KEMCO HOMOVIE CAMERA MODEL E &
KEMCO HOMOVIE PROJECTOR MODEL E
Kodel Electric & Manufacturing Co., Cincinnati, Ohio 1930 - 1931
HoMovie Camera Model E with original box
Wollensak Cine-Velostigmat f3.5 Lens
HoMovie Model E Projector
HoMovie Model E Projector on display at the George Eastman Museum's Dryden Theatre lobby
One Minute Kemco HoMovie Film Tin
The Kemco HoMovie Camera and Projector system was manufactured and introduced in 1930 by the Kodel Electric & Manufacturing Company, of Cincinnati, Ohio. The Kemco name was derived from the capital first letters in the company's name and an "o" (Kodel Electric & Manufacturing Company). The coming of the new HoMovie camera and projector was announced in an article appearing in The American Cinematographer, November, 1929. The article went on to state that the basic idea for the camera was conceived in July, 1928, and that the new camera had been reviewed by motion picture and camera enthusiasts some six months earlier (about May,1929).
The camera's Wollensak F3.5 Cine-Velostigmat fixed-focus lens was specifically manufactured and configured for the Kemco, and was available on their Model E ($110). A faster Cine-Velostigmat f1.5 lens ($75) was available for purchase separately, or was standard equipment on the more expensive Model G ($150). The camera employed a rather sophisticated movement that was termed "boustrophedonic", through which the vertical and horizontal alignment of the film gate would cyclically place 4 images within the same space as a standard 16mm frame. The sequence is depicted in the following illustrations from a Kemco HoMovie catalog printed October, 1930:
This 4 images per frame feature was touted as saving 75% of film. In reality though, with the high cost of the Kemco Projector ($175) and the competitive costs of Cine-Kodak cameras and projectors of the period, this cost reduction was never realized. The boustrophedonic name is derived from the Greek word "boustrophedon" for the pattern that oxen make while plowing. Its meaning also refers to a bi-directional text found in ancient Greek manuscripts, wherein every other line of writing is flipped or reversed. The system was reportedly invented by H.B. Ridge and Clarence E. Ogden, an engineer. While Ogden held over twenty electrical-related patents, research so far hasn't yielded any patents for either Ridge or Ogden covering the Homovie system. As such, no patent numbers are seen on the Homovie Camera. However, Patent No. 1,507357 for a "Reel and Spindle Mount Therefor" granted to Albert Summers Howell on September 2, 1924, is cited on the HoMovie Model E Projector's base. This patented design, assigned to the Bell & Howell Company of Chicago, was licensed for use on the HoMovie Projector:
Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
The Kemco HoMovie's unique movement was apparently the only one ever manufactured commercially for a 16mm movie camera, and the system required the use of Kemco's companion projector, utilizing the same movement to project the film. Although the camera's outer casing is constructed of Bakelite, its solid internal mechanism resulted in a camera weighing just slightly more than Eastman's Cine-Kodak Model B of the same era. Owing to the camera's ($110) and projector's ($175) costs when new, and the subsequent introduction of Kodak's new 8mm format in July of 1932, the Kemco HoMovie system's production lasted for maybe little more than a year. It has been said that probably no more than 400 cameras were ever built, and judging by the few examples found today, this is likely a reasonable estimate.
Constructed of an undetermined cast metal and painted to match the camera's bakelite tone, the Kemco HoMovie Projector was equipped with a 50 volt-250 watt lamp. Flipping a lever changed the drive mechanism and condenser focus, providing the capability to project standard 16mm film. One would think that, if you bought the HoMovie Camera, you would have to buy the HoMovie Projector as well to be able to show your films. Although logical, it doesn't seem to follow considering that way fewer HoMovie Projectors exist than HoMovie Cameras, making them quite rare. I am aware of at least four examples: three in private collections and another at the George Eastman Museum shown above. Noted amateur cine collector and historian Alan Katelle, was also aware of another outfit (camera and projector), in addition to the outfit in his own collection which was donated to Northeast Historic Film of Bucksport, Maine. Both the Homovie Camera and Projector's "Model E" designation is interesting in itself, given that there are no known Models A, B, C or D for either one. Given the few HoMovie Projectors seen, this projector's Serial No. 1158 suggests that serialization most likely started with No. 1000.
By 1931, ads for the Kemco HoMovie system in Movie Makers Magazine no longer appeared, suggesting that sales or production had ceased. Kemco HoMovie Cameras are rather rare, but periodically one will surface. I'm confident that a few more HoMovie Projectors exist in collections, and there are probably several sitting in the backs of garages, closets, attics or barns just waiting to be discovered.
Ads from Movie Makers Magazine, October 1930....by 1931, ads for the Kemco Homovie no longer appear in Movie Makers Magazine
Kemco HoMovie catalog, October, 1930