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American 28mm Victor "Safety Cinema" Projector

American Victor 28mm cine projector - motor driven version


The year was 1918; the place, Rochester, N.Y.; and the occasion, a meeting of the recently formed Society of Motion Picture Engineers. On this occasion Alexander F. Victor, an equipment manufacturer and an active member of the Society addressed the assemblage on the subject, "The Portable Projector; Its Present Status and Needs." (Trans. SMPE, No. 6, pp. 29-32, Apr. 1918.) In his paper, Victor made a strong plea that the Society create a new and separate standard for motion pictures used outside the theater, that is, in the nontheatrical field. Specifically he proposed a modification of the 28mm film size that had been introduced in 1912 by the French firm of Pathé Freres. Mr. Victor pointed out that if the SMPE were to adopt a standard of this type it would tend to discourage a number of manufacturers of portable projectors from using many different film sizes and would encourage a more uniform practice.

Most significantly, Victor stated that this film size should be supplied only on safety acetate support in order to reduce the hazard of its use in the home, the school and other locations where safety from fire hazards is paramount. It was a bold proposal and Victor stated later that "it took many months of the hardest kind of persuasion and work to obtain the required number of votes to secure acceptance of this proposal"(Am. Cinemat., 26: 376, Nov. 1945). A standard was adopted in April 1918 by the Society for safety standard film, 1.102 in. (28 mm) wide, for use with portable projectors.

Prior to World War I, the French Pathéscope, with a library of 28mm non-inflammable film was introduced to the United States and Canadian markets. When importations of projectors was cut off after the war started in Europe, Victor designed and built, in 1917, the Victor Safety Cinema to use this 28mm film, which appealed to him as the answer to the hazard problem. Victor redesigned the Pathescope film only to the extent of using three perforations on each side of the frame instead of the original three and one. As previously noted, he presented a paper in 1918 to the Society of Motion Picture engineers exposing the hazards involved in using 35mm nitrate film in schools, and churches and elsewhere without booth protection and urged the adoption of 28mm safety film by the SMPE as a new standard.
(Samuel J. Rose- Journal of the SMPTE 72 (August 1963, pp. 614-621)

The Victor 28mm 'Safety Cinema' Projector

My own 28mm Victor Safety Cinema - Although not needed, I have fitted the included handle

The Victor 28mm projector was made by The Victor Animatograph Co., Davenport, Iowa, USA. My example has a serial number of 574. I think currently there are just two examples in the UK; at least one is in a private collection in Australia; whilst two others exist in private collections in Canada and the USA. One has pride of place on a pedestal in a glass case in the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, USA.

Manufacture began in 1917, but records indixcate only around eleven were assembled in that first year. By the end of 1919, serial numbers were up to 524 - putting my machine (serial number 574) to be dated about 1920. (Later machines had serial numbers like 2071 - this example is currently in the USA).

Although the Victor 28mm system originally used 28mm film with three perforations per frame on each side of the film, this machine clearly was designed to accept both the Victor type film and the Pathé 28mm film which had three perforations per frame on one side and one perforation per frame on the other.

All Victor 28mm machines of this type were supplied with a handle, although some, (like my example) also have motor drive.

Nameplate on my machine - the motor speed rheostat knob is the rather worn black bit between the badges!
The lower plated button is the on/off switch. Most 35mm machines used the highly inflammable nitrate films,
these 28mm machines used only 'safety' non-flam acetate films - hence the yellow safety certificate.

The original lamp was 28.5 volts 165 watts, although the dropper resistance is marked "12 volt 75 watt lamp". Incidentally my example has beeen neatly modified with a 12 volt 50 watt A1/220 QI lamp which gives a good bright picture and keeps the lamphouse quite cool. (There is no fan cooling).

The Victor original lamp dropper resistance 'rheostat'

The projector was designed to operate from the normal 110 volt American mains supply - the motor wound for 110 volts and the lamp supplied via the dropper resistance - described as 'the rheostat'. (In fact the resistance value works OK for both the 12 volt 72 watt and 28.5 volt 165 watt lamps). A motor speed resistance is fitted in the base of the machine. Motor brushes are 3mm x 6mm. My example seems to run well, but quite rattly! (Even when well lubricated!)

The projector seems to have been supplied with a choice of lenses - a 3.5 inch and a 4 inch focal length, supplied in a 42.5mm diameter mount. Calculations by a late UK collector suggest an aperture of around f2.8 - quite good for the date. Film movement is by a "Maltese Cross" type mechanism, being quite kind to the film.

Level adjusting screws are fitted to the front feet.

The non-operating side of my 28mm Victor with the cover removed -
(I've just fitted a new spring take-up belt -
gln 01Dec2015)

American sales dwindled once the 16mm (and 9.5mm) film gauges had been launched; Victor tried to interest film companies into producing 28mm versions of their film productions, even producing a 35mm to 28mm printer, but there was little commercial interest. Eventually Victor produced a lower price 28mm projector 'The Victor Home Cinema', a horizontal hand-driven effort, but certainly in the USA, the 28mm film size was doomed, despite the extensive film libraries. (28mm had dissapeared in Europe with the outbreak of the first World War in 1914).

The later 1920s 28mm Victor Home Cinema

American 28mm Victor cine projector instruction sheet
(from the text I guess there was also a full instruction book)

28mm Victor hand-turned model
(original lamphouse base appears to have been removed)

Further 28mm info at ........(Martyn Stevens)
Further 28mm info at ...............(me - Grahame Newnham)

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Created 12Jun2015 .. Last updated 27 October 2016 ......... 28victor.htm ......... © MMXV Grahame L. Newnham
14Jul2015 - Victor hand-turned picture added / 01Dec2015 - Victor photo with cover off added