Akeley Camera, Inc., 175 Varick Street, New York City            1929-1930


Carl Akeley's first camera was designed to facilitate high speed photography necessary to capture wildlife in motion. Although The Akeley Universal Gyro Tripod was designed for use with Akeley cameras, it could also be used with other professional motion picture cameras.

Advertisements for the "New Universal Gyro Tripod" are seen as early as February, 1929 in The International Photographer, the Official Bulletin of the International Photographers of the Motion Picture Industries, Local 659, of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Moving Picture Machine Operators of the United States and Canada.  By May, 1929, an ad in the same periodical stated that the Akeley Universal Gyro Tripod had already been in use by many of the leading motion picture studios. 

Carl Akeley held at least twenty-seven patents for various photographic improvements and other designs.  Two patent dates are cited on the maker's tag: March 28, 1916 (Patent No. 1,177,165) issued to Carl Akeley for a mount for his motion picture cameras, and October 25, 1921 (Patent No. 1,394,691) issued to John L. Spence, Jr. for the tripod's clamps.  Spence held at least fourteen photographic patents, two of which were assigned to Akeley Camera, Inc.



                                  Source:  Google Patents



                                  Source:  Google Patents


A third patent, No. 1,977,154 also for the gyroscopic head design was issued to John L. Spence, Jr. on October 16, 1934.  This patent filing occurred on May 22, 1930, with the patent being granted some 4-5 years after production had begun.


                                      Source: Google Patents

The capabilities of the Akeley Camera aside, the Akeley Universal Gyro was a major advancement over earlier motion picture tripods using a two-crank system for pan and tilt movements.  The Akeley Universal Gyro improved upon this, incorporating one handle to control every direction of travel and a gyroscopic-geared movement that resulted in a more uniform and fluid motion.  The head still retained the ability to use hand cranks if desired, and was equipped with tensioned springs to return the camera to level once the handle was released.

Advertisements for the Universal Gyro Tripod no longer appear in The International Photographer after February, 1930. By July, 1932, Akeley was advertising their Monotrol Friction Tripod in conjunction with their new Akeley Audio Camera.


Over time, tripods would evolve with more sophisticated adjustments, sometimes tailored to specific cameras. But Akeley's design remains timeless, with many Universal Gyro Tripods still being used in Hollywood today.



This example is Serial No. 404.  The same number is found stamped on the handle near the mount, indicating it to be original to the tripod head:



                         With Camera Equipment Company rack-over mount attached





      From the International Photographer, February, 1930