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In 1939 Kenneth E. Becker founded the Calumet Manufacturing Company in Chicago.[1]

In the beginning its main business was sporting goods. It began to sell cameras through the store and to manufacture darkroom equipment.[2] The company later became Calumet Photographic.[3]

In 1955 Kodak sold the rights to its Master View 4x5 camera to Calumet. The Calumet CC-40n monorail camera series was derived from the Master View. Calumet started to develop innovations for view cameras like the Caltar large format lens line and the C-2 roll film holder.

In 1980 Calumet was a full-line supplier of professional photographic products. Calumet stopped making its own cameras and instead sold ones made by Dutch manufacturer Cambo. The company got together with Keith, Johnson and Pelling, a retail chain in the United Kingdom, and started a number of European companies under a holding company, Calumet International.

Calumet Photographic filed for bankruptcy in the USA on 13 March 2014.[4][5] Calumet was by then only a distributor in the USA and some other countries, offering sales and rental of professional equipment, by many manufacturers including Cambo, which was named as one of Calumet's creditors.[5] All the Calumet stores in the US were closed prior to the liquidation. A marketing firm, C&A Marketing, bought some of the bankrupt company assets, and re-opened at three stores, in central and outlying parts of Chicago.[6] As of July 2020, the US website redirects to the web-only Ritz Camera, also owned by C&A Marketing.

There are also still a number of Calumet stores in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and until 2020, the UK.[7] As of July 2020 these still offer Cambo (and only Cambo) large-format products. The mainland European websites refer to separate companies Calumet Photographic B.V., bvba, and GmbH; they do not mention or link to the US site, suggesting they are a separate group. The UK company Calumet Photographic Ltd merged with Wex Photo Video in 2020, and their website does not list any Cambo products (or any large-format at all).



  1. The word 'calumet' occurs as a place- or company name in various places in North America, but notably in Illinois. It is supposedly a word of French origin, referring to native-American ceremonial pipes, and the reeds used to make their stems: see Ceremonial pipe at Wikipedia.
  2. For example, Calumet Mfg. Co. advertised stainless steel sinks, buckets, developing tanks and trays and print washers in Popular Photography, October 1951, p108 (archived at Google Books).
  3. The company was still Calumet Manufacturing as late as 1968: Kenneth Becker is described as President of the company by that name in the College Catalogue 1968-69 (pdf) (archived) of the Agricultural and Technical College at Farmingdale, NY (part of the State University), p23-4 (Becker was a member of the College's advisory committee on photographic technology).
  4. Calumet Photographic to Liquidate, Closes US Stores (archived) in PDNPulse a blog by staff of the US photo magazine Photo District News.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Chicago Tribune 13 March 2014 (archived).
  6. Calumet Photographic Closes Final Three Chicago Area Locations, 26 January 2016, at Chicago Business.
  7. See Calumet Photographic's Belgian, Netherlands or German sites.


Companies of Chicago (Illinois)
Adams & Westlake | Central Camera Co. | American Advertising and Research Co. | Bernard | Burke & James | Busch | Calumet | Candid | Chicago Aerial | Chicago Camera Co. | Chicago Ferrotype Company | Deardorff | De Vry | Drucker | Galter | Geiss | Herold | Imperial | Kemper | Lennor Engineering Co. | Metropolitan Industries | Monarch | Montgomery Ward | Pho-Tak | QRS Company | Rolls | Sans & Streiffe | Sears | Seymour | Spartus | The Camera Man | United States Camera Co. | Western Camera Manufacturing Co. | Yale | Zar | Zenith
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