From pin-hole cameras to high resolution digital images, the 20th Century ushered in the science of modern photography. Here are some items from the Museum of Yesterday's Photographic Equipment Collection.

The Graflex Company made a number of fine film cameras for both portrait and field photography. This "Super Graphic," which produced high resolution negatives on 4x5" sheet film, and it's cousin the "Speed Graphic," were the standards for the newspaper industry in the 1930s through the the late 1950s. By 1960, sheet film cameras had been replaced almost exclusively by single and dual lens reflex cameras which shot roll film negatives.
In our modern world, we have become accustomed to digital cameras which don't require film, and are computerized to make picture taking almost idiot proof. In the early to mid 20th Century, however, photography was an art which required not only good composition and knowledge of the camera and film being used, but the exposure of the film was critical to obtaining a good photograph. Before the advent of automatic cameras, photographers had to rely on their skills and experience, along with devices such as this Weston analog light meter. The meter measured light levels which the photographer then calculated into his camera settings.
Another 1930's press camera of the type used by newspaper reporters of the day
This Kodak Model 1A Junior "autographic" camera was manufactured by Eastman Kodak between the years of 1914 and 1927. It is a donation to the museum from Kathryn Hafford.

Late 19th Century "Field Camera" with stick tripod was recently acquired and has since undergone full restoration. A previous owner had made improper attempts to repair light leaks and to modify the camera. It was in deplorable condition when the museum acquired it, as can be seen in the "before" photo above.

The camera was restored to it's original state, and has become a crowning piece to the museum's early photographic equipment collection. Restoration was performed in the shops of DeMajo Organ Works, LLC in Richmond, VA. and the process of restoration can be seen in the series of photos shown below.

Phase I: The camera is stripped and the wood frame is refinished. Brass components are polished and missing hardware is replaced.
Phase II: Lens board is rebuilt. Lens assembly is reinstalled.
Camera mounted on tripod. Awaiting rear glass and new bellows. The lens was also determined to be the incorrect lens for this era of camera.
The correct lens for this era of camera was located and purchased. It has been mounted on the lens board.
Phase III: A replacement for the original Bellows is being fabricated here. Glass for back plate has been located and is on order.
Phase IV: Bellows installed and camera restoration is completed.

While this camera was originally designed to expose glass plates covered with a light-sensitive emulsion, interestingly, sheet film, which would work in the camera, can still be obtained. Unfortunately, inflation has taken it's toll and a current single negative would cost well over $100 to shoot and process, even in a non-commercial dark room.
This Kodak Brownie Target 20 was the standard for "snap shot" photography dating from the 1930s. They have long since been replaced by digital and cellfone cameras, however, their ease of use for the amateur photographer, made them one of the most important developments of the 20th Century when it came to preserving history.
In February, 1900, Kodak introduced the "Brownie" line of cameras. These inexpensive box cameras could be used to produce reasonable quality photos without the need for a professional photographer. By 1950, millions of these cameras had been sold. Today, many historic photos are attributable to these inexpensive "box" cameras in the hands of amateur photographers. By the mid-1950s, ANSCO and several other manufacturers were also making similar cameras, including models with automatic flash bulb attachments.
Rolleiflex is the name of a long-running and diverse line of high-end cameras originally made by the German company Franke & Heidecke, and later Rollei-Werk. The "Rolleiflex" name is most commonly used to refer to Rollei's premier line of medium format twin lens reflex (TLR) cameras. The Rolleiflex twin lens reflex camera was very popular with post WW-II amateur and commercial field photographers in the United States. The Rolleiflex TLR film cameras were notable for their exceptional build quality, compact size, modest weight, superior optics, durable, simple, reliable mechanics and bright viewfinders. The Museum Of Yesterday is proud to have a prime example "Rollei" as part of our photographic equipment collection.
Another basic automatic flash camera from the 1950s. This one is the "ReadyFlash" by Ansco Company of Binghamton, New York. Ansco was a major mid-20th Century manufacturer of general use cameras that were intended to compete in the market with similar "Brownie" snapshot type camera models made by Eastman Kodak. The ReadyFlash came equipped with an affixed flash adapter that accepted GE-5 flash bulbs.
In the days of monochrome photography, it could not be assumed that cameras would have a means of lighting the photo scene as was the case with later cameras that held flash cubes. This add-on accessory flash utilized "C" batteries and had an edison base socket to accept full-size flash bulbs that were approximately the size of a standard 40 watt light bulb.
Unlike today's digital cameras that can allow for color correction in their software, film photography required color correcting filters for situations dictated by lighting or environment.
In the 1970s, styles changed and so did the design of the basic Brownie camera. This Fiesta model was among the last of the "snapshot" cameras made before the era of "disposable" and then digital cameras. Today, it is almost impossible to find a photo laboratory that can process roll film.
The first revolutionary advancement in camera technology of the Post WW-II Era, was the Polaroid Land Camera, invented by Edwin Land. This Model 95 is the first commercial Polaroid model ever offered, dating to 1948.

