Help Us Solve An 'NPR' Camera Mystery

Jun 25, 2013
Originally published on June 25, 2013 12:22 pm

A few days ago I got an email that contained a bit of a mystery.

It said:

"We have a small antique store in Toronto and have come across a pre-1950s Kalart Range Finder Crown Graphic camera made by Graflex Inc., with the etched inscription 'NPR, NY' on it. Was this something that belonged to your organization at one point? If you are interested I can email some pics over."

Of course I wanted to see the photos, so Al Suke, owner of a shop called Barn Sale on 9, emailed them to me. My first thought was: "Whoa."

Suke told me he purchased the camera in Connecticut or Massachusetts (he couldn't quite remember which) and that the lettering was etched permanently into the top. He wanted to let us know about it, in case we wanted it back.

But I'm pretty sure NPR didn't have a photo department back when these cameras were manufactured in the 1940s and '50s. Actually, NPR didn't even exist as an organization until 1970.

For a bit of history: The original Graflex cameras were developed in 1898 by The Folmer and Schwing Manufacturing Co. of New York City. They later became a division of the Eastman Kodak Co. in Rochester, N.Y., and came out with the initial Speed Graphic model in 1912. The Pacemaker Crown Graphic model, like the one above, was produced from 1947 until 1973, with the Kalart rangefinder used until 1955. In its heyday, it was the main camera used by press photographers.

So where did this particular camera come from? And what does "NPR NY" mean?

Share your thoughts, and help us solve a mystery, in the comments section below.

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