Bell & Howell

Bell and Howell is a U.S.-based services organization and former manufacturer of motion picture machinery, founded in 1907 by two projectionists, and was originally headquartered in Wheeling, Illinois. The company is now headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, and currently provides services for automated equipment in enterprise-level companies.

Bell & Howell
Limited liability company
FoundedFebruary 17, 1907 (1907-02-17) in Chicago, IL
United States


According to its charter, the Bell & Howell Company was incorporated on February 17, 1907. It was duly recorded in the Cook County Record Book eight days later. The first meeting of stockholders took place in the office of Attorney W. G. Strong on February 19 at 10 a.m. The first board of directors was chosen for a term of one year: Donald Joseph Bell (1869–1934), chairman; Albert Summers Howell (1879–1951), secretary; and Marguerite V. Bell (wife of Donald Bell), vice chairman.[1]

Historically, Bell & Howell Co. was an important supplier of many different media technologies. The firm built its name making such products as:

  • A rotary framer on 35mm film projectors in 1907
  • A 35mm film perforator in 1908
  • Professional 35mm motion-picture film cameras from 1909 on
  • Printing equipment used by motion-picture film laboratories since 1911
  • The Standard Cinematograph Type 2709 hand-cranked camera (used in early silent films, it was so expensive that only Charlie Chaplin and three other people owned one.[2] The rest were owned by studios)
  • Newsreel and amateur film cameras such as the Filmo (end of 1923) and Eyemo (1925), and Autoload EE (1956)
  • Military 16mm film gun camera TYPE N-6A
  • Regular-8 and Super-8 film cameras and projectors (all models)
  • 16mm silent and sound projectors (all models); the famous Filmosound projectors dominated the market for many years.
  • Slide projectors (2" × 2")
  • 35 mm filmstrip projectors.
  • Overhead presentation projectors (all models)

In 1934, Bell & Howell introduced their first amateur 8mm movie projector, in 1935 the Filmo Straight Eight camera, and in 1936 the Double-Run Filmo 8. The 1938 Kodak cassette holding 25 feet of Double-Eight film was taken by the Filmo Auto-8 in 1940.

In 1954, Bell & Howell purchased DeVry Industries' 16mm division.[3]

Although known for manufacturing their film projectors, a partnership with Canon between 1961 and 1976 offered still cameras. Many of their 35mm SLR cameras were manufactured by Canon with the Bell & Howell logo or Bell & Howell/Canon in place of the Canon branding. The firm dropped the production of movie cameras by the end of the 1970s.

Bell & Howell was a supplier of media equipment for schools and offices. The film laboratory line is now a separate company, BHP Inc, which is a division of Research Technology International.

The firm added microfilm products in 1946. It purchased University Microfilms International in the 1980s. UMI produced a product called ProQuest. In the 2000s, Bell & Howell decided to focus on their information technology businesses. The imaging business was sold to Eastman Kodak and the international mail business was sold to Pitney Bowes. On June 6, 2001, Bell & Howell became a ProQuest Company,[4] which was then a publicly traded company, but is now a subsidiary of the private Cambridge Information Group. In September 2001, the remaining industrial businesses, along with the Bell & Howell name were sold to private equity firm Glencoe Capital.

The company merged with the North American arm of Böwe Systec Inc. In 2003, Böwe Systec later acquired the entire company. It was known as Böwe Bell & Howell until 2011, when Versa Capital Management bought the company out of bankruptcy and renamed the company "Bell and Howell, LLC".[5]

They also had an Electronics and Instrumentation Division on Lennox Road, Basingstoke, UK. This facility produced several different types of transducers for applications such as North Sea oil platforms and the Ariane Space vehicles.[6]

Apple II

Bell & Howell marketed a specially designed Apple II Plus computer to the educational market beginning in July 1979. The modified Apple had additional security elements for classroom use such as a tamper-proof cover. The case color was black but the inside was a standard Apple II Plus.[7][8] The modified Apple II became known colloquially among computer enthusiasts as the "Darth Vader" Apple II due to its black case design.[9]

Education Group

Bell & Howell founded an Education Group within their company in 1907. This Education Group created Bell & Howell Schools in 1966. In that same year, the Education Group purchased a controlling share of DeVry Institute of Technology. Two years later in 1968, Bell & Howell’s Education Group, via a controlling interest in DeVry, acquired Ohio Institute of Technology in Columbus, Ohio.[10] Over the years, the Education Group has bought and sold large interests in a variety of educational organizations and institutions.

See also


  1. "Donald J. Bell 1869-1934 and Albert S. Howell 1879-1951". Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved 2019-11-17.
  2. James, Grahame. "For Sale: Charlie Chaplin's Movie Camera". Retro Thing. Retrieved 2019-11-17.
  3. "DeVry Movie Projector Production Flickers Out". Chicago Tribune. Nov 4, 1965. Retrieved 2017-07-17.
  4. Paula J. Hane (2001-06-11). "Bell & Howell Becomes ProQuest Company". Retrieved 2014-08-16.
  5. Judge OKs $80M Versa Bid For Bowe Bell & Howell
  6. "Senior Process Engineer (advertisement)". New Scientist. 96 (1326): 64. October 7, 1982. ISSN 0262-4079. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  7. "Apple and Bell & Howell Enter Education Market". Intelligent Machines Journal. InfoWorld Media Group. 1 (11): 77. July 18, 1979. ISSN 0199-6649.
  8. "Apple II Plus - Bell & Howell Model – Introduction". The Mac Geek. Pearl City Networks. 2010. Retrieved August 1, 2013.
  9. "6-The Apple II Plus". 2008-12-03. Retrieved 2019-11-17.
  10. Page six of the Ohio Institute of Technology Student hand book from the school year 1974-1975


(Wayback Machine copy)

(Wayback Machine copy)

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