Polaroid Land cameras were able to instantly process individual photographs, unlike Eastman Kodak and other manufacturers' roll or sheet film cameras which required eternal processing or "developing" of the film.
The item above is a roll film developing tank sold by Eastman Kodak in the Post-War era. Roll film could be removed from the camera in a totally dark room and loaded into a special plastic apron which was then inserted into the tank and closed. The tank could then be taken into a lighted area where the three-chemical developing process was accomplished by pouring the appropriate chemical mixtures into and out of the light-shielded hole in the top. The plastic apron separated the film so that chemicals contacted all film surfaces, allowing even developing without formation of bubbles. After processing and washing, the film was removed from the tank and apron and allowed to dry prior to printing or enlarging. By simplifying the process in this way, Kodak enabled hobby or non-professional processing of film for the amateur photographer. In the 1950s, this tank, along with a simple metal contact printer, plastic developing trays, a dark room thermometer, and a red lens "safe light," were packaged and sold in a $20 "Kodacraft©" kit for "do-it-yourself" photographers.
Another familiar device to both amateur and professional photographers was the "safe light, " a device that permitted low levels of light to be available in dark rooms, to assist the photographer, while not causing damage to the unprocessed film. The Brownie Darkroom Lamp was supplied with interchangeable lenses which could be changed depending on the process being conducted.
GraLab photo enlarger exposure timers were a familiar sight in mid-century photographic dark rooms
By the turn of the Century, photography had advanced to the point where photographic emulsions could be layered onto glass slides, thereby making projectable images available. The early devices which were made to project such images, were called "magic lanterns." While the lanterns were originally intended for home entertainment, the advent of public theaters and "nickelodeons" proved a perfect application for the "magic lantern," as they could be used to project advertising and other still images onto a screen where they could be viewed by a somewhat large audience. The first "magic lanterns" on the scene in the late 1800s, such as the one pictured above, utilized kerosene lamps as a source of projection illumination. Later projectors were equipped with electric light bulbs. The projector shown above, was originally fitted with an oil lamp, but it was later retrofitted for electric illumination. When it was acquired by the museum, it still contained the original Edison "glass tip" carbon filament light bulb that had been installed in 1909 when it was converted from oil lamp illumination.
Almost every school classroom in the 1950s had one of these American Optical roll slide film projectors. Today, computer displayed digital slide shows in PowerPoint have replaced this earlier technology. It is a donation to the museum from Kathryn Hafford.
Primarily made for projection of eye charts, this 35MM slide projector was commonly used in optometry practices. It is a donation to the museum from Kathryn Hafford.
For the more serious photographer in Post-War America, a wide variety of semi-professional grade 35 millimeter cameras, ranging from German and Japanese offerings to the American made Honeywell and Kodak products, were available. The rebuilding of Germany and Japan saw these nations convert their wartime enterprises into manufacturing facilities that produced, among other things, exceptionally well made cameras and optical products.
Movie camera Univex 8mm, model A8. It was produced in 1936. It is equipped with a lens Ilex Univar 1:5,6. Its weight is kg. 0,650 and the measures are the following: 40x105x85 mm. It is very little and handy. The camera housing is made from zinc, the interior from stainless, brass and aluminum.
An early Bell and Howell "Filmo" series home movie camera from the early 1950s. It is a donation to the museum from Kathryn Hafford.
An 8mm Keystone model K-8 movie camera which dates to 1936.

