Filmo topics, followed by an issue with questions and answers, then disappeared altogether.  There was an article in the SMPE Journal many months after the initial announcement, describing the system in detail, complete with photos of a physical camera and projector, but by then B&H had been long silent about it.  The actual system apparently never went to market.  There was no more mention of it by Bell & Howell, and it's disappearance remains a mystery. 


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#14 Simon Wyss

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 03:43 AM

Re. Edison read The Disappearance of Louis Le Prince. https://www.scienced...369702108701603

 

George Eastman and Charles Pathé met personally in 1919. They talked about home movies and that only safety film should be used. Acetate supports were known then for about ten years. Agfa began manufacturing safety base films in 1909. Eastman followed suit. Pathé did so in 1910, small scale. It took little to convince B. & H. of the ⅝" safety-base system since Pathé had 9.5mm safety-base film already on the market.

 

The difference between the then known projector mechanisms and the one employed with the B. & H. Standard camera is huge. There were beaters, friction rollers, and intermittently rotating sprocket drums. The film is pushed or pulled along linearly between rails under tension. Not so the 2709 where the film is moved along its length but also along the optical axis. It is the idea of fixed pilot pins on which the film is placed, tapered pins for no play, and lifted off them. That system included Eastman having ink marks stamp on the back of stocks. Those were stamped between the hole groups on the perforators to indicate them to the camera operator. The Bell & Howell film perforator punches four hole pairs or eight holes at a stroke to belong to one frame later. Statistically the mean deviation in hole pitch is smaller within a hole group than among the groups by the factor of 1.6. One wanted to combine film and camera in such a manner that the film gets located in a hole group next to the aperture, not over a step between the groups.

 

When I look at Le Prince’s or the Leeds camera, a replica was built a few years ago, I see a mechanism that just works. It is overly complicated in some respects and it lacks things in other places. After some time studying the camera, I’m not making this up, I got the impression Le Prince mocks about me. The thing began laughing at me. Four legs for a stand? It is well known that a chair with three legs never rocks. The shutter shaft on the farther side of the gate, opposite the drive? Not necessary. Loading the camera from the back? Inexplicable. The paper band run upwards? All other pioneers move the band down. A square image aperture? Rare aspect ratio in photography at that time.

 

There is a mysterious Léon Guillaume Bouly. Allegedly born in 1872 he applied for a patent February 1892, not in person but via the chambers of Armengaud ainé, founded 1836. That law firm still exists. It is said the Louis’ father was friend of the Armengaud, I’d have to look up the source, if you want to know. A French brevet was issued to Bouly for a Cynématographe in 1892. There are two examples, one with the musée des arts et métiers of Paris, the other with GEH. In that apparatus a ribbon runs horizontally when one turns the crank. Similar to the Leeds camera the ribbon is clamped to the aperture plate but propelled by a pair of rollers, one of them segmented. The person would have invented something dangerously close to Le Prince’s design at the age of hardly 20.

 

Léon Bollée was the first to build a directly multiplying mechanical computer. He was awarded with the Gold Medal of the Paris exhibition of 1889. That was the type of help Le Prince might have drawn on. He would have invented the name Bouly in memory of Bollée. A Bouly didn’t exist, the Cynématographe may be an experimenting device of L. A. A. Le Prince. His father died in 1855, his mother in 1887. He settled on the heritage with his brother in 1890. Withdrew. Lived incognito in Paris. Moved to America at some time between 1892 and 1896. He had US citizenship since 1882. Lived incognito in Chicago or thereabouts.

 

A small piece of sheet celluloid exists as heirloom from Louis Le Prince. As a chemist he must have known of that first plastic material. He was busy with linoleum years before. All the ingredients taken together, celluloid film, the mechanisms, the forward motion of a metal plate, a metal frame in the Cynématographe, and the left-out perforation make only a small gap to the Bell & Howell cameras. Let’s not forget that the Black Box camera has twin lenses, one above the other like with the Leeds camera, a taking and a finder lens. Where should Howell have these things from?


Edited by Simon Wyss, 12 February 2018 - 03:46 AM.

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#15 Michael Cleveland

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 07:22 PM

Much more to say about this when I have time, but regarding the Edison article:  I haven't had time to do any verification, but I am always suspicious of things unlikely that appear online.  I do not put the murder past Edison, though Le Prince was hardly his only rival, and he was not in the habit of murdering rivals, but he was an intelligent man, and it is absolutely inconceivable that he would have put any such admission on paper, especially since the note served no purpose against the surrounding context of his technical notes.  So until I can find some kind of verification, I take this with a very large grain of salt.  More as time permits.


