image by John Kratz (Image rights)
The related companies Utility Mfg. Co.., Spartus, and Herold created a great many inexpensive camera models, sold under a dizzying array of brands, from the 1930s into the 1960s. The Chicago brand Spartus is at the center of this constellation, and this page tries to summarize these companies' history and camera models.
A tangled history
The Utility Manufacturing Company was founded in New York in 1934, and offered several camera lines, including folding cameras and box cameras. Its main camera brand was Falcon, a name particularly associated with a line of "half frame" 3×4 cm cameras for 127 film—for example, the Falcon Miniature. These were molded bakelite cameras in an eye-level style quickly becoming popular in other "minicams" of the day, such as the Argus A.
In 1941 Utility was bought by Spartus Corp., and moved west to Chicago, Illinois. Spartus was one of several companies owned by successful Chicago businessman Jack Galter, who also manufactured clocks and razors. The new Spartus address was 711 West Lake Street, Chicago, an address where the Monarck/Monarch company had been producing cameras before WWII. Previous and new camera lines then appeared under the branding Spartus. Many of these models were molded plastic with distinctive styling.
The address 711–715 W. Lake St. in Chicago. is at the center of a confusing cluster of camera brands. These include Monarck, Spartus, Galter, Falcon Camera Co., Spencer and others. (In some 1940s Spartus advertising, "The Spencer Company" is given as the distributor of Spartus cameras.)
Several Spartus models are seen with president Jack Galter's branding "Galter Products Co." In 1951 Spartus' head of sales, Harold Rubin, bought the company and renamed it Herold Mfg. Co. while continuing to brand cameras as Spartus. This company also produced razors and clocks; in fact Spartus clocks outlived cameras as the company's main product. Around 1960 the Herold Mfg. Co. returned to the name Spartus Corporation.
|1938 ad scanned by Nesster (Image rights)|
New York: Utility Mfg. Co.
- Carlton Reflex
- Falcon (Bakelite) with metal lens mount surround
- Falcon Super-Action Candid, Model F & Model FE
- Falcon Super.Action Candid, Model G & Model GE
- Falcon (folding)
- Falcon Flex
- Falcon Junior (folding bakelite)
- Falcon Junior 16 (Box)
- Falcon Magni-Vue (pseudo TLR)
- Falcon Midget 16 (box)
- Falcon Minette
- Falcon Miniature
- Falcon Minicam Junior
- Falcon Minicam Senior
- Falcon Model Four
- Falcon Model V-16
- Falcon Press Flash
- Falcon Rocket
- The Falcon Special
- Falcon-Abbey Electricamera
- Parex Reflex
- Cinex (Chicago)
- Spartus Box Cameras for 116, 116/616, 120, and 620 film
- Spartus 120 Flash Camera (bakelite)
- Spartus 35 & Spartus 35F
- Spartus Folding Camera (bakelite 127) including Spartus Junior Model
- Spartus No. 4 (folding) for 120 film (Also sold as No. 1?)
- Spartus Co-Flash
- Spartus Full-Vue
- Spartus Press Flash
|image by Geoff Harrisson (Image rights)|
- Spartus Rocket (1960s)
- Spartus Six Twenty
- Spartus Super R-I
- Spartus Vanguard
- Spartus Vest Pocket (folding)
Chicago: Herold Mfg.
- Other Herold models that did not use Spartus brand?
- Herold 40
- Photo Master
- McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 12th Edition, 2005-2006. USA, Centennial Photo Service, 2004. ISBN 0-931838-40-1 (hardcover). ISBN 0-931838-41-X (softcover). Pages 941–943
- An advertisement from May 1940 gives the address of Utility Manufacturing Co., Inc. as 40 West 25th St., New York NY.
- For example, here is a Falcon minicam branded "Utility Mfg. Co., Chicago U.S.A.," from Wayne Violette on Flickr.
- Spartus advertisement, Popular Photography magazine, August 1947 (Vol. 21, No. 2) page 12.
- Monarck ad in the June 1940 Popular Photography (Vol. 6, No. 6), page 107.
- An example is this November 1946 ad from Popular Photography (Vol. 19, No. 5) page 31. The Spartus camera brand certainly was used following WWII, but perhaps earlier.
- The Herold Products manual for the Spartus 620 shows an address of 2110 W. Walnut, Chicago. The Spartus address of 715 W. Lake St. is a couple of miles east of this.
- An advertisement from December 1955 promotes the Spartus Full-Vue camera, a Spartus clock, and an electric razor (Life magazine Dec 12, 1955; Vol. 39, No. 24; page 56).
- Spartus at OneTwoSeven.org
- Various Spartus PDF Instruction Manuals from OrphanCameras.com listed alphabetically.
- Falcon folding camera instruction manual in PDF format (English) from OrphanCameras.com
- Spartus cameras (from "The Spencer Company") advertised in the July, 1948 Popular Photography magazine.
|Companies of Chicago (Illinois)|
|Adams & Westlake | 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?|