Cameras 1938-1952

Eastman Kodak Bullet Camera

The company sold a number of different style cameras under the name “Bullet” but this Streamline Moderne Bakelite version, designed by Walter Dorwin Teague, is far and away the most stunning. Simple, inexpensive, and suitable for outdoor photography, there was even one produced for the 1939 World’s Fair. Art Deco Cameras reports the 127 film is still available. Australia’s Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences has one in its collection. Phil has two – one in the box

Falcon Flash:
c 1939’s detective work reveals that the Falcon Flash was a rudimentary Bakelite camera built in Chicago and marketed under the names of dozens of companies – easily facilitated by a donut metal faceplate encircling the shutter that could easily be replaced with the name of yet another brand or company. Phil’s was branded a product of The Spencer Company, and is even more rudimentary than its sister models identified as McKeown code A: Its pop-up viewfinder was even more simple. Like its clones, this example has two red film counters in the back so photographers could make two images out of what would normally be one piece of film on the roll.

Argus C3

with 50 mm Cintar coated lens

This early range-finder camera produced in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was very popular – 2 million were sold. It was produced for 27 years starting in 1938, but the earliest versions of the C3 were bakelite. This one is metal covered in leather. Its weight and no doubt its proportions earned it the nickname “The Brick.” But a very small brick: it fits easily into the palm. \

Detrola Model G

Produced in…you guessed it, Detroit, from 1938 to 1940. The Model G was molded of Bakelite, trimmed in metal, and fitted with an optical viewfinder. The one in Phil’s collection is clearly marked “Model G” but it differs from examples online in that it does not have the problem-prone viewfinder.

Universal Camera Co. Mercury II Model CX:

Mike Eckman wrote a compelling account of the technical leaps (including the first hot shoe on the top of a camera) that designer George Kende developed for this low-end New York company to compete in a camera world driven by high-end German cameras like Leica. That exposure calculator on the back? It was so complex, it takes 6 pages of the manual to explain it. By contrast, the manufacturing design was extraordinarily simple, in order for Universal’s unskilled labor force to produce it at a low price.

Universal Mercury II (1946)
Ansco Shur Shot
c 1948:

The Shur Shot is in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, which reports the camera was probably the most popular box camera produced by Ansco.

It has an aluminum front and uses 120 film. Production began in 1935 but the German company Afga had acquired Anso by then and the first Shur Shots were labeled Afga Anso; when WWII arrived, the Afga name was dropped in America, so Phil’s example is clearly post-1943.

Spartus Full-Vue

This plastic-bodied American camera was made from 1948 to 1960. The viewfinder is bigger than the lens, and shutter speed and timing are controlled by levers on the right side. Phil’s was built by Spartus Camera Corp. but other Full-Vues carry the names of other manufacturers.

Pho-Tak Corporation Spectator Flash 120.

This 1950s-era box camera was built in Chicago , usually in black, but this one is grey-green. Versions were marketed under both United States Camera and Photo-Tak Corp., apparently the same company.

Kodak Bantam RF

So 1950s. Brown Bakelite, ‘50s design, a radioactive lens, and an innovative film advance.