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#16 Michael Cleveland

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 03:10 AM

I had a rather lengthy reply underway, and somehow this computer switched to another screen on its own and erased it (as it often does), so for now a shorter answer.  I'm not really sure what you are trying to say.  You say that Howell could not have invented the 2709, yet the camera exists, and no one else invented it.  As for mechanical knowledge, there is nothing absent in the time that he could not have drawn on.  The claw pull-down dates to the invention of the shuttle sewing machine, at least as early as 1846; pin register is a fairly obvious improvement on that for extreme accuracy of placement of the frame behind the aperture; twin lens still cameras, with one lens for focusing the image, had been on the market at least as early as the 1890's, so there was nothing unusual in applying that to cine cameras.  I don't understand your issues with his age.  The 20's are considered the most creative and productive years, and you can extend that backwards for a particularly intelligent and inventive mind.  As for mechanical knowledge, and access to information, I have a book that was originally published in the 1860's, and several times reprinted, which catalogs diagrams of hundreds of mechanical movements, with pulleys, gears, levers, eccentrics, and anything else you can imagine.  It's exactly the kind of reference that would have been quite naturally in the hands of a mechanical inventor.  There is simply no shortfall that should have prevented an imaginative inventor like Howell from doing what he is known to have done.  As for your criticism of Le Prince, I think you forget that this was the first time such a thing had been done, and the standards you want to apply to his work are only in hindsight based on expectations that derive from later improvements, so they make no sense as critique of his pioneering work.  I think you are over-thinking this, over-imaging.  


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#17 Simon Wyss

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 05:42 AM

Bell & Howell, Bert Howell, wouldn’t be the only one to copy things. As you probably agree with, Edison took many things from others without asking. He did, however, invent the quadruplex telegraph system. Arthur Samuel Newman helped himself with an idea by a mechanic named Woodhead for the first use of a moving register pin in a movie camera, the Newman & Guardia of 1899. Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

 

We have Arnold & Richter in München. Their cameras in the twenties were simple. The Kinarri contains the all-surrounding drum shutter like Akeley used it. The first such camera though was the Smith of 1897. Then August Arnold has a talk with cameramen in around 1930. He thinks that a reflex finding device would be nice to have. He hires a young mechanical engineer in 1932. Five years later ARRI presents the ARRIFLEX. It is legitimate to ask questions. How did the early models have a tweezer lens lock similar to that of the Bell & Howell Filmo 8 of 1935, protected by US patent 2,067,189?

 

Le Prince didn’t make the parts himself. Is that criticism? Yes, and criticism is nothing bad by itself. It means close scrutiny, kritein is nothing else than to separate things, to not take anything as one lump. The invention of Le Prince is not smaller by that. I only want to say that he needed the work of others. Edison needed the photographic knowledge of William Dickson and Dickson needed the mechanical abilities of Johann Krüsi.

 

Why do Paillard-Bolex H-16 and H-8 models have the rackover focusing system introduced by Bell & Howell? How comes it that the Arriflex 16 of 1951 bears a two-arms pivot column in its mechanism very similar to that employed with the Matipo by Debrie? The divergent lenses turret of the Arriflex 16 goes back to microscopes of the 19th century. Standard volumes were certainly available and André Debrie had learnt to use them which led his father to commit him with the design of a compact camera in 1906 for Charles Raleigh. Yet, André Debrie took inspiration from the 1905 Newman & Guardia camera where he found a displacement twist loop given to the film.

 

Whoever it was, he took the magazine on top of the 2709 design from the Pathé industriel and that camera is a follower of the Domitor. The 2709 camera contains a square-cut helical bore for the variable shutter drive, something from gun barrel making, and again, the drunken groove cam directly from the cinématographe.

 

Bell & Howell were busy with repairs and jobbing during their first year (1907). Even if we take that with some flexibility, there is practically no time for Howell to develop the perforator which is said to have existed in 1908. The Black Box camera in 1909. The Standard camera in 1911. These things seem to jump into being, just like that. A great inventor. He must have been a sorcerer. It’s not possible, hardly. The sand casting alone of parts of these machines, a special aluminum alloy, later known as American alloy #12 for the four parts to the 2709, must have taken weeks and months to perfect. Le Prince came from a foundry, Whitley’s brass foundry of Leeds.

