No sale for Chaplin

The much-trailed auction at Christies of a Bell & Howell 2709 camera used by Charlie Chaplin resulted in no sale. The price had been put at £70,000-£90,000. The camera was one of four 2709 models used at the Chaplin studios. It was purchased in 1918 and used by Chaplin throughout the 1920s.

Despite the no sale, The Bioscope had one of its reporters on the spot, who returned with some fine pictures. Here’s a close view of the camera mechanism:

Chaplin camera

And here’s a marvellous Chaplin’s-point-of-view shot of the eyepiece:

Chaplin camera

As already reported, the camera sale of which the Chaplin camera was a part is rumoured to have been Christie’s last, the collector’s market not being what it once was. Which is sad, if it means that their glamour is fading. Not that I can usually tell one box from another – I can just about manage to spot a Bell & Howell, given the ‘Mickey Mouse ears’ look of the twin magazines, but thereafter I tend to get a bit stumped. So, don’t ask me which is which among this selection of boxes, which is one for the cognoscenti:


And, finally, something I can recognise, even without its box, though only because the name is somewhat prominently displayed – an Urban Bioscope, such as graces the header of this blog:

Urban Bioscope

With many thanks to Christian Hayes for the photographs.

4 responses

  1. Hi

    I came across your very informative site while browsing for information on an Urban Bioscope projector that I have. To my surprise you show a picture of one that is very similar the difference being the one that I have is green and sits on what looks like the original brass plate. I also have an old magic lantern with a slide carrier that came with the projector. Could you help me with a couple of questions here? Would these ever have been used in conjunction with one and other? and do you know if there is much value in these items or indeed of any interest to a collector?


  2. Hi there,

    The projector on the blog’s masthead is an Urban Bioscope c.1900, taken from a contemporary Urban catalogue (I forget which one). It was quite common for projectors of the period to incorporate a slide carrier so that showmen could easily switch from motion picture film to slide. I’m not qualified to name a value for a Bioscope (or any another kind of projector), but they are certainly collectable, albeit to what seems to be a narrowing band of afficionados.

  3. Thanks for your reply I have found it to be extremely helpful and interesting. I should have mentioned that there is another lens that came with the projector and I was not sure if it was part of the original setup. On closer inspection I noticed two hand nuts at the rear of the projector and on the this other lens there is a bracket which fits perfectly also the lantern mouth fits snugly in the lens to prevent light loss. The lens then sits at an angle of 45 degrees to the projector. It would be a simple matter of swinging the projector round to allow the light source to to shine through this other lens to allow slide function. This would have given the operator the choice between moving film and slide projection as you mentioned, and maybe even to use slides when changing film rolls to keep the audience entertained. Anyway with your help, I am now a lot more informed and I now see that all the pieces are indeed original and were all used in conjunction with each other. Jigsaw complete, another mystery solved and still amazed at the craftsmanship and skills of the period.

    Once again thank you for all your helpful information.


  4. Hello ,

    I just found your blog,( 3 years later)

    If you still have this urban Bioscope with the lantern, i might be interested to buy

    it ,

    in this case i will be please to have some details pictures, to have a better idea.

    Many thanks


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