by Grahame L. Newnham B.Sc.
PATHÉSCOPE IN THE USA
The Pathéscope Company of America was incorporated in 1913 with an authorised capital of one million dollars for the purpose of distributing what they called 'Pathéscopes' (the 28mm French made KOK projector) and Pathéscope films in the United States. The Pathescope trade mark was registered on May 12th 1913 by Willard Beach Cook. This was effectively another franchise like Pathéscope Ltd set up in the UK a year or so earlier. The address of The Pathéscope Company of America Inc. was listed in 1920 as Aolian Hall, New York, but by then a subsiduary The Pathéscope Company of New England was operating from 635-639 Little Building, 80 Boylston Street, Boston, Mass.
In order to keep up with the demand for printed films a specially designed and completely equipped motion picture laboratory and factory were soon constructed in Long Island City for the purpose of producing (28mm) Pathéscope films particularly suited to American tastes (it tells us in the 32 page 1920 sales brochure).
It is interesting to note that these American 28mm printed films were still made with one perforation on one side of the film and three on the other. (It is believed the later Alexander F. Victor 28mm system developed in 1917 used three perforations on each side of the film, possibly to avoid Pathé Frères patents.) A great emphasis was placed on the fact that the 28mm films were on a slow burn base, with the American Underwriters' Laboratories Inc. approving all the printed film releases and officially approving each machine as "Enclosing booth not required".
According to the above mentioned brochure: 'The Great War paralysed production of the Pathéscope (28mm KOK), but Pathé Frères had just completed the manufacture of many thousands of machines. In March 1916 the Pathéscope Company of America purchased the entire remaining stock of the French company - sufficient for our requirements until the beginning of 1918'. Late versions of the American 28mm K.O.K. projector had one or two improvements and were marketed as "The Popular".
THE NEW PREMIER PATHÉSCOPE MOTION PICTURE PROJECTOR
1920 American sales brochure cover
During the summer of 1916 the design of a new 28mm projector was begun by Willard Beech Cook for The Pathéscope Company of America - smaller and more compact, no doubt to reduce the production costs, it still appears to use a similar lamphouse to the KOK. Intermittent film movement was achieved by a variation of the 'geneva' movement - the 'Premier Eccentric Star' which claimed to achieve 62% light transmission. To retain the compact design the shutter, with 45 degree blades, was in front of the lens.
The basic machine was motor driven, but where battery operation for the lamp was required a handle was supplied for hand cranking. Models were available for 32 volt battery operation or dual 32 and 110 voltages. A separate dropper resistance was available for 220 to 240 volt supplies (I had always assumed the USA was all 110 volt, but obviously not in 1918).
The motor was a Westinghouse Universal type, allowing for operation on AC or DC supplies. It was suspended on a single hinge pin which provided for simple drive belt tensioning and easy removal. Speed control was by a light brake bearing on the side of the flywheel. Ease of dissembly was provided by a single screw fixing lens mount, the gear train aluminium cover retained with just two screws, and the body of the lamphouse was attached to the front portion by a simple bayonet catch with the whole lamphouse being removed with a single hinge pin.
Lamps were supplied in versions from 35 to 75 watts. Interestingly the machine had an adjustable picture mask position - ie a framing control (not fitted to the original French KOK 28mm projector)
Size (with the spool arms folded) was quoted as 13 inches long, 8 inches wide and 13 inches high. Finish was in dull black baked enamel with nickel trimmings. Weight with motor - 23 pounds. Two carrying cases were offered - a suitcase style 16 inches by 13.5 inches by 8 inches or a metal carry case, a little like that for the KOK size 13.5 inches by 15.5 inches by 8.5 inches.
Another accessory was a special cabinet, in red or brown mahogany or fumed or flemish oak and supplied in Sheraton or Louis XV1 style, no doubt at a considerable price!
Much emphasis was made that for the fourth year running they had the contract for New York schools to supply 28mm educational films. They also had contracts with many commercial companies to supply advertising and training films and projectors.
By 1920 the list of 28mm films available totalled some 1600 reels and nearly 1200 titles. Most of these films could also be hired from a Pathéscope Film Exchange (ie film library) which were established in the major cities across the USA. Although originally the American 28mm Pathéscope film releases originated from the French Pathé company, soon the catalogue contained contemporary American material with Mack Sennett comedies and stars like Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin.
However the appearance of Pathé's 9.5mm gauge and particularly Kodak's 16mm gauge in 1923 coupled with the facility of reversal processing for home movies and a 16mm printed film library, dealt a fatal blow to 28mm in the USA - in fact Kodak engaged Willard Beech Cook to run their 16mm film library in 1924. The American Pathéscope 28mm film library continued for a short time afterwards in New York before it was closed and the films sold off.
Watch an excellent production about The New Premier Pathescope 28mm projector - https://youtu.be/eehWrTeIX94
THE PATHÉSCOPE CAMERA AND FILMING
This was initially actually the French made 28mm hand turned cine camera, described on a previous page and in the Houghton catalogue also on a previous page. The 28mm camera film was supplied and processed in the USA.
When supplies of this French made 28mm cine camera ran out, it appears a further batch were manufactured in the USA - illustrations from the time show some differences (if I can find the photo, I'll include it here!)
In addition the Pathéscope Company of America had an Industrial Film Department which offered film production for manufacturers, contractors, scientists, public gatherings etc. They boasted customers including the National Cash Register Company, The Garford Truck Company, The American Bank Note Company, School Boards, Baldwin Locomotive Works, Hershey Chocolate Company and many others using 28mm for their salesmen and promotional work.
Also offered was a service to produce 28mm copies of any standard 35mm cinema film - positive or negative.
Created Oct2002 .. Last updated 04 May 2016 .... 28premier.htm
.... © MM2 Grahame .L. Newnham
07Feb2010 Camera photos added, text updated in places / 10Jun2015 - Premier advert added