Photographica Digest - Western Photographic Historical Society
Western Photographic Historical Society
Volume XXI No.1
Looking over the WPHS’ tables at the October 3rd Tanque Verde Antique Fair, I spotted a
16 mm movie camera manufactured by Stewart
Warner, the parent company of which was
founded in 1905 and produced the speedometers used in the Ford Model T. SW still produces
a line of automotive instruments (gauges) used
in hotrods, trucks and other custom vehicles
I had not planned to actually
buy any more cameras and
particularly not any more movie
cameras but I had never heard
of, or seen a SW movie camera
so I simply had to have it.
This particular example is the
Stewart Warner “Hollywood”,
Model 531B, s/n 30737X. It has
several fairly unique features.
1. The lens apertures are simply
fixed holes in a rotating plate
located in front of the lens (No
2. The lens/aperture assembly is
mounted to the camera using a
key hole type bayonet mount
(This was an attempt to provide
an interchangeable lens mount
but there is no record of any lens
other than the standard 25 mm,
f/3.5 being produced for this mount).
3. A frame
rate of 24
no Lens Mount - Left: lens, Right: camera
available to accommodate a sound track).
4. The folding spring motor
winding handle only connects
to the winding mechanism
when it is unfolded (Unlike
other similar cameras where
the folded winding handle
continues to rotate as the
spring motor turns).
An indicator flag appears in the viewfinder
about every 36 frames (Assuming the “Talking
Picture” frame rate to be 24 FPS). Other
available frame rates are approximately
“Normal” 18 FPS, “Low” 10 FPS and “Slow
Motion” 45 FPS. Yes, the “Slow Motion” frame
rate is faster and when projected at 18-25 FPS
everything appears move at approximately half
The inside of the removable cover
has extensive instructions printed
thereon regarding the threading of
This camera was manufactured in
1931 and unlike some others of
that time is extremely well made.
The main housing and the front
plate are aluminum die castings
and the inner plate which supports
most of the mechanism has an engine turned
finish similar that applied to high end
automotive instrument panels of the era.
HELP! HELP! HELP!
The WPHS Spring Camera Show is fast
approaching and we need all the volunteer help
we can get in the following areas:
1. Distribution of posters and hand-outs.
2. Set up of WPHS tables at the show.
3. Sales at the WPHS tables.
4. Take down after the show.
If you are able to help please contact Jerry
Charles Verschoor started adulthood in the
early ‘20’s as a recently graduated engineer in
the Ann Arbor, Michigan auto industry. He
started his own company about 1924
manufacturing a small radio, the Arborphone to
listen to the new radio phenomenon. A few
years later he marketed the improved Cavac
radio just as the NBC and ABC networks were
About 1931 he established the
International Radio Corporation to market his
newest radio, the Kadette, a small plastic cased
4 tube table radio in multiple colors. The
plastic case and the lack of a metal box chassis
made the low-priced radio an instant success.
Shortly later, he marketed a conversion kit that
allowed the Kadette to be used in an automobile
– the first car radio, then a miniature version
that was the first pocket radio. These were
followed by the Autime, the first clock radio and
a remote for the Kadette, again a first.
Business was fantastic, distributing through
mom and pop stores of all kinds in every
neighborhood, but in summertime the radios
were inside and the people were outside; the
IRC factory had to shut down during summer.
While on a trip to Europe, Charles took an
interest in the new camera sensations – Leica
and Contax – new toys for the wealthy. Back in
Ann Arbor he “echo-vated” the Leica systems:
film advance, focus, body, and viewfinder – all
in simpler form using the same plastic as the
radios. The result was the marketing in 1936 of
the Argus A (think one eyed Greek god) aimed
at the market of all the more serious amateur
photographers, skilled beyond Kodak box
cameras, but unable to afford European
cameras or the Kodak Retina at $57. The
Argus, using the new Kodak 135 cartridge, (a
better choice than Ansco’s Memo cartridge) sold
30,000 cameras the first week at about $12
The now International Research
Corporation assembly line would hum all year
long – cameras in the summer, radios the rest
of the year. Charles also provided “everything
needed by the amateur photographer except the
film and paper”: tripods, darkroom tools,
enlargers, filters, etc. The camera went thru
several variations with better lenses, flash (with
the new 25 series lamps) and an extinction
When Kodachrome was introduced,
there was a slide projector for the color slides.
Charles then proceeded to “echo-vate” an
Argoflex from the first Voigtlander Brilliant
design; an Argoflex E from the geared lens
Brilliant. He redesigned the Argus A to a more
modernistic round-ended Argus A3, and the
Colorcamera with either an extinction or
selenium meter. Better lenses were added from
the newly acquired Ilex optical works; the
models D and K were designed and the model
12, an “eco-vation” of the Retina and Agfa Karat
was experimented with.
