Seventy years ago, Jesse Owens was setting records at the Olympics in Berlin, the winds of war were beginning to sweep through Europe, and people were lining up to see Gary Cooper in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Economic recovery had stopped and America was entering a second depression. Unemployment was at 20%, and in that same year there were more labor strikes than in any year before. It was during this immense turmoil that Samuel Krivit launched Photo Trade News (PTN), a monthly magazine for the new emerging photo retailer with news and marketing ideas to help them run their businesses.
In the past 70 years, we as an industry have witnessed many exciting technological advances. Most have been revolutionary, while others have been evolutionary. The technical advances we take for granted today were dreams of technicians and camera designers 70 years ago. PTN has been there all the while, bringing the news of all these developments to our readers.
In that time PTN has proudly reported the history of the photo industry to its readers. This magazine has many times been called the "Bible of the Industry"—and rightly so. To borrow a phrase from Billy Joel's song "We Didn't Start the Fire," while PTN didn't light it, we certainly did help play a major role in reporting the fire in the news, products, and trends that shaped this marketplace.
The1930s saw the development of Kodachrome, the first multi-layered color film, and the development of Exakta, pioneering the 35mm SLR. In 1939, Kenneth Becker formed Calumet Manufacturing Co. in Chicago. Originally, he sold sporting goods and just a few cameras through the store. Eventually, Calumet began to manufacture stainless-steel developing trays and other darkroom equipment. Darkroom was to become a big hobby for photo enthusiasts for decades to come.
The 1940s saw America going to war against Germany and Japan. Interestingly enough, these two countries would eventually become allies, and major forces in the photo industry in the U.S. PTN's March 1942 issue featured a special section on the war effort. Along with many other young men working in the photo industry during wartime, PTN's then editor, Howard Shonting, did his part for the war effort, joining the U.S. Army as a Volunteer Officers Candidate in the Photographic Section of the Air Corps.
The end of WWII in 1945 saw more specialty camera stores opening up than ever before. Many veterans came home from the war and originally opened up photo studios. Some figured that if they had a Kodak photo studio franchise, they could buy their film directly and save money. However, Kodak was not yet ready to supply all these new stores that were springing up. Stock was hard to get, but when retailers received a shipment of almost anything, they could plan on selling it at full list price. Without really planning for it, they moved from being photography studios to being photo retailers. This was truly the heyday of the camera store.
Click Camera Shops was opened by Robert and Rose Adler in Springfield, OH. The original store was located at 45-47 West High Street, downtown Springfield, where the Adlers later started Tru-Foto. As Tru-Foto started to grow, the Adlers expanded operations. In 1962, Tru-Foto built a new processing plant in Dayton, OH, and in 1963, Adler sold Click Camera to Edward and Irene Klaben. In 1988, Ed Klaben was named PTN's Dealer of the Year. Son Rob took over the business and was named PTN Dealer of the Year in 2004, only the second time that both a father and son received such honors. The Adlers, with son Mike, went on to develop the very successful MotoPhoto.
Among some of the other returning vets was then lawyer Ben Cooper. With his brother Harry, he founded what was to become one of the best-run family specialty stores in the history of the industry. In Baltimore in 1945, Ben and Harry opened the Camera Mart for fellow hobbyists.
In 1948, Dr. Edwin Land's first production Polaroid camera, the Model 95, went on sale at Jordan Marsh in Boston for $89.75. At the MPFDA (the original name of the Photo Marketing Association) convention, PTN reported the buzz among attendees at the show was that Kodak would be in big trouble with those Polaroid sepia prints taking over the industry.
During the 1950s we were involved in another war, this time with North Korea. Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Ward offered huge selections of photo equipment to the public. In 1958, each retailer offered photo equipment catalogs in excess of 100 pages. Many specialty camera dealers feared they'd soon be run out of business, but they kept on providing personal service and grew even stronger. While the New York Giants were winning a World Series in 1954, Pentax SLRs came to the U.S., initially as Tower, a Sears house brand.
In 1955, Kodak decided to get out of the view camera business, selling Calumet the rights to its Master View 4x5, setting the course for other photographic innovations by Calumet in the 1960s.
Cameraland in New York City was founded in 1957 by Alfred Schlessinger and Arnold Rothstein. Ed Paymer bought into the operation in 1974. Cameraland is still going strong under the direction of Ed Paymer's son Joel.
As Beatlemania was hitting the states, the two big names in photo processing equipment were Kodak and Pako. The color paper of the day was Kodak's Ektacolor 20 Type 1870. The color negative process of choice was C-22, which was king until the mid-1970s.
During the 1960s mail-order advertising became big. Companies like Olden and 47th Street Photo's ads dominated photo magazines and The Sunday New York Times. In addition, discount stores such as E. J. Korvettes and Two Guys were starting to sell cameras and accessories.