Ansco was an
American manufacturer of camera equipment in
Binghamton, New York. In the 19th
century its predecessor E. & H.T. Anthony Co.
was the largest distributor of photography
supplies in the US. In 1870 the company
started making cameras and was the
first to patent a roll-film holder that could be
loaded in light. In 1902 Anthony
merged with Scovill, and the name was
abbreviated to Ansco.
Ansco was the first US company to market a consumer level
35mm camera in the 1920s, but never followed up
on that success. After the crash in 1929
and through the depression,
they mainly competed with Kodak's low-end
with Agfa in 1928, to be called Agfa-Ansco.
Through the economic challenges of the 1930s
Ansco made few innovations and seemed to focus
US production on simple box cameras, or older
folding products. In 1939 Ansco was
renamed General Aniline & Film. During
WWII the company became state-owned because of
its relations to Germany, and then it was sold
as an "enemy-asset".
After the war Ansco and reached its peak
as camera maker with a production of 2 million
cameras per year. Since the 1950s it has sold
rebadged cameras, made by Agfa, Chinon, Ricoh
and even Minolta. The company began to market
products under the GAF brand
(General Aniline & Film) in 1967 and made some
film and cameras branded GAF. Haking of Hong Kong
later acquired the rights to the Ansco trademark, and produced cameras under the
brand into the 1990s.
Camera No. 9 Model B Circa 1906
The Ansco No. 9 cameras were contemporaries
of the early Kodak camera, using roll film
but offering the option to use glass plate.
It is a fine camera, but designed for
portability rather than the precision of the
The Ansco No3 cameras were produced from the
early 1910s to the mid 1920s, in competition
with the Kodaks, which typically had better
lenses. This is identified as an early
model by the patents and the chrome shroud
that covers the viewfinder.
Ansco Memo Circa 1927
The Ansco Memo is an American 35mm camera
introduced in 1926, using Ansco's own cassette
system, as 35mm would not standardize on
the Kodak version until 1934. While not
technically the first US built 35 mm camera, it
is the first to be sold in significant
quantities. Although these were once
common, they are now fairly rare and prized by
collectors. It is about 5" tall sitting on
a 2" x 2 1/2" footprint.
The Memo features a claw-based film-advance
mechanism, like a cine camera, rather than a
sprocket system as on a conventional 35mm
camera. The film was pushed from the bottom to
the top cassette.
This camera takes the photo in the same
orientation as a movie camera; 90 degrees
rotated from modern cameras, so the images are
half the size of the modern orientation.
With a smaller format and early grainy film,
photos were not as sharp as those from cameras
such as the Lieca, but the Memo took 50 pictures
on a roll of film.
The first cameras in 1926 had a varnished wood
finish, then a leather-covered-wood which
appeared in 1927. The next group
came with a shutter release guard to help
prevent unwanted exposures. Earlier models said
"ANSCO" on the front, while later models said
"MEMO". There was an olive-drab
"OFFICIAL BOY SCOUT MEMO CAMERA" model.
Ansco No. 1 Readyset Royal Ostrich
Pattern Circa 1928
The Readyset models
were introduced in the 1920's in direct
competition with the new colored Kodak models.
They were stylish with bright unusual colors and
textured grains simulating Silver Fox and
Ostrich leathers. Along with the Kodak
Vanity series, the Readyset Royal models
targeted the booming market for stylish clothes
and matching accessories. This camera
has rich ostrich patterned leather covers and
russet leather bellows, but unlike the Kodaks
the lens boards are not colored.
Ansco No. 1A Readyset Royal Ostrich
Pattern Circa 1928
This is the larger 1A
model, which is a virtually identical scaled up
version of the A model shown above. Click
here to see a
side-by-side of the two sizes.
Ansco No. 1A Readyset Royal Silver Fox
Pattern Circa 1932
Same as above, but in the simulated silver fox
pattern. Much of what looks like wear is
the pattern. It is difficult to capture
the beauty of this camera on film.
Ansco merged with German Agfa in 1928 and the
camera shown here is the model 1A produced from
1928 to 1932 at the onset of the Great
Depression when the market for fanciful cameras
could have been expected to fade rapidly.
However, it did not. Cameras became family
treasures even more.
Ansco Panda Circa 1939
The Ansco Panda was first sold in 1939, then
offered again post war until 1949. It
is a simple child's box camera. Its appearance
is quite similar to the Kodak Baby Brownie and
was designed to compete directly with it. The
camera features a black plastic body with cream
accents around the lenses, a cream colored wind
knob and a TLR style viewing lens above the
Ansco Box No. 2 Model E Colored
This is a very inexpensive camera
with only one view finder to be used
in portrait mode. The
mirror in the viewfinder is polished
metal rather than glass.
There were many colors offered.
This green was not likely for
military purposes, but to attract
the Boy Scout market.