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Sears is the most famous mail order house in the world since its Chicago building Sears Tower was the highest in the world for a certain period. In the U.S.A. it was the greatest mail-order and retail vendor of consumer goods. It was founded by Richard W. Sears in 1886, starting as a reseller of watches in North Redwood, Minnesota. In 1887 Sears moved to Chicago and employed Alvah C. Roebuck as watch- and toolmaker. In 1893 Roebuck became partner in the company which then was renamed Sears, Roebuck & Co..

Like other great mail-order houses Sears had a house-brand for cameras, the Tower cameras which were all OEM products, made by different renowned camera makers of several countries. Some cameras were sold branded Sears, and a few under their original manufacturers. In the 1930s and 1940s Sears also had another house brand, Marvel, which was used on several camera models as well as a wide range of other photographic products.

Several Tower cameras were also made by Bilora, Pentax, Iloca, etc. Sears lenses for SLRs were made by Ricoh. Conley was a partner of Sears & Roebuck. In 1924 Conley was owned by Sears, and bought Seneca. But the Seneca brand disappeared in 1926.

In 1980 Sears, Roebuck and Co. was restructured and rebranded to Sears Merchandise Group. After several years of growth, Sears couldn't compete with Walmart and other value chains and it was sold to K-Mart in 2004. By 2021 Sears is a shadow of a former self, closing thousands of stores and surviving in few places.

