The acquisition of my Mercury II (see: New Acquisition – Universal Mercury II CX) led to a desire to know more about the Universal Camera Corporation. Browsing around I quickly came across this book: The UniveX Story by Cynthia A. Repinski. I ordered a copy, little knowing that I would be getting it from the author herself, and with an autograph no less.
It’s a very thorough book. She clearly did a lot of research and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I thought the section relating to binoculars would be a bit boring (I’m not really into binoculars) but, surprisingly, it wasn’t. I came across this review on Amazon.com which pretty much sums up my views:
I have owned this book for about ten years. I am an avid camera collector, and I (like the author) have been enamoured of UniveX cameras since I first got one as a child. For those who are interested in the origin and history of items they collect, this type of reference work is a godsend. Most people have no idea of the Universal Camera Company’s impact on amateur photography in the U.S. This book helps to remedy that situation.
Ms. Repinski has addressed the primary topics that interest most collectors. First, she presents a very comprehensive history of the company. Second, she describes the various products of the company, providing chronology, original pricing (in some instances), competitive circumstances, and actual photos from her extensive collection. Third, and especially interesting for a book of this type, she makes use of the extensive papers of the company’s Chief Engineer to describe the manufacturing processes and challenges involved in designing the products, compiling and listing all the patents awarded to Universal throughout its existence. Fourth, she describes the business in detail, showing yearly income statements, and more importantly, describing the strategic decisions that were made by the company’s management that ultimately led to its demise. Fifth, she addresses the needs of the collector, rating all the products according to relative scarcity, defining the differences between various models and versions of each product. Although the competitive and marketing aspects of the company’s history are sometimes given short shrift, this volume will likely stand as the definitive study of a very interesting and influential company.