Mitchell Camera Corporation, Los Angeles, California 1929



This is an early motor for the Mitchell Standard 35mm professional motion picture camera. It's equipped with a unique attachment, that provided for an automatic means of changing the shutter opening as the shutter speed changed.

Commonly referred to as a "peanut motor" because of its shape, this example contains No. X181 and cites Patent No. 1,701,189. This patent dated February 5, 1929, was issued to George A. Mitchell for the design of a constant speed drive:

Source: Google Patents

With the Mitchell nametag having this patent and a "Los Angeles" address, the motor was manufactured in 1929. In 1921, Mitchell's address was 6025 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles. In February, 1929, Mitchell broke ground on their new factory at 661 Robertson Avenue, West Hollywood, with a plan to move all equipment there by October 1, 1929. By late 1929, Mitchell tags were marked "West Hollywood" to reflect the new address and by 1946, they moved to Glendale, California. Glendale is the name seen on most surviving Mitchell equipment today.


The shutter control attachment was designed by Victor R. Raby and Dwight W. Warren of Los Angeles, California. Patent No. 1,839,587 was granted to them on January 5, 1932 for an "Attachment for Motion Picture Cameras". The controller has a tag citing the patent and the serial number, indicating it was manufactured in 1932 or later, being subsequently attached to the motor. There is also an applied sticker marked "W.P.P.I" with a 4-digit number 3?73 that is yet to be identified. The entire unit measures 11" in length, and weighs almost 11 pounds.

Source: Google Patents

Victor Raby's name has been found, associated with the Raby Manufacturing Company of Hollywood and the Raby Studio Equipment Company. This latter name is referenced in an ad for a blimp being sold by the Camera Equipment Company, 1600 Broadway, New York City in 1941. Raby is known to to have manufactured blimps for Mitchell cameras in the 1930's, and the Raby Company also built a dolly called the Perambulator. Raby held several patents for camera boom trucks (or dollies), one of the patents being assigned to the Studio Equipment Company, a partnership composed of Victor R. Raby and William J. Mulligan, Los Angeles, California.

In 1934, Dwight W. Warren, ASC, was Chief Cinematographer for Educational Studios. Having been associated with Raby previously, he most likely provided some input into the design of a six-ton camera-crane for the General Service Studio. Raby built the crane that, despite its size, could be operated by one man. Warren worked on sixty films, a career that spanned twenty years between 1917-1937.

Mitchell equipment marked Los Angeles" is rather rare, and I have never seen another Mitchell motor with this shutter attachment. More research is needed to determine how the attachment was marketed, how long it was manufactured and what other connections Raby and Warren may have had to the Mitchell Camera Corporation.