Honeywell Pentax Spotmatic SP

Pentax Spotmatic SP cameraDonated by Mike Donat

This camera saw quite a bit of Northwest Arkansas history. It once belonged to longtime photojournalist Charles Bickford who worked for the Springdale News for almost 40 years. During that time he was one of the best-known photographers in Arkansas. Bickford’s subjects varied from Arkansas football, basketball, and baseball games to politicians speaking from the end of a pickup truck to everyday life events. Many of his photographs and negatives live on in Shiloh Museum’s photo archives as part of the Springdale News Collection.

Later in his career, Charles Bickford sold this Pentax camera to Mike Donat, also a photographer who, amongst a varied career, worked for the Northwest Arkansas Times, shot game and practice footage for the University of Arkansas Athletic Department, worked in Collier Drugstore’s photo department, and in 2006–2007, was the Shiloh Museum’s photographer and darkroom technician. Donat donated this camera, an iconic piece of local photojournalism history, to the Shiloh Museum in 2005.


Bo Williams, the Shiloh Museum’s current photographer/digitization project manager, shares his insight on this Pentax camera:

CAMERA INFO
– Pentax Spotmatic SP in black paint

– Originally released in 1964 but produced until 1976. However, this was likely manufactured pre-1970 due to the lens provided with it (Pentax was not very diligent with correlating their cameras’ serial numbers to specific production dates).
– Manufactured by Asahi Optical Co. in Japan but distributed by Honeywell in the United States

Pentax cameras were, and continue to be, the underdogs of the photographic world. Despite world-renowned quality and innovation, they just never seemed to find the fame that they deserved. Even the Spotmatic SP as seen above was one of the first SLR cameras to include a through-the-lens light meter, a feature that would be considered a given by today’s standards but would have been unheard of sixty years ago. As far as quality is concerned, their lenses are still considered some of the best ever produced, even when compared to contemporary offerings, while many of the camera bodies themselves are still very functional despite being 50+ years old. In fact, I use a Pentax film camera of a similar vintage myself for my own personal work and it has never let me down. Despite all of this, I would imagine that very few readers today will even recognize the Pentax name as they have always lived in the shadow of the likes of the more prevalent Canon and Nikon. This is why, when I was asked to select an artifact from our collection to be highlighted for the Artifact of the Month, I knew immediately what had to be done.

Now for a bit of camera history. Back in the day, photojournalists, press photographers, and war photographers often found themselves in precarious situations while being paid very little to do so. At the same time, budding camera manufacturers such as Pentax usually produced their cameras in two finishes; the cheaper, less durable and inherently more subtle black paint and the now infamous hallmark of any “vintage” camera, silver chrome. The aforementioned working photographers, needing to keep a low profile and some cash in their pockets to buy more film, tended to opt for the cheaper and stealthier black-paint cameras. This was all well and good for a while but then something interesting happened. These photographers found themselves at the precipice of history, quite fortuitously, with a camera in their hand. Their work went on to capture and define world history. The more notoriety the photographers gained, the more attention their cameras received. They became the rock stars of the photographic world and their cameras the equivalent of Fenders and Gibsons. These cameras that were once produced as a cost-saving measure have survived through history to become some of the most sought after and collectible pieces of photographic equipment today. A black-paint camera alone is enough to draw the eye of any photographer, but one worn down to the brass like this humble Japanese Pentax SP, proudly brandishing dents and scratches as testaments to surviving through history, is certainly worthy of attention in 2020. It might be a bit cliché, but the question has to be asked: can you imagine what this camera must have seen?

Pentax Spotmatic SP camera

Donated by Mike Donat

This camera has seen quite a bit of Northwest Arkansas history. It once belonged to longtime photojournalist Charles Bickford who worked for the Springdale News for almost 40 years. During that time he was one of the best-known photographers in Arkansas. Bickford’s subjects varied from Arkansas football, basketball, and baseball games to politicians speaking from the end of a pickup truck to everyday life events. Many of his photographs and negatives live on in Shiloh Museum’s photo archives as part of the Springdale News Collection.

