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  Jas. H. Smith & Company History

James H. Smith business operations dates back to approximately 1867 were he is listed working in the firm of Smith & Jennison, for the business of Commission, flour & Feed. It is also recorded that J. M. Smith of J. M. Smith & co. was also operating at the same premises at 182 Washington St. Chicago in the business of commission, implying a connection between the two Smiths.

In the 1872 Jas. H. Smith established himself as a photographic firm, inventing, designing, patenting and manufacturing "tools of the trade" such as camera stands, posing stools, picture frames, burnishers, and darkroom equipment.

In 1884, Mr. Smith sold his picture frame and photo supply establishment at Quincy Illinois, where he was a respected photo stock dealer for twelve years, to Mr Robert Dempster. Mr. Smith moved to Chicago. In Chicago he partnered with Mr. Thomas W. Pattison who for fifteen years was with leading photo supply houses in Chicago. The two leased the lofts at 88 and 85 Wabash Ave and established a large and complete stock of photographic materials and accessories.

In 1890 the firm of Smith & Pattison sold the all the stock and good-will of the business to the firm of Sweet, Wallach & Co. Mr. T. W. Pattison stayed with the business and began employment with Sweet & Wallach. Mr. Jas. H. Smith being the inventive genius of the firm, continued on his own in the business of Burnishers, Paper-cutters, Posers, Camera Stands, and other articles useful to the photographer, as the James H. Smith & Co.. His new firm was located at Wabash Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.

In 1901, two successive fires wiped out Smith's business and almost bankrupted him. Smith at the age of 64, rebuilt the company by inventing a more powerful form of flash-powder and introducing the Sunflower Multiplying Camera designed by Jacob F. Standiford of Fort Scott, Kansas (US Patent No. 668,888, February 26, 1901). The flash powder was 24 times brighter than the leading flash powder of the day and became a financial success. Smith named the flash powder "Victor".

In 1905 Mr. F. Dundas Todd of the famous Burke and James Company, Chicago, Illinois purchased the entire estate of James H. Smith & Co., including the good will, patents, trade marks, machinery and tools and continued selling and manufacturing Jas. Smith companies products for a short time. Mr. Smith retained rights to his Victor Flash powder.

On June 21, 1908 T.H. Pattison died of a heart failure at the age of fifty-four.

In 1909 with the popularity of the flash powder, The revitalized company was incorporated as James H. Smith & Sons Corp. remaining in Chicago. They built a plant to manufacture the flash powder in the nearby town of Griffith, Indiana. In February of 1909 the company had a serious accident that resulted in a fatality of a young woman. The cause of the ignition was derived from a statement by the young women who before her death, reported the last thing she remembered was that she was putting "coal in the stove".

1912 the James H. Smith & Sons Company, Chicago reported sales of Victor powder was still increasing with the most gratifying persistence.

In 1918, James H. Smith died at the age of 81. hi son Herbert M. Smith succeeded him.

In the late 1920's flash bulbs began to eliminate flash powder and James H. Smith & Sons had lamps made exclusively for them by the Kentucky Lamp Company for a short time before larger company provided heavy competition. the company also ventured into Flash synchronizers, Reflectors and Lighting accessories.

In the 1930's during the great depression, the company closed its offices in Chicago and reduced the work force at Lake & Colfax Sts. Griffith, Indiana.

In 1949 Herbert M. Smith died at the age of 64 and Jas. H SMiths daughter Marion took over as the third president.

In 1953, Ronald H. Smith became the company's 4th President. He changed the name from James H. Smith & Sons Corp. to "Smith-Victor" representing the family and the products.

In 1999 the Smith-Victor Corporation was sold to Promark International, Inc.. The company continues to this day manufacturing and marketing photographic lighting and accessories.

1868 Trade and Commerce of Chicago, page 150.
1884 Philadelphia Photographer, p97-98.
1890 The Photographic Journal of America, Volume 27, page 735
1909 snap shot magazine, page 58.
1909 Camera Craft, vol. 16, page 288
2014 Smith-Victor Company Website, history (

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2019-01-23 21:05:57

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