The magazine was founded by Percy Wooten Harris and launched in December 1936. Percy was born in 1901 and had been producing articles for photographic and radio magazines previously. Although he had people working for him it was clearly very much a one man project with his authority stamped everywhere. In 1939 he is hoping to set up a reader trip to Germany and complains that he hasn’t had a holiday since he started the magazine.
The magazine was close to A5 in size. It ran until sometime in the early 1950’s when it was renamed Modern Camera Magazine and seems to have continued perhaps until the very early 1960’s. It began with a cover price of 6d (2.5p) and then in 1938 doubled in price to 1 shilling (5p) when it started with a colour cover. In one edition they actually had a few colour plates inside aswell. The colour stopped with the outbreak of war although the price remained. Gradually as the war continued the magazine became thinner and the paper worse. The price seems to have stayed fixed into the 1950’s.
I have taken the magazines that I have and scanned selectively to try and keep it interesting. There are a lot of arcane articles on developing fluids and calculating drying times and the like. I don’t think these would be of any interest to most people and I have excluded them.
So in the pages that follow you have:
1) Scans of all the front covers. I have grouped the gallery by years. The covers are simple photographs bearing no relation to the contents of the magazine. They do not have any intention of intriguing or exciting the reader. They are simply there because you have to start somewhere. Why Percy chose the particular pictures I have no idea, except that sometimes they are seasonal – for example a man sneezing in the 1940 February edition.
2) The articles. I have put all of the relevant articles in one gallery. Here I have chosen articles that are about items that may be of current interest or with insight into the war. They have been scanned to word and then corrected for miss-scans before being saved as searchable pdf.
3) The adverts. I have grouped the adverts by advertiser so it is easy to see how the advertisers mind worked. In the 32 copies of MCM that I have 33 advertisers placed 315 whole page adverts. There were multiple smaller ones but the work involved in analysis is disproportionate to the interest that would be generated. RG Lewis took 47 pages in the period, followed by Dallmeyer with 22. RG Lewis is still trading as are Agfa (as a brand name only) , Ilford (as a monochrome film maker), Leica, Voitglander, Zeiss and Selfridges. Wallace Heaton was bought by Dixons in 1972.
Compass cameras are very rare and sought after – expect to pay £4K. Robot cameras are less expensive – expect to pay £50-£80. Dallmeyer were unusual in running the same advert for 3 years – almost all the other advertisers changed their advert every time. Ilford seemed to adopt the same policy in 1941 having changed every month until then. Where adverts are repeated there seems little point in endlessly showing the same ad – so the duplicates have been removed.
The work in reducing Mr Harris’s magnum opus for modern interest has been considerable. I hope you enjoy it.