Ansco was an American manufacturer of camera equipment in Binghamton, New York. In the 19th century its predecessor E. & H.T. Anthony Co. was the largest distributor of photography supplies in the US. In 1870 the company started making cameras and was the first to patent a roll-film holder that could be loaded in light. In 1902 Anthony merged with Scovill, and the name was abbreviated to Ansco.
Ansco was the first US company to market a consumer level 35mm camera in the 1920s, but never followed up on that success. After the crash in 1929 and through the depression, they mainly competed with Kodak's low-end offerings.
Ansco merged with Agfa in 1928, to be called Agfa-Ansco. Through the economic challenges of the 1930s Ansco made few innovations and seemed to focus US production on simple box cameras, or older folding products. In 1939 Ansco was renamed General Aniline & Film. During WWII the company became state-owned because of its relations to Germany, and then it was sold as an "enemy-asset".
After the war Ansco and reached its peak as camera maker with a production of 2 million cameras per year. Since the 1950s it has sold only rebadged cameras, made by Agfa, Chinon, Ricoh and even Minolta. The company began to market products under the GAF brand (General Aniline & Film) in 1967 and made some film and cameras branded GAF. Haking of Hong Kong later acquired the rights to the Ansco trademark, and produced cameras under the brand into the 1990s.
Camera No. 9 Model B Circa 1906
The Ansco No. 9 cameras were contemporaries of the early Kodak camera, using roll film but offering the option to use glass plate. It is a fine camera, but designed for portability rather than the precision of the stationary cameras.
Camera No 3 Circa 1912
The Ansco No3 cameras were produced from the early 1910s to the mid 1920s, in competition with the Kodaks, which typically had better lenses. This is identified as an early model by the patents and the chrome shroud that covers the viewfinder.
Ansco Memo Circa 1927
The Ansco Memo is an American 35mm camera introduced in 1926, using Ansco's own cassette system, as 35mm would not standardize on the Kodak version until 1934. While not technically the first US built 35 mm camera, it is the first to be sold in significant quantities. Although these were once common, they are now fairly rare and prized by collectors. It is about 5" tall sitting on a 2" x 2 1/2" footprint.
The Memo features a claw-based film-advance mechanism, like a cine camera, rather than a sprocket system as on a conventional 35mm camera. The film was pushed from the bottom to the top cassette.
This camera takes the photo in the same orientation as a movie camera; 90 degrees rotated from modern cameras, so the images are half the size of the modern orientation. With a smaller format and early grainy film, photos were not as sharp as those from cameras such as the Lieca, but the Memo took 50 pictures on a roll of film.
The first cameras in 1926 had a varnished wood finish, then a leather-covered-wood which appeared in 1927. The next group came with a shutter release guard to help prevent unwanted exposures. Earlier models said "ANSCO" on the front, while later models said "MEMO". There was an olive-drab "OFFICIAL BOY SCOUT MEMO CAMERA" model.
Ansco No. 1 Readyset Royal Ostrich Pattern Circa 1928
The Readyset models were introduced in the 1920's in direct competition with the new colored Kodak models. They were stylish with bright unusual colors and textured grains simulating Silver Fox and Ostrich leathers. Along with the Kodak Vanity series, the Readyset Royal models targeted the booming market for stylish clothes and matching accessories. This camera has rich ostrich patterned leather covers and russet leather bellows, but unlike the Kodaks the lens boards are not colored.
Ansco No. 1A Readyset Royal Ostrich Pattern Circa 1928
This is the larger 1A model, which is a virtually identical scaled up version of the A model shown above. Click here to see a side-by-side of the two sizes.
Ansco No. 1A Readyset Royal Silver Fox Pattern Circa 1932
Same as above, but in the simulated silver fox pattern. Much of what looks like wear is the pattern. It is difficult to capture the beauty of this camera on film.
Ansco merged with German Agfa in 1928 and the camera shown here is the model 1A produced from 1928 to 1932 at the onset of the Great Depression when the market for fanciful cameras could have been expected to fade rapidly. However, it did not. Cameras became family treasures even more.
Ansco Panda Circa 1939
The Ansco Panda was first sold in 1939, then offered again post war until 1949. It is a simple child's box camera. Its appearance is quite similar to the Kodak Baby Brownie and was designed to compete directly with it. The camera features a black plastic body with cream accents around the lenses, a cream colored wind knob and a TLR style viewing lens above the taking lens.
Ansco Box No. 2 Model E Colored Circa 1940
This is a very inexpensive camera with only one view finder to be used in portrait mode. The mirror in the viewfinder is polished metal rather than glass. There were many colors offered. This green was not likely for military purposes, but to attract the Boy Scout market.
Ansco Cadet Box B2 Circa 1947
Ansco Flash Clipper Circa 1947
Ansco Automatic Reflex II Circa 1948
The Ansco Automatic Reflex series represents Ansco's last attempt at producing a serious US manufactured camera. Post WWII, German products were slow to reemerge in American markets, which limited the Agfa models which Ansco had relied on for the upper consumer market, and top producers of twin lens reflex cameras (TLR) such a Rollie were absent from the market. Ansco developed an exceptional camera with innovative features making it different from the established pre-war models. It was a quality build and sensible in operation. Sadly, it took too long to design and perfect, and the established pre-war brands got back into circulation before Ansco could build market share and overcome their pedestrian reputation. Due to quality and scarcity, these are prized by collectors.
Ansco Rediflex Circa 1950
This is a plastic pseudo TLR, but I think tht it is striking in its simplicity. The lens opens to 11. The shutter speed is the 1/50 of second.
In May 1950, this camera sold for $12.95.
Ansco Shur Flash Circa 1953
The Ansco Shur Flash is the most basic box camera; except for having flash contacts it has no special features, It has what seems to be a slightly faster than average shutter speed. It also offers an eye level viewfinder. This is not too different from the old Brownie box cameras of the turn of the century.
Ansco Anscoflex II Circa 1955
The Ansco Anscoflex is an unusual enameled-metal pseudo TLR with a large lens cover which slides up to form the viewfinder hood. It was built in the USA by Ansco from around 1954 to a design by Raymond Loewy. The aperture (f/11) and shutter speed are fixed. It takes 6x6cm images on 620 film, wound by a large, ratcheted knob in the side. It retailed for approximately $27.95 (1956 Sears catalog). The camera was advertised as an inexpensive easy to use quality camera.
In contrast to the simple elegance of the Ansco Rediflex above, this takes the prize for .....
Ansco Lanser Circa 1959