THE MULTI-SPEED SHUTTER                               

   Multi-Speed Shutter Company, 324 E. 65th Street, New York                  1904 - 1914




               Flash Attachment    1911



The Multi-Speed Shutter Company was in business as early as July, 1904, with two advertisements for their Multi-Speed Shutter (also designated the High-Speed Shutter) appearing in the Photo-Miniature Volume VI No. 64 for that month.  Guaranteed to make exposures of 1/200-1/2000 of a second and claiming exposure speeds of 1/4000 -1/6000 of a second, the Multi-Speed was deemed the fastest shutter available. With its cranking mechanism, rotating rear casing, air pump for setting slow exposures and machined aluminum construction, the Multi-Speed was like no other shutter of its time.  In fact, there's been nothing quite like it ever since, in the history of mechanical shutters.


Gustav Dietz's design for the shutter was filed on December 22, 1905 with Patent No. 827,513 being granted on July 31, 1906.  He followed it with Patent No. 844,854 of February 19, 1907 for a drive mechanism to the shutter blades, and Patent No. 997,378 of February 19, 1907 for additional improvements.  Dietz also held Patent No. 1,017,250 granted February 13, 1912 for a motion picture projector dimming device and  co-authored Patent No. 926,912 dated April 6, 1909 with Gustav Vogt for a photographic camera.


In addition to shutters, the company introduced the Multi-Speed Precision Camera (1913), a small all-metal camera equipped with a Multi-Speed or Multi-Speed Junior shutter and the Simplex Multi-Exposure Camera (1914), a full frame (24mm x 36mm) camera capable of either 400 double-sized exposures or 800 smaller ones on 35mm film.  They also manufactured the 35mm Simplex Motion Picture Camera (1914).  The Photographic Times for 1914, states that the Multi-Speed Shutter Company has now merged with other interests to form the Simplex Photo Products Company.  In addition to the Multi-Speed Shutter, the "Simplex" trade name will now be used for the new company's cameras, projectors, lenses, chemicals and other products. Factory headquarters remained at Morris Park, Long Island, with the New York office located at 114-116 East Twenty-Eight Street.


An article in the American Photographic Dealer, Volume 1, No. 5 for March 1913,  states that the company has taken possession of their new factory in Morris Park, Long Island, and that they will continue to manufacture the High-Speed and Junior shutter models. It was noted that the air pump and spring winding handle have been done away with, and that the new models are more compact and simpler to operate.  This statement is interesting in that the Multi-Speed Junior never had an air pump or a spring winding handle as on the Multi-Speed.  Further, all known versions of the Multi-Speed retained these features.  Perhaps more versions will surface to support these purported modifications.

As seen below, at least four versions of the Multi-Speed are known:

The First version exhibited an aluminum finish with a TBI selector knob:


                                      First Version   1904-1911                          



The Second Version appearing by 1912, has a black anodized finish, but sports a new TBI selector lever replacing the knob.  The Multi-Speed Junior was also offered this year in black, and can be found in Burke & James 1913/1914 Catalog No. 13.  Presumably, the Multi-Speed was also offered in an aluminum finish this year, as the third version has been seen in aluminum.

Second Version    1912-1913   (from 1912 Multi-Speed catalog)


The Third Version exhibits an aluminum finish and now has a redesigned TBI selector lever, which design would remain until production ended.

                             Third Version   1913-1914


The Fourth and last Version now carries the Simplex name and is finished in black.  From surviving examples seen, this black finish appears to be the shutter's last iteration. The Multi-Speed and Multi-Speed Junior both disappear from supplier catalogs by 1914/1915, with Simplex now focusing on the manufacture of motion picture projectors.

                     Fourth Version    1914 onward


Per an article entitled "The Simplex Projector" by John Cannon, he outlines the beginnings of the Simplex Projector, wherein the projector's design resulted from the collaboration of Edwin S. Porter, Francis B. Cannock and Mike Berkowitz.  Edwin S. Porter provided the funding, engaging the Multi-Speed Shutter Company to develop the first prototypes.  Porter held the patents, with a half interest assigned to Cannock.  In 1909, the Precision Machine Company was formed to manufacture the Simplex, and to take over the inventions of Francis B. Cannock.  Porter was made president of the company and the first production models of the Simplex appeared in 1909.



 Precision Machine Company manufacturer's tag from a Simplex Projector


It's interesting to note that in 1913, the Multi-Speed Shutter Company's address was 317-323 East 34th Street, New York.  The Precision Machine Company's address was 317 East 34th Street, New York per the Simplex Projector's advertisement in the May 10, 1913 issue of The Moving Picture World. 

In 1925, the Precision Machine Company, together with the Nicholas Power Company and the Acme Motion Picture Projector Company merged to form the International Projector Corporation.  International would go on to manufacture amateur movie cameras such as the Simplex Pockette 16mm, in addition to the Simplex Projector.  The Simplex name would be carried through several successor companies, manufacturing 35mm motion picture projectors and drive-in theater sound equipment well into the late 1990's.



                       The Simplex Motion Picture Camera   1914


          Advertisement from The Moving Picture World, May 10, 1913