Orazio J. Antonelli, Brooklyn, New York                        1922




Orazio J. Antonelli was born in Italy about 1881 and lived in Fall River, Massachusetts from at least 1926-1950.  Between 1926-1935, he is shown in city directories as a photographer, machinist and a sewing machine repairman and operator.



                         Portrait believed to be Orazio J. Antonelli


Residing earlier in Brooklyn, New York, Antonelli gained U.S. Patent No. 1,406,808 issued February 14, 1922 for his " Motion Picture Apparatus" after reportedly obtaining an Italian patent.  He subsequently obtained Canadian Patent No. 218,535 on May 16, 1922.  The camera appears to have never entered production as evidenced by no other known examples, no serial number found on this example, no advertising found other than notices of the U.S. and Canadian patent issuances, and no mention in any collecting references. Most likely a prototype, when acquired it was accompanied by its crank handle, a lens filter, U.S. patent documentation, an Italian patent granted to Antonelli on August 16, 1908 for an adding machine, what appears to be instructions dated 1909 for an adding machine manufactured by him, film positives and what is believed to be a photograph of Antonelli.

Antonelli's camera was intended for home use by amateurs. The unique features of his camera include its ability to also be used as a projector, and its spiral disc film.  The image is transmitted to the spiral film via the lens at front. As the film disc rotates, it also moves towards the lens' center, arranging the recorded images in a spiral line.  Assuming that a positive is made subsequent to the disc's development, this positive can now be projected. Changing out the taking shutter for a projection shutter, energizing an internally mounted light bulb and effecting a few minor adjustments, the camera could then be used as a projector. The camera measures 7-3/4" high, 11-1/16" wide and 5-5/16" deep, and utilized 5-1/4" spiral film discs.  George Eastman was said to have made attempts to purchase the rights to the camera, but this is unconfirmed. What is known, is that Antonelli held at least seven U.S. patents for photographic-related items and other mechanical devices. One of them, Patent No. 1,731,733, was for a motion picture projector, capable of automatically rewinding the film after projection and projecting it again.


By his own admission in the patent's wording, Antonelli acknowledged that the images projected would be minute.  This, together with limited recording capacity, an insufficient light source for projection and the difficulty involved in loading the disc, doomed the camera's future.  But you have to admit, much like the Urban Spirograph projector of 1917 or the Kemco Homovie camera and projector of 1930, a really great concept and very forward thinking for its time.

Certainly, Antonelli's "Motion Picture Apparatus" can be considered most rare in the pantheon of amateur movie making's rise. Just one, in a number of commercial upstarts of the period, that would ultimately fail with the emergence of Eastman Kodak's 16mm format in 1923.















                         Close-up of disc showing spiral images



                                           Source: Google Patents


                                          Source: Google Patents