Distributed cameras

Sears name Description Original camera/manufacturer  Launch date
Marvel (127) Rebranded Acro Model R Acro
Marvel "27" Name variant of The Chicago Cluster 127 cameras The Chicago Cluster
Marvel S-20 brownie type box Made for and sold by Sears as an Ansco Ansco
Marvel Box Camera Rebranded Ansco Shur Shot Ansco
Marvel-flex 6×6 TLR, c.1941, rebranded Ciro-Flex A Ciro
Sears 65 35mm viewfinder Halina Paulette
Sears 126 TLS Reflex 126 film SLR Ricoh 126c-Flex TLS
Sears 3A box camera 3.25x5.25 Kodak V122 film Conley Kewpie No. 3A
Sears 32B SLR, Exakta-mount interchangeable lenses, c.1961 aka Tower 32B Mamiya Prismat NP
Sears 35rf 35mm rangefinder Ricoh 500 RF
Sears 35|RF 35mm rangefinder Ricoh 500 G
Sears Auto 35TL 35mm SLR Mamiya 528TL
Sears Auto CS 1000MX 35mm SLR Mamiya NC 1000
Sears Auto CS 1000MXB 35mm SLR, black body Mamiya NC 1000
Sears Easi-Load FC 600 126 cartridges flash cube Instamatic Ricoh 126C Automatic
Sears Easi-Load Auto 600 126 cartridges flash cube Instamatic Ricoh 126C Auto CdS
Sears Easi-Load 700 RF 126 cartridges flash cube Instamatic Ricoh 126C Deluxe
Sears ES 35 Electronic 35mm rangefinder Ricoh Super Shot
Sears FF35 35mm viewfinder Haking Halina Speedy 33
Sears Flip-Flash 110
Sears KS Auto 35mm SLR Ricoh XR-2s
Sears KS-1 35mm SLR Ricoh XR-6
Sears KS Super 35mm SLR, KS-1 with slower speed (1/500s) Ricoh XR-6
Sears KS Super II 35mm SLR, KS Super without Bulb Ricoh XR-6
Sears KS-2 35mm SLR Ricoh XR-7
Sears KS 1000 35mm SLR Ricoh XR-1, XR-1s
Sears KS 500 35mm SLR Ricoh KR-5 / XR-500
Sears KSX-1000 35mm SLR Ricoh KR-5 Super
Sears KSX 35mm SLR Ricoh KR-10 / XR-1000s
Sears KSX Super 35mm SLR Ricoh KR-10 Super / XR-2000
Sears KSX-P 35mm SLR (Dual2 Program) Chinon CP-5
Sears M35af 35mm AF compact Ricoh AF-2?
Sears M35 Autofocus 35mm AF compact Ricoh AF-5?
Sears Model 65 35mm viewfinder Halina Paulette
Sears Model 65 RF Halinar 45mm f2.8 lens Halina
Sears RF 5 Ricoh
Sears RF 7 35mm rangefinder Ricoh
Sears SL-9 35mm SLR, leaf shutter Ricoh 35 Flex
Sears SL-11 35mm SLR Ricoh Singlex or Ricoh Singlex TLS 1965/Spring-Summer
Sears TLS 35mm SLR Ricoh Singlex TLS 1966/Christmas
Sears TLS 500 MX 35mm SLR Ricoh SLX 500
Sears TLS 1000 MX 35mm SLR Mamiya MSX 1000
Seroco Junior 4×5 Conley Model VII
Tower No. 1 Pseudo TLR unknown
Tower 5 127 film Bilora Bella
Tower 7 120 film Brownie type box Germany (Bilora)
Tower 8 box camera Mfr? Germany
Tower 10A 35mm range finder, 48mm f/2.8 coated Mamiya 35 Ruby
Tower 10B 35mm range finder Mamiya 4B RF
Tower 14 pseudo-TLR box Bilora Bonita 66
Tower 16 16mm submini spy cam Mamiya 16
Tower 18 4.2cm f/2.8 Olympus 35-S
Tower 18A 35mm rangefinder f/1.9 Mamiya 35 Ruby
Tower 18B 35mm rangefinder Mamiya 35 Ruby Standard
Tower 19 35mm interchangeable lens rangefinder Olympus Ace E
Tower 20 Olympus Wide-E?
Tower 20B RF 48mm f/1.7 Mamiya
Tower 22 SLR Asahiflex IIA
Tower 23 SLR Asahiflex IA and Asahiflex IIB
Tower 24 SLR Asahiflex IIB
Tower 25 TLR Aires Automat (Nikkor lens) 1955/Spring-Summer
Tower 26 35mm SLR Asahi Pentax (original) and Pentax S
Tower 27 TLR 1955/Spring-Summer
Tower 29 35mm SLR Asahi Pentax K
Tower Reflex I or Tower 120 Flash pseudo TLR Ising Pucky I
Tower Reflex II pseudo TLR Photina from Photavit-Werk GmbH, Nurnberg, Germany
Tower Reflex III pseudo TLR Photina II from Photavit-Werk GmbH, Nurnberg, Germany
Tower Reflex 30 TLR Photina Reflex IIIb from Photavit-Werk GmbH, Nurnberg, Germany
Tower 32A SLR, Exakta/Topcon mount, Mamiya-Sekor f/1.7 lens, (c.1963) Mamiya Prismat NP
Tower 32B SLR new rev 32A, split image focus screen, shoe Mamiya Prismat NP
Tower 33 Reflex SLR Braun Paxette Reflex
Tower 34 box camera (?) Ansco
Tower 34 Reflex 35mm SLR Braun
Tower 35 35mm rangefinder Nicca III-S
Tower 37 35mm SLR, Exakta mount Mamiya Prismat
Tower 37A 35mm SLR, budget Sears 32A but with 1/500 shutter and f/2.8 lens Mamiya Prismat NP
Tower 37B 35mm SLR Mamiya Prismat NP
Tower 39 (c.1961) odd horizontal design with flash reflector; autoexposure.
Tower 41 similar.
Mamiya Automatic 35 EEF
Tower 41 1962 Mamiya
Tower 42 1954 Nicca
Tower 43 1954 Nicca
Tower 44 TLR Toyoca-44
Tower 44B Super Matic TLR Halma 44
Tower 45 35mm range finder, f/2 lens Nicca 5L
Tower 46 f/1.4 Nicca
Tower 50 35mm viewfinder Iloca Quick-L / Quick-R, Vero Shutter, Cassar lens
Tower 50 120 folding Rollex 20 ca. 1950 USC
Tower 51 120 folding Conley Camera Company 1955
Tower 51 (not folding 120, but 35mm) LH film advance. Also RH film advance model, also knob advance version all called Tower 51 Iloca Rapid B Steinheil Cassar lens 50mm f/2.8 made in Germany by Kamerawerke Wilhelm Witt, Hamburg, Germany
Tower 52 35mm Iloca Rapid IIL
Tower 53 Iloca, 1955
Tower 53B Iloca, 1955
Tower 54 Olympus
Tower 55 35mm, two versions, later one with bigger viewfinder Rippa (Yamato)
Tower 55B Color Luna Lens 45mm f3.5 Pax Jr (Yamato)
Tower 57 35mm Samoca 35 M-28 (AKA Hanimex A35)
Tower 57A 35mm rangefinder Samoca LE-II
Tower 60 120 folder Dacora I
Tower Reflex 64 TLR Tower Reflex no meter Walz
Tower Reflex 65 TLR Tower Reflex with meter Walz
Tower 83 35mm Stereo Iloca Stereo IIa 1955-57
Tower Flash 120 120 Bilora box
Tower 127 Mamiya ??
Tower Press Camera 4×5 Busch 4x5 Pressman
Tower Automatic 35 Mamiya ???
Tower Automatic 127 4×4 autoexposure Electric Eye 127 from USC
Tower 127 Automatic II 4×4 autoexposure USC
Tower Camflash 127 also Camflash II 127 Comet 127 from USC
Tower Colorette Rangefinder Braun Super Colorette
Tower Companion 1960 Imperial, similar to Debonair
Tower Hide Away same as Imperial Mark 27
Tower One-Twenty Flash box camera that uses 120 film
Tower Phantom
Tower Pixie 127 plastic 4×4 cm same as Imperial Lark
Tower Pixie II 127 plastic 4×4 cm
Tower Reflex 1 box camera 120 Probably Bilora
Tower Skipper 127 brownie box size, made in USA Mercury Satellite 127
Tower Snappy 620 plastic box Imperial Savoy
Tower Stereo 35mm Stereo Iloca Stereo IIa
Tower Synchroflash Bilora Bella
Tower Type 3 Nicca III
Tower Type 3S Nicca, Leotax?
Trumpfreflex 6x6 TLR Reflecta (Richter Reflecta)


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
Chicago in depth: The Chicago Cluster‎, a bakelite trust?