Bell & Howell 2709 #823 was originally sold to the Ruby Camera Exchange in New York City on April 27, 1928. This camera is part of the collection of Jim Danforth, an accomplished matte painter, fine art artist, illustrator, model maker, sculptor, puppet maker, stop motion animator, machinist, production designer, camera technician, cameraman, visual effects supervisor, and filmmaker. Jim’s career includes his involvement in television and films like “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” (1963), “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” (1970), “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971), “Diamonds are Forever” (1971), "Clash of the Titans" (1981), and many more. This offering is for Jim’s Bell & Howell 2709, serial # 823, originally purchased by the Ruby Camera Exchange in 1928. Ruby Camera Exchange was a rental house and distributor of motion picture equipment established in 1910.
The Bell & Howell Company was founded in 1907 in Chicago, IL by Donald J. Bell and Albert S. Howell. Bell began his career in the movie business working as a projectionist. Howell had moved from Michigan to Chicago where he found work building and repairing projectors. In 1906, Howell patented a device that improved framing for 35mm Kinodrome projectors. Bell and Howell joined forces soon after this and formed their own company in 1907. Bell & Howell began by manufacturing, jobbing, leasing, and repairing machines for other companies in the Chicago area, helped along by Bell’s contacts in the movie projection business, and Howell’s inventive genius. After their first years in business, they began designing their own equipment. Their first original project focused on reducing the flicker of movie projectors and standardizing film sizes.
By 1908, Bell & Howell had successfully refined the Kinodrome projector to reduce flickering, and begun their work to standardize motion picture film to 35mm in width. They would no longer build or repair equipment using anything other than 35mm film after this point. By 1910, they had constructed their first camera, this canera was made of wood and leather. On an expedition to Africa, one of their cameras was heavily damaged by termites and mildew, and so they began redesigning the camera to be made of metal. In 1912, the all metal, design 2709 Standard Cinematograph motion picture camera was introduced to great fanfare. It quickly earned a reputation for precision, durability, and reliability that made it a favorite camera of the film industry for nearly five decades. The Bell & Howell 2709 was the preferred camera of industry pioneers such as Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford. Even after the 2709 fell out of favor as a studio production camera, its steady, reliable movement made it well suited for visual effects and optical printing work.