A Repeating Flashbulb (November 1941)

Mechanix Illustrated –  a repeating flash

Toronto. We never think about flash or flash bulbs today. With our digital cameras or smart phones a built in flash automatically goes off  (or the camera/phone warns us) to provide sufficient light. Even in the 1950s (unless you were well heeled or a pro) people used flash bulbs and flash guns to add illumination so the painfully slow film of the day could be used indoors or at night.

Edgerton at MIT in the USA experimented with electronic flash that operated at an astonishing speed of 1/20,000 second (give or take). And the November 1941 Mechanix Illustrated (not always the most reliable source – great in this day of alternative ‘facts’) reported on a repeating flash. The flash was depicted in use by a diminutive young women holding a massive news camera to her eye. Attached is the ‘repeating’ flash gun and over her shoulder hangs the heavy case holding the batteries and capacitors that trigger the flash. I had a used Ultrablitz Reporter IIL in the late 1950s that was only slightly smaller in size and fired at 1/800th to 1/400th of a second. It was capable of firing two flash guns simultaneously.

This 1941 ad is courtesy of an email from George Dunbar. George adds this comment, “That’s quite a portable power unit there. Then again it’s also a pretty big camera. I think it’s funny that they always use female models for these things. While I get the ‘it’s so easy a woman can do it!’ angle, it tends to make big things look more unwieldy.”

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