Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Photos by Chuck Miller; click to enlarge

The camera you see above is a Kodak Vest Pocket Autographic, a model that was produced from 1912 through 1926. Blogger and PermaRec reader Chuck Miller recently acquired it on eBay.

As you can see, the camera was inscribed with a series of etched notations. That's because the each Vest Pocket Autographic came with its own engraving pencil. The pencils were supposed to be used to write notes on the film, allowing the users to annotate their photos, but most people didn't bother with that and instead wrote notes directly on the camera case. You can see the pencil mounted at the bottom of the camera in this next photo, which also shows lots of additional inscriptions (click to enlarge):

If you look near the top of that last photo, you'll see the name "Frank D. Row" surrounded by a series of military locations. Miller (the guy who acquired the camera) figured Row must have had some sort of military connection and had charted his travels on the camera, sort of like a vacationer slapping place-themed decals on a suitcase.

Miller wanted to know more about Row and his travels with the camera, so he did some research and learned that Row served in the Red Cross during World War I and helped to establish a military hospital in France, among other things. Miller's research on Row and his unit turned up evidence that matches up with most of the places etched into the camera. You can read the full story here.

Row died in 1966, but the Red Cross chapter that he belonged to still exists, and Miller plans to return the camera to them shortly — a nice way for the camera to return home.

Miller sounds like a very PermaRec kind of guy. "For years, I've been trying to acquire cameras that have undeveloped film in them — maybe half a roll before the previous owner stopped taking pictures and the camera was lost," he says. "Unfortunately, in most cases the film is so deteriorated that it's undevelopable, or the company I sent it to that promised to develop rare film simply took my money and never gave anything back. So this Vest Pocket Autographic is the first time I've actually been able to get a camera that can tell its story."

1 comment:

  1. I have a similar Kodak folding camera that still has half a roll of film in it. (Junior Six-20)
    I'm also a little leery about mailing it off.