 

The motive to produce an all-metal camera was not the story of two wooden cameras destroyed by termites and mildew in Africa. I have found out that Martin and Osa Johnson didn’t set foot on that continent before 1920. Their first Africa safari took place in 1921.

 

IMAGE, Journal of Photography and Motion Pictures of the George Eastman House, Volume 5, Number 8, October, 1956, James Card: The George K. Spoor Collection. Pages 182 through 185: According to Mr. Spoor, the Bell & Howell Company of Chicago owed its founding to Essanay. Donald J. Bell was a $10-a-week usher and assistant projectionist when he was sent by Spoor to find a machine shop where a new projector frame could be strengthened. In that machine shop Bell met Albert S. Howell. When Essanay was formed in 1907, Spoor licensed Don Bell and Bert Howell to build cameras, and later perforators for his new film-production company and up to 1916 Bell and Howell were “kept exclusively busy building and equipping the Essanay plant with their new and improved cinema apparatus.”

 

Neither Howell nor Bell had an idea of what was going on in Europe with motion-picture machinery. Le Prince had. He may have contacted Spoor. Howell agreed reluctantly to team with Bell, Bell had to push him. Then Howell was blackmailed. He gave his name. Le Prince fed his lifework to the little firm. A theory


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#18 Frank Wylie

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Posted 27 February 2018 - 09:04 AM

"Neither Howell nor Bell had an idea of what was going on in Europe with motion-picture machinery. Le Prince had. He may have contacted Spoor. Howell agreed reluctantly to team with Bell, Bell had to push him. Then Howell was blackmailed. He gave his name. Le Prince fed his lifework to the little firm. A theory"

 

The basis for denying Bell and Howell the ability to perfect a camera on the idea that LePrince (a man how ENTIRELY disappeared from history and left no trace), who came from a foundry background, is totally absurd.

 

No idea?  What cameras do you think the filmmakers who weren't part of the Patent's Trust were using?  European cameras; Pathe, Debrie, Moy, etc,;  there was no vacuum.

 

Chicago was one of the, if not THE, center of precision machining technology of metal in the USA at the turn of the 20th century.  Ever heard of "jobbing" or outsourcing your castings?

 

George K. Spoor was a blowhard that aggrandized everything he did at everyone else's expense and by 1956, who was there to refute him?.  So much of the literature of those "Cinematic giants looking-back" is transparent fiction that it should be obvious to anyone who has done any meaningful research into the era.

 

As for the wooden camera "controversy", I remember reading from earlier sources that Osa and Martin Johnson lost a British Wooden Camera to termites, NOT a B&H.  Now it might be that this was conflated through the years in subsequent publications to imply it WAS a B&H camera, but that's not what I remember.

 

I worked on the Osa and Martin Collection and timed many of their original negatives for preservation, so I got to see many of the cameras they used, as Martin loved photographing themselves photographing wildlife.  There were many types of cameras, several being Moy Bastie and other British tropical cameras.

 

I just don't have enough time right now to dig down into this an refute it entirely, but I strongly disagree with your theory.


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#19 Michael Cleveland

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Posted 27 February 2018 - 01:41 PM

Frank, I wouldn't bother with this.  I left this discussion when I realized I was arguing with someone who shows all the signs of crackpot-itis:  Certain that he alone has the answers, has a pet theory, treats speculation as evidence, invents evidence, molds evidence (both real and speculative) to fit the theory, ignores or refuses to acknowledge any evidence that does not agree with pet theory, ignores timelines, and so on.  I would say you are wasting wear on your keyboard.  On the other hand, if you find it entertaining...  


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#20 Frank Wylie

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Posted 27 February 2018 - 01:49 PM

Frank, I wouldn't bother with this.  I left this discussion when I realized I was arguing with someone who shows all the signs of crackpot-itis:  Certain that he alone has the answers, has a pet theory, treats speculation as evidence, invents evidence, molds evidence (both real and speculative) to fit the theory, ignores or refuses to acknowledge any evidence that does not agree with pet theory, ignores timelines, and so on.  I would say you are wasting wear on your keyboard.  On the other hand, if you find it entertaining...  

 

Michael,

 

Thanks.  I wasn't intending on chasing this too much, as I have 80 silent features to time in 6 months.  I just dislike leaving these theories out there unchallenged.

 

Frank


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