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SOLD! $14,700! Rare Spirograph Disc Motion Picture Projector

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

This great piece of history will be up for auction in our special off-site auction in Arlington Heights, Illinois, beginning at 10am on Saturday, September 9, 2023. The Camera Collection of the International Photographers Hall of Fame in St. Louis will be up for auction by Donley Auctions in the former Village Bank & Trust building at 311 S. Arlington Heights Road in Arlington Heights, IL. You can preview the items on Friday, September 8 from noon-5pm and starting at 8am the day of the auction.

By Urban Motion Pictures Industries, New York, 1921-22, with hand-cranked mechanism, and electrical illuminant, in black-enameled metal case and nickel-plated fittings, on wood base with battery storage compartment, with four 10 ½ inch diameter celluloid discs in one sleeve.

The discs are No. 3 Animal Kingdom; Nature’s Babies, No. 7 Animal Kingdom; Man’s Best Friends, No. 109 Scenic; Oregon Lumber Flume, and No. 115 Sports & Pastimes; Salmon Fishing.

The original idea for a motion picture projector utilizing discs with spiraling image frames was patented in the UK by Theodore Brown in 1907. The patent was soon obtained by Charles Urban, the pioneering American motion picture entrepreneur, then based in London.

Other ventures as well as World War I delayed his ability to perfect and begin production of the Spirograph until c. 1920. A publicity campaign was launched in late 1920 prior to the release. The firm of Urban Motion Pictures Industries was incorporated in 1921. Sales appear to have been poor according to the few examples known to exist. This was possibly due to both the recession of 1920-21 as well as the introduction of the competing Kodak and Pathe systems. The company closed in 1922.

Literature; The History of Photography; As Seen Through The Spira Collection, by S. F. Spira, Eaton S. Lothrop, Jr., and Jonathan Spira, pp. 191-2.


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