Later in his career, Charles Bickford sold this Pentax camera to Mike Donat, also a photographer who, amongst a varied career, worked for the Northwest Arkansas Times, shot game and practice footage for the University of Arkansas Athletic Department, worked in Collier Drugstore’s photo department, and in 2006–2007, was the Shiloh Museum’s photographer and darkroom technician. Donat donated this camera, an iconic piece of local photojournalism history, to the Shiloh Museum in 2005.


Bo Williams, the Shiloh Museum’s photographer/digitization project manager, shares his insight on this Pentax camera:

CAMERA INFO
– Pentax Spotmatic SP in black paint

– Originally released in 1964 but produced until 1976. However, this was likely manufactured pre-1970 due to the lens provided with it (Pentax was not very diligent with correlating their cameras’ serial numbers to specific production dates).
– Manufactured by Asahi Optical Co. in Japan but distributed by Honeywell in the United States

Pentax cameras were, and continue to be, the underdogs of the photographic world. Despite world-renowned quality and innovation, they just never seemed to find the fame that they deserved. Even the Spotmatic SP as seen above was one of the first SLR cameras to include a through-the-lens light meter, a feature that would be considered a given by today’s standards but would have been unheard of sixty years ago. As far as quality is concerned, their lenses are still considered some of the best ever produced, even when compared to contemporary offerings, while many of the camera bodies themselves are still very functional despite being 50+ years old. In fact, I use a Pentax film camera of a similar vintage myself for my own personal work and it has never let me down. Despite all of this, I would imagine that very few readers today will even recognize the Pentax name as they have always lived in the shadow of the likes of the more prevalent Canon and Nikon. This is why, when I was asked to select an artifact from our collection to be highlighted for the Artifact of the Month, I knew immediately what had to be done.

Now for a bit of camera history. Back in the day, photojournalists, press photographers, and war photographers often found themselves in precarious situations while being paid very little to do so. At the same time, budding camera manufacturers such as Pentax usually produced their cameras in two finishes; the cheaper, less durable and inherently more subtle black paint and the now infamous hallmark of any “vintage” camera, silver chrome. The aforementioned working photographers, needing to keep a low profile and some cash in their pockets to buy more film, tended to opt for the cheaper and stealthier black-paint cameras. This was all well and good for a while but then something interesting happened. These photographers found themselves at the precipice of history, quite fortuitously, with a camera in their hand. Their work went on to capture and define world history. The more notoriety the photographers gained, the more attention their cameras received. They became the rock stars of the photographic world and their cameras the equivalent of Fenders and Gibsons. These cameras that were once produced as a cost-saving measure have survived through history to become some of the most sought after and collectible pieces of photographic equipment today. A black-paint camera alone is enough to draw the eye of any photographer, but one worn down to the brass like this humble Japanese Pentax SP, proudly brandishing dents and scratches as testaments to surviving through history, is certainly worthy of attention in 2020. It might be a bit cliché, but the question has to be asked: can you imagine what this camera must have seen?

Emerson “Patriot” Radio

Donated by Ada Lee Shook

This radio belonged to the Carl Smith family of Fayetteville.

In 1940, with U. S. involvement in World War II on everyone’s mind, Emerson Radio and Phonograph Company and industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes came out with the “Patriot” radio in red, white, and blue colors. The cabinet is made of catalin, a type of plastic similar to bakelite. Patriots retailed for $24.95.

Emerson "Patriot" Radio
Emerson "Patriot" Radio

Donated by Ada Lee Shook

This radio belonged to the Carl Smith family of Fayetteville.

In 1940, with U. S. involvement in World War II on everyone’s mind, Emerson Radio and Phonograph Company and industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes came out with the “Patriot” radio in red, white, and blue colors. The cabinet is made of catalin, a type of plastic similar to bakelite. Patriots retailed for $24.95.

Printer’s Block

Donated by Parker Rushing

This metal-plated printer’s block engraved with a cow  was used by the Prairie Grove Enterprise newspaper, back in the days when the letters and illustrations on a newspaper page were hand-placed—or “typeset”—in preparation for printing.

