KOEHLER'S PROFESSIONAL MOTION PICTURE CAMERA
Koehler Optical Company, 7 East 14th Street, New York 1917-1918
Already having an established business for a number of years, Koehler Optical Company's Alfred Koehler acquired the photographic department of the Scientific Lens Company on November 19, 1909, along with its plant and lens formulae. An article in Camera Craft Volume XVII No. 5 for May, 1910, stated that "Mr. Koehler, we are told, was "selected" by Mr. Nehring as the most desirable successor; and that "in selecting him as my successor, I feel that I have kept faith with the fraternity". The article elaborates on pricing and Koehler's continuing standards and that "If any of our readers have any confidence in the Scientific Lens Company, Lens Nehring, or U. Nehring, they will kindly transfer it to Mr. Koehler. Mr. Nehring no longer needs it, and Mr. Koehler is, no doubt, entitled to it under the conditions of the sale".
Ulrich Nehring was the holder of at least six U.S photographic patents, two of which were lens designs assigned to the Scientific Lens Company of New York. Nehring manufactured a number of lens accessories in the 1890's. His association with the Scientific Lens Company is not fully understood and is still being sorted out by historians.
Advertisements for Koehler's motion picture cameras and tripods appear as early as February 15, 1917 in the Cinema News. The following year, an announcement in the Cinema News, for May,1918 stated that "Mr. Koehler, of The Koehler Optical Company, is busy these days preparing a new catalogue for the trade. The catalogue, which will shortly make its appearance, will contain many new features in the line of motion picture cameras, tripods, lenses and precision instruments". It's unknown as to whether Koehler was selling his own camera early on in 1917, or just offering equipment by other manufacturers before bringing out his own line.
Touted in their literature as having an aluminum case with brass edges, Koehler's Professional Motion Picture Camera as depicted in the company's engravings appears to have been a very attractive camera with engine-turned finishes. Having an aluminum casing versus a wooden box, eliminated any potential for warping, permitting the camera's use in tropical settings or other climate extremes, as well. The camera incorporated a standard tripod mount capable of being used with either Koehler's own tripods or those professional tripods of other makers. The camera was fitted with two internal box-style magazines, each capable of holding 200 feet. Having a cut-out at the rear permitting the attachment of a condenser and lamp house, the camera became a projector. This capability was found on a few other motion picture cameras of the 1915-1917 era, such as the Barker Bros. K3 and Educator 35mm camera/projectors.
Ad for the Koehler from Motion Picture World, October, 1917
Available in two different models, their tripods featured heads with a crank pan and tilt, which represented the industry standard at the time. As seen in Pathe's catalogues below, the design, construction, hardware and crank handle style of Koehler's tripods and heads, are very similar to those offered by Pathe with few exceptions. Possibly they were built by Pathe and marketed under the Koehler name with minor differences to distinguish their model from Pathe's regular line. Wording in Koehler's literature, to the effect that "experiments in our mechanical department as to the best practical movement and the most durable mechanism", would suggest this camera was their creation. However, unless Koehler's camera was of a unique or patented design, it may have been private-branded as well.
Pathe's Panoramic Tripod from their 1911 catalogue
Pathe's Panoramique Tripod base and tilt head from their 1911 catalogue
Other than a few trade advertisements, the brochures shown here represent the only literature found so far for Koehler's cameras and tripods. Although I've come across the Koehler name on still camera lenses, I have never seen a physical example of a Koehler motion picture camera or tripod. In fact, until finding these brochures, I was unaware that a Koehler line of motion picture equipment even existed. Like a few other motion picture cameras of the period that suffered the same fate, despite having very professional capabilities, Koehler's camera couldn't compete with Pathe, Bell & Howell or the Universal.
Based upon no known (??) survivors, the Koehler was no doubt unpopular, short-lived and very few were ever built or sold. Any motion picture equipment with the Koehler name, can easily be considered rare today.