Ernest F. Moy, Limited, London, England                                                circa 1911 

Based on the 1909 Patent No. 4534 cited on its gear work frame, and information on other known serial numbered examples from Sam Dodge's Antique Motion Picture Studio Cameras website, this Moy & Bastie 35mm Motion Picture Camera was probably manufactured about 1911 by Ernest F. Moy, Limited, London, England. Like other English "upright-style" cameras of the period, the Moy & Bastie became popular worldwide, just as the cinema industry was emerging. An earlier Moy & Bastie model (pre-1909 Patent) would be used by Captain Robert Falcon Scott in 1905 (or 1901-1904) CONFIRM to document his Antarctic expedition.  And, according to Sam Dodge, a Moy & Bastie was used to film the first Hollywood motion picture.


The camera's notable features include a "drunken screw" movement, forward and reverse capability, a film punch and a viewing port at the rear for focusing through the lens. But its unique multi-sprocket chain drive system is probably what the Moy & Bastie is best known for today. As it was for most any motion picture camera of the silent era, modifications occurred over the course of production. The Moy & Bastie is no exception, and even its signature chain drive would eventually evolve.




According to Sam Dodge, Moy & Bastie's serial numbering scheme (like that of some other makers of the period) began with number "100". Having Serial No. 300 places this camera's manufacture earlier in its production run, reflected in the more advanced configuration of this example's chain drive setup. Earlier examples such as Serial No. 150 from the Australian War Memorial website have less sprockets and no feed magazine sprocket, lacking the ability to reverse the film. As time progressed, a feed magazine sprocket was added to provide this capability.


By Serial No. 171, a three-pulley arrangement with a spring belt is connected to the chain drive at the central pulley. With a spring belt attached to the central and lower (take-up) pulley, the film is pulled through to the take-up magazine. Moving the spring belt from the lower pulley (take-up) to the upper pulley (feed) permits the film to be reversed into the feed magazine:


On later production units (sometime beyond Serial No. 300 and probably about 1918/1919 per Sam Dodge) the chain drive was eliminated, replaced with a more precise (and very attractive in its own right) system of rods and gearing seen on Moy & Bastie Serial No. 511 from a May 10, 2005 Bonham's auction:


Eventually, additional sprockets were added to improve the drive's function in either direction, culminating in the arrangement seen here with Serial No. 300. Of note, this camera's sprockets have a flat finish as opposed to more highly lacquered brass finishes seen on the majority of Moy & Basties:

Another example, Moy & Bastie No. 313 can be found on the Science Museum Group website:


On later production units (sometime beyond this example Serial No. 300 and probably about 1918/1919 per Sam Dodge) the chain drive was eliminated, replaced with a more precise (and rather attractive in its own right) system of rods and gearing seen on Moy & Bastie Serial No. 511 from a May 10, 2005 Bonham's auction:


This camera's right side door (gear drive compartment) also contains two circular openings which provided access for reasons not yet determined.  Also, the purpose of a wooden mounting block at the bottom (lower circular opening) and an additional spool on the gear side which lies near the path of the chain are unexplained. This is the only Moy & Bastie I've encountered with these modifications:





Although the Moy & Bastie's film magazines reportedly have a 400-foot capacity (approximately 120 meters), the footage counter on this example registers a 300-foot maximum for one revolution:





The Moy & Bastie (1909 patent model) was reportedly priced at 108 British Pounds, with an upgraded Cooke lens available for an additional 5 pounds. This camera is equipped with a Gundlach-Manhattan Optical Company 50mm Ultrastigmat F1.9 Series 1 Lens, patented November 30, 1920. This date refers to U.S. Patent No. 1,360,667 granted to Charles Clayton Minor for the lens' design. With the camera having been manufactured about 1911, this Gundlach-Manhattan lens was added sometime after 1920. In support of this, and even more interesting, is that this camera was apparently being used into the mid-to-late 1930's based on dates noted on the film magazine's ivoroid plates.....incredible, given that Mitchell's Standard, NC and BNC models were state of the art cameras by that time, making the Moy & Bastie a bonafide antique.

Accompanying this camera are seven numbered wooden film magazines, scene cards, the remnants of its spare 120-degree shutter blade and both original crank handles. Missing is the leather carry strap and sidefinder (or viewfinder). The camera's original wooden front panel now has an aluminum replacement, a common practice with the Moy & Bastie and a few other cameras of the period, to eliminate problems with warping.


Despite its early popularity, few examples of the chain-driven Moy & Bastie are encountered today, and the later "rods and gear" driven version is almost never seen.


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