With the slogan of “A Community Newspaper Dedicated to Building a Better Community,” the Enterprise was first published on November 19, 1936, by George and Ida Wiswell and their son, George Jr. In 1965 Tri-State Publishers of Springdale bought the Enterprise but the commercial printing department and equipment were reacquired by the Wiswells in July of that same year. Boyce Davis, owner of the Lincoln Leader, purchased the Enterprise in June 1967 and sold it back to the Wiswells. The Wiswells continued to operate the Enterprise until 1971 when they sold the business to the Alan Nicholas family of Cleveland, Ohio. The paper has been bought and sold multiple times since 1971; as of 2018, it is owned by Northwest Arkansas Newspapers LLC and published weekly as the Washington County Enterprise-Leader

Printer's block

Donated by Parker Rushing

This metal-plated printer’s block engraved with a cow  was used by the Prairie Grove Enterprise newspaper, back in the days when the letters and illustrations on a newspaper page were hand-placed—or “typeset”—in preparation for printing.

With the slogan of “A Community Newspaper Dedicated to Building a Better Community,” the Enterprise was first published on November 19, 1936, by George and Ida Wiswell and their son, George Jr. In 1965 Tri-State Publishers of Springdale bought the Enterprise but the commercial printing department and equipment were reacquired by the Wiswells in July of that same year. Boyce Davis, owner of the Lincoln Leader, purchased the Enterprise in June 1967 and sold it back to the Wiswells. The Wiswells continued to operate the Enterprise until 1971 when they sold the business to the Alan Nicholas family of Cleveland, Ohio. The paper has been bought and sold multiple times since 1971; as of 2018, it is owned by Northwest Arkansas Newspapers LLC and published weekly as the Washington County Enterprise-Leader.

Paymaster Check Writer

Donated by Harps Food Stores General Office

Check writers, sometimes called check protectors, were designed to print checks which could not be tampered with or altered in some way. This manually-operated “Ribbon Writer” check writer, which dates to 1966, was used by Springdale’s Harps Food Stores

In 1930, Harvard and Floy Harp opened Harp’s Cash Grocery on corner of Emma Avenue and Water Street in downtown Springdale. The Harps succeeded even through the depths of the Great Depression, and expanded to a larger store in 1941.The Harps’ son Don joined the business in 1953. In 1956 the Harps opened Springdale’s first supermarket, Harp’s IGA at the corner of Sunset and Highway 71. They became a small chain when they opened Harps North in 1964. Two more sons, Reland and Gerald, and other members of the Harp family joined the business as the company expanded. Today, Harps has more than 85 stores in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. 

Delco Battery Jar

Donated by Truman Stamps

This Delco battery jar dates from the 1930s, before rural electrification came to the Ozarks. Many rural homes, farms, and small businesses produced their own electricity with a Delco-Light power system, which consisted of an engine powered by gasoline or kerosene, a generator, and a series of batteries. The batteries contained a corrosive mixture of acid and water and were stored in glass jars such as the one pictured here.

The Rural Electrification Administration was established in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was tasked with getting electricity to rural areas not served by public and private power companies. However, it was after World War II before many rural Arkansas Ozark families saw electricity brought to their homes and farms.

Radar Unit

Donated by the Springdale Police Department

The Springdale Police Department used this Dominator radar unit to catch drivers exceeding the speed limit in the mid-1960s. One officer sat in a squad car with the radar unit, clocking the speed of a vehicle as it passed. When there was a violation, he radioed another officer waiting in a squad car down the road who would then pull the speeding driver over and issue a ticket.

“Radar Will Getcha If You Don’t Watch Out” was the caption for an April 12, 1965, Springdale News photo feature describing the department’s two-man radar operation. One officer (Karl Martens, pictured here) sat in a squad car with the radar unit, clocking speeds of cars as they passed. When there was a violation, he radioed another officer waiting in a car down the road who would then stop and ticket violators. Charles Bickford, photographer/Springdale News Collection