A recent acquisition of the museum's photography collection is this 1950 vintage Bell and Howell "Film-O-Sound" 16 MM motion picture sound projector. This piece of history should be easily recognizable by any baby boomer who was in the school audio-visual "nerd" club back in the day. The "Film-O-Sound" was the standard of classroom and small auditorium sound projectors throughout the 1950s and 60s.

At Gentilly Terrace Elementary School in New Orleans, from which your museum chairman is a 1950's era graduate, Wednesday afternoons in the 1950s were "movie days." After lunch, the children were brought into the school auditorium where short educational films, correlating to class material, would be shown to the 'clickety-clack" sound of a Bell and Howell sound projector. These screenings gave teachers a rest period to catch up on paperwork, as well as exposing students to a more stimulating visual side of the subject matter.

Today, these electro-mechanical marvels of the Mid-20th Century, have given way to big screen interactive digital computer projection in the classroom, as well as on-line educational material on demand directly to students' personal computers. We are entering an era where the classroom teacher will soon be replaced almost completely by direct on-line teaching from the Internet coupled with pre-packaged course material.


Along with the display of our Bell and Howell sound motion picture projector, this is a good place to discuss the invention and evolution of talking pictures. The first attempts at talking pictures came in the form of manually synchronized phonograph recordings that were run along with the projection of images. The sound and visual devices were usually two separate pieces of equipment. Thomas Edison, as a pioneer in both sound and motion picture reproduction, was instrumental in combining the two discoveries to produce the first talking pictures. Vita phone, a company specializing in recorded sound for the movie industry, cornered the market in the very early days of talking pictures.

The most significant development, however, was the process that allowed sound to be actually superimposed on the film so that sound and visual images were synchronized. A number of methods were tried over the 20th Century including both magnetic sound recording on a magnetized strip of tape that was integrated into the film. The standard method, however, for both commercial and home or educational movies was a method which was developed by Edison in conjunction with several other scientists of the time. This process involved recording sound as it would have been done with an electronic recording device. The sound waves were then transferred to visual tracks which were basically a waveform similar in appearance to the waveform that forms the groove in a sound recording. This sound track was then printed onto the side of the film containing the moving images. A light sensitive device, activated by an "exciter" (a direct current powered lamp that was focused onto the track) then turned the interrupted light images into electrical impulses that could be amplified and played over a loud speaker. As the irregular waveform image passed between the exciter lamp and the light sensitive device, the light would vary in proportion to the waveform's characteristics, thus producing the sound signal.

Working on the same principle as the motion picture projectors in theaters, this 8 MM Keystone projector was intended for the showing of home movies. It is a donation to the museum from Kathryn Hafford.

A device that was relegated as obsolete by the late 1980 development of the electronic digital camera. This photographic enlarger was a fixture in every photographer's "dark room" from almost the beginning of 19th and 20th Century photography. Photographs were taken with a camera that would place a reversed image, called a Negative, onto chemically treated light sensitive film containing silver and other elements. The film was then "developed" using a series of chemical washes which removed the silver in varying degrees according to the composition of the exposed image. Once the negative was processed, it would be placed into the enlarger shown above, where the reverse image would be projected onto a piece of photo sensitive paper placed in an easel on the table at the base. Again, the process of removing silver and other elements would be carried out using a three step chemical wash that consisted of a developer, followed by a neutralizing acid, and then by a wash that would complete the process of removing any unprocessed light sensitive elements from the paper. The result would be a photographic image.

The monochrome process was similar to that used later for the processing of color sensitive film, however, the color process involved several additional steps, and the need for special color correcting filters on the enlarger, as well as temperature controlled refrigeration of the developing chemicals. This placed the processing of color photography outside of the capability of most amateur photographers' "dark rooms." Commercial processing labs sprung up in most localities during this period, giving new employment opportunities to the blind, since the entire process was carried out in total darkness.

With the advent first of the Polaroid self developing camera in the 1970s, which allowed the production of processed finished photos inside of the camera body at the time the photo was taken, and later of digital photography which totally eliminated the need for film and chemical developing, the "dark room" method of photo processing had all but shut down by the end of the 20th Century.

The Museum Of Yesterday is dedicated to the building of a world-class photographic history collection and exhibit. Substantial private funding has been earmarked for the acquisition of important examples of 20th Century photographic equipment. Our collection is continuously expanding in this area, and we will be offering more photographs of the collection as time and space permit.
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