Dr John Henry Smith

British manufacturer based in Switzerland

Dr J.H. Smith was an Englishman who in 1889, with his partner Jakob Heusi, had established himself in Zurich as a manufacturer of chemical and photographic specialities. Smith was excited by the Lumière Cinématographe and saw a glittering future for the movies. In his factory in Zurich-Wollishofen, near the city border, he began to construct a cine apparatus, which like the Lumières's could serve as both camera and projector. The construction was progressive and original. The mechanism was enclosed in a large barrel shutter, in which could be inserted wide blades for short exposure times, and small blades for longer exposure times, and for projection the blades could be set to provide an opening which reduced flicker. Smith obtained a Swiss patent for his device. For projection, he used a Pinacoscop lantern of his customer Rudolf Ganz - whose son Emil, born in 1879, was taken on as his assistant. Smith also made his own film material, which for its quality - it was particularly light-sensitive, sharp and transparent - became noted in England. To film Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, a world event that no-one interested in this new development of photography wanted to miss, Smith travelled to London with his seventeen-year-old assistant. He had rented a place to watch the Jubilee Parade in the courtyard of Charing Cross Station, close by the Strand, and from there shot the entire procession with coaches and broughams, hundreds of riders and marchers from all the colonies. Two cameras were used. While one was turned, the other was re-loaded with the help of a light-tight closed metal cassette. Smith and his assistant exposed sixteen rolls of film, each sixty metres long. The resulting production was shown in fairs and markets for years. Dr Smith died a few years after his initial venture into cinematography, and the firm was taken over by his widow, but went bankrupt in 1907. Emil Ganz and his company remained closely tied to the cinema for decades. After the takeover of the Ganz firm, he busied himself with the sale of projectors, from 1907 as the general director of Ernemann, and later the Zeiss-Ikon, projector divisions.

Stephen Herbert