The Pathé Baby canisters in the Harding collection have their own story to tell. Although we’ve been focusing mainly on the contents of the footage through this project, there are valuable clues on the canisters that reveal a history of film camera equipment supplies and suppliers.
The film “Discovering Pathé Baby” showcases this history. Labelling the canisters before they were sent to be digitised gave me an opportunity to examine them in more detail, and in doing this I began to uncover a few local stories tied to two cities – Jerusalem and Cairo.
Hanania Brothers was a licensed dealer in photographic equipment established in 1928 by Tewfik and Pascal Hanania. Their partnership was announced in the Jerusalem newspaper Palestine Bulletin in January that year. By 1934 there were two branches – one in Jerusalem and the other in Haifa, on the Mediterranean coast. The Jerusalem branch (most likely the one Harding used for developing his films) was on the Jaffa Road, one of the main thoroughfares leading into the heart of the Old City through the Jaffa Gate.
Not far from the Gate was Allenby Square, and near that was the Telegraph and Post Office. Cook’s Traveller’s Handbook to Palestine, Syria and Iraq (1934) includes an advert for Hanania Brothers indicating the shop was near the Post Office.
Another printed label in the Harding film canister collection read “Dev. par Cicurel”. Helpfully, a digitised 1925 Pathé Baby catalogue provided the crucial clue. A list ordered by continent of official “concessionaires” for Pathé products at the beginning of the catalogue includes one in Africa - “Les Fils de M. Cicurel” at No 3 Avenue de Boulac, Cairo. Also known as Shari Boulak this street in downtown Cairo went west from the Ezbekiyeh Gardens to the neighbourhood of Boulak (Bulaq). It was the border between Cairo’s Ismailiyeh and Tewfekiyeh districts – Baedeker’s guidebook (1914) called Ismailiyeh “the fashionable quarter and the seat of the European trade.”
Moreno Cicurel established “Au Petit Bazar” in 1910, and this grew into a large department store, renamed “Les Grandes Magasines de Nouveautés Cicurel” with the business carried on by his sons. Cairo was a popular stop en route to Palestine, the cosmopolitan capital had a long-standing European community and its shopkeepers were accustomed to catering for their needs. For destinations in Southern Palestine (where Harding was first based when he started making films), arriving at or leaving from Alexandria, stopping in Cairo for supplies and museum visits and going overland via Port Said and Kantara would have been one possible (though not direct) route.
The 1925 Pathé Baby catalogue helps illuminate the accoutrement of amateur filmmaking during this period, and provides an anatomical guide to the cameras and projectors through a meticulous list of all the spare parts needed to keep the mechanisms going as well as a range of optional “extras”.
Leatherette or aluminium carrying cases were available for cameras and projectors; empty canisters could be held (100 at a time) in a small attaché-style case with special grooves sized to fit the small metal cylinders. Twenty-four inch or one metre wide silver screens (the latter with a collapsible frame) emblazoned with “Pathé Baby” at the top, were also available for purchase. The “Babycolour” projector enabled filmmakers to add colour tints over black and white footage. With a “Babygraph” attachment intertitles could be filmed. If desired, a special green velvet lined Camera case was available with individual compartments for camera, tripod and film cassettes – a filmmaker’s paradise in one bag.
We don’t have Harding’s camera or any other equipment in the collection, but by looking more closely at the canisters I’ve gained some insights into the practicalities, logistics and geographies of Harding’s filmmaking experience.
Lumby, C. (Ed.). 1934. Cook's Traveller's Handbook to Palestine, Syria and Iraq. London: Simpkin Marshall.
Pathé Cinema. 1925. Pathé-Baby Catalogue Général des Appareils & Accessoires. Paris: Pathé Freres.
Palestine Bulletin, 1928. Palestine from Day to Day: Registration of Partnerships. Palestine Bulletin [Online at National Library of Israel]. 4 January. p. 3.
Reynolds, N. A City Consumed: Urban Commerce, the Cairo Fire, and the Politics of Decolonization in Egypt. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Sparks, R. 2013. Flinders Petrie: An Adventure in Transcription. UCL Museums and Collections blog [Online].