Maurice Gennert was born in Chattsworth, Illinois on January 13, 1868. The son of successful photographic equipment distributor Gustave Gennert, his family soon relocated to New Jersey, which is where young Gennert spent his childhood. In 1881, he moved to Germany to attend Braunschweig's Real Gymnasium for three years. After returning to the United States, Mr. Gennert entered Columbia University to major in mathematics and dead languages, and graduated in 1887.
After college, family responsibilities intervened, and Mr. Gennert was asked to succeed his brothers in the operations of the G. Gennert company located on 24 and 26 East Thirteenth Street in New York City. Despite his youth and business inexperience, he learned quickly and engineered the firm to even greater success. Mr. Gennert became known for his business acumen and for his engaging personality. The photographic industry was particularly competitive and ruthless at this time, but Mr. Gennert established a reputation for integrity and fair-mindedness in his business dealings. He married Claire Chatain on April 16, 1902, and two daughters joined the family in rapid succession.
Maurice Gennert was always searching for the latest photographic innovations, and found a particularly popular item in the compact Sylvar hand-held camera. About an inch larger than a conventional plate, the Sylvar camera weighed less than two pounds, and lenses were available in eight lengths suitable for plates ranging from a 4-1/4 inch carte-de-visite to 8 x 10 inch portraits. Mr. Gennett was also impressed with Sylvar's versatility, for the cells of its third series fit other hand-held cameras including Hawkeye, Ansco, and Kodak.
In addition to carrying a wide selection of cameras and lenses, G. Gennert also offered customers a variety of developing chemicals (like Hauff's Metol) and film from which to choose under Mr. Gennert's tenure. Ensign Film was a favorite because it did not curl and could be used in all types of cameras and developing machines. Mr. Gennert also included the latest photographic innovations in his inventory such as the Primus printing gauge that had a design-friendly design for professionals and amatures alike, and the wide-angle Gray extreme angle stigmat lens. As a testament to his business prowess, Mr. Gennert obtained the licenses for several European photographic specialty items that could not be found anywhere else in the United States. He prided himself on compiling a massive Gennert catalogue that contained the finest quality cameras and optical equipment at reasonable prices.
After a period of ill health, Maurice Gennert died on October 2, 1915 at the age of forty-seven. Without his assertive and charismatic leadership, the business floundered, and sadly, G. Gennert closed its doors for the last time in 1921.
1910 Camera Magazine, Vol. IX , p. 486.
1915 The Photographic Journal of America, Vol. LII (New York: Edward L. Wilson Company, Inc.), p. 594.
1901 The Photographic Times, Vol. IX (New York: The Photographic Times Publishing Association), p. 186.
1910 The Photographic Times, Vol. XLII (New York: The Photographic Times Publishing Association), p. 163.
1915 The Photo-Miniature, Vol. XII (New York: Tennant and Ward), p. 513.
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