At the height of
creativity, the C series was “eco-vated” from the
Contax and exploded on the market in 1939 to
stay in production until Argus failed in 1966.
Somewhere it is reported 3.5 million C series
Argus’s were marketed. The sales paid off the
costs the first year and Argus had a cash cow
for 28 years. Probably in 1939, Charles also
developed the model 21 Markfinder from the A3
series- which became the after war development
of the C 4, C-44 line.
Verschoor was dismissed in a conflict with the
board over development and other expenses,
the board insisting on greater returns. Altho
disputed by some, Verschoor is generally
believed to have developed the advanced Vokar
35mm camera system featuring a number of
Argus A and C components, before his death in
Argus wasn’t the same without Verschoor.
When civilian production restarted after 1946,
Argus tried to update several models without
any great success – the C-3 soon became the
monstrous C-33, and then the Autronic series –
all rejected by the public, while the C-3 kept
selling in large numbers.
The Argoflex E
became the EM with auto film advance that
didn’t work and was swiftly replaced by the EF
without the advance. The A series continued
until 1951 and was replaced by the only postVerschoor new design, the cheap plastic A-4/C20 cameras – again not a success in the photo
marketplace. None of the experimental D, K, M
and 12 models were fully developed after the
Verschoor era. The legacy of Verschoor’s A-3
Markfinder was marketed as the C-4; which
was modified by Geiss of Chicago for Enna
lenses and became the C44, Argus’s first
useable multi-lens camera, adapting the C33
lens mount to the C4. However none of these
offerings could compete with the influx of well
designed Japanese Petri, Konica, Aires,
Olympus, and other rangefinder cameras with
Argus rebadged the
Japanese Royal in 1957, the Iloca IIIL in 1958
and the Pax M2/3 in 1962.
The Balda instamatics appeared in the 60’s and
70’s, and the Argus/Cosina SLR in 1971,
continuing the slide downhill after the C-3
production ended in 1966. Cheap plastic point
and shoot cameras were marketed to about
1990 from some unknown oriental firm using
the Argus logo.
Hartford Group Europe
marketed digital cameras beginning before 2000
– the last of the DC series was the DC6315
about 2009-a respectable 6 meg shirt-pocket
type with what seems to be Chinon patents.
Photographica Digest is the official monthly
publication of the Western Photographic
Historical Society (WPHS), a non-profit
501(c)3 organization. Contents herein are
copyrighted in the year of publication.
Photographica Digest is distributed to
WPHS members in good standing and other
organizations by mail, and may be download from our website as an Acrobat PDF
file (readable with Adobe Reader). Featured
articles in the newsletter may used or reprinted one time, provided credit is given to
WPHS and permission is granted by the
author. Any other use is strictly forbidden.
Annual membership is $20, or $5 for students. A printable application form is also
available on our website at:
Robert Suomala....................... President
Mark Sawyer.................... Vice-President
Jozef Pacholczyk...................... Secretary
Martin Kebschull..................... Treasurer
Jerry O’Neill........................ Membership
Jerry Day......................Student Support
Jerry O’Neill..................... Consignments
Clayton Wilson.............................. Setup
Gary Fielding.......................... Education
Ron Kuykendall...................... Donations
Currently Argus exists only as a Chicago firm
importing a successful line of children’s Bean
0.3 digital cameras.
For comments or additional information please
contact me at:
[email protected] or WPHSociety.com
Western Photographic Historical Society
PO Box 14616 - Tucson, Arizona 85732-4616
Email: [email protected]
Jan 2nd This is the WPHS Annual Meeting. The
election of board members and other
business will be conducted. Remember
to mail in or bring your ballots to the
There will be no announced presentation
but rather an open stage where members
who have something to discuss from
their own experience will have an opportunity to share with others. A computer,
projector, audio system and even a
35mm slide projector will be available.
Bring your CD’s, DVD, and thumb drives
Jan 11th The WPHS Board of Directors 1st quarter
of 2014 meeting will be held on Saturday, January 11, 2014 from Noon to
2PM at Bookman's Community Room,
1930 E. Grant Road, near intersection of
Grant and Campbell.
Join us on the first Thursday of every
month at the Pima County Medical
Society Building located at 5199 E.
Farness Drive, Tucson. Take Grant to
Rosemont (turn South), then turn
East on Farness Drive to 5199 on the
Consignment and member camera
sales, show and tell and a brief
lecture are featured every month
meetings run from 6:00 PM to 9:00
Feb 6th Program to be announced.
Mar 9th WPHS 2014 Spring Camera Show at
Hotel Tucson City Center, 475 N.
Granada Ave. Table reservations must
be received by February 9, 2014. See
Sunday, March 9th, 2014
9:30am until 2:00pm