Guide to the Exactus Photo Film Corporation Records, 1914-1918

Processed by Special Collections staff; machine-readable finding aid created by Patricia White
Department of Special Collections
Green Library
Stanford University Libraries
Stanford, CA 94305-6004
Phone: (650) 725-1022
© 1997
The Board of Trustees of Stanford University. All rights reserved.

Guide to the Exactus Photo Film Corporation Records, 1914-1918

Collection number: M055

Department of Special Collections and University Archives

Stanford University Libraries

Stanford, California

Contact Information

  • Department of Special Collections
  • Green Library
  • Stanford University Libraries
  • Stanford, CA 94305-6004
  • Phone: (650) 725-1022
  • Email:
  • URL:
Processed by:
Special Collections staff
Date Completed:
September 1963
Encoded by:
Patricia White
© 1997 The Board of Trustees of Stanford University. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: Exactus Photo Film Corporation Records,
Date (inclusive): 1914-1918
Collection number: Special Collections M055
Creator: Exactus Photo Film Corporation
Extent: 1.5 linear feet
Repository: Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
Language: English.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions:


Publication Rights:

Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.


Gift of Samuel Stark, 1962

Preferred Citation:

[Identification of item] Exactus Photo Film Corporation Records, M055, Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.


The Exactus Photo Film corporation of Palo Alto was officially incorporated on August 28 1914. The earlier part of that year had been spent in preliminary organization, establishing contacts, and deciding on a suitable site for an outdoor studio. With the incorporation, Exactus stated that its purpose was "to produce, sell, rent and exchange educational and industrial moving picture films for the use of schools, academies, and universities throughout the state of California, and later throughout the United States."
The first President and General Manager was Thomas Kimmwood Peters. Mr. Peters, according to the various promotional brochures in the collection, began his work in the motion picture industry with Pathe Freres in France about 1899. He apparently gained experience with various companies in Europe in nearly every branch of the business. His inventions included several models of the Exactus camera, complete descriptions and scale drawings of which may be found in the collection.
The Vice-President, Harry C. Peterson, was for many years director of the Stanford Museum and member of several state-wide professional and historical associations. He was one of the few officers and directors to remain through the difficult two year existence of the Exactus Corporation. His correspondence from 1915 to 1917, particularly with Harold Ide Cruzan, throws a great deal of light on the reasons for the failure of the company.
David Lever, a teacher, journalist, and business manager of the Sierra Education News, was elected first Secretary of the Corporation. He had come from San Francisco with Peters. Both he and Peters had been associated with the Cosmos Film Company in that city. The Cosmos Company may have been a separate organizations, but there is evidence to support the assumption that it was the name adopted during the preliminary stages of organization and was changed to Exactus when it was incorporated.
Guy C. Miller, Assistant Secretary, was manager of the Stanford Bookstore and historiographer of the Palo Alto Historical Association. Treasurer, H. F. Congdon, was cashier of the Palo Alto Bank and member of the firm of Congdon & Crome, dealers in educational supplies. City Attorney of Palo Alto and Mayfield, Norman E. Malcolm, served as attorney for the Corporation.
Aside from these elected executive officers, the Exacts Corporation boasted an impressive list of educators drawn from all parts of California to serve on the Board of Directors or as consultants. It certainly seemed that such a company would be a great success in producing educational films. By December, 1916, however, Mr. Peterson and a few others held an auction of the last equipment and furnishings from the Palo Alto studio to try to raise some of the money needed to pay creditors. The remaining stocks and a few other items were turned over to the Palo Alto Film Company which had been organized in 1915.
Lack of business talent and lack of salesmanship in obtaining financial backing helped cause the failure of the Exactus corporation, but there were certainly other contributing factors. A clash of personalities and the misunderstandings between educators and technicians made the collapse almost inevitable. In spite of all this difficulty, however, the technical quality and educational value of the Exactus films seem never to have been questioned. Their scenarios now seem awkward and amusing, yet at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, the Exactus Photo-Film Corporation won two gold medals and one bronze medal.


These records include correspondence, work reports, inventories, financial papers, legal and official documents, American Consular Service reports on overseas film distribution, descriptions and illustrations for patent applications, scenarios, promotional brochures, miscellaneous printed articles, photographs, and short filmstrips. Representing the first documentary film company in the United States, the Exactus papers also give an interesting background of the early film industry, particularly in California. The Peninsula and southern Bay Area had a good number of studios and at one time rivaled Los Angeles-Hollywood for the center position of the film world. The American Consular Service reports, as well as correspondence with agents for film distribution overseas, give an idea of the very wide-spread interest in and activity of the film industry at this relatively early date.
Archie Rice, a graduate of Stanford and motion picture director for Exactus, wrote at length and in detail of his work. His letters and reports in the Exactus Collection describe some of the technical angles of the business, its difficulties, and behind-the-scenes maneuvering. Much of the groundwork of the school and library films is revealed in Rice's letters and additional information can be found in the Frank S. Wilton correspondence. Wilton was one of the cameramen on these projects.
Rice's letters and notes are voluminous and entertaining, full of personal opinion and advice on business matters, and very detailed as to his own activities. In a letter to Peterson dated simply "Saturday, 10:55 p.m.," he gives a description of some well-known personalities of the early motion picture industry.
Charlie Chaplin and Fatty I saw together last night and heard them talk a little while. Chaplin is now getting $1,500 a week as a movie actor, and has been in the business but one year. He was formerly getting $1,000 a week from the Keystone company at Los Angeles. Now he is with Essenay at Niles. He is a little, rather handsome, good natured chap with good teeth and an English accent.
There are other correspondents of interest, too, including: Louise Bayard Angell, a director; H. P. Thayer, a creditor and one-time General Manager of Exactus; Milton A. Ayers, manager of the Ayers Motion Picture Company in San Francisco; and Frank Wayne, an Actor and magician. Several photographs of the Exactus studio and camera, some scenes taken by Peters in Los Angeles, and some short film strips from Exactus productions appear at the end of the collection.


The loose correspondence was arranged alphabetically as General and Incoming Correspondence or Outgoing Correspondence. Most of the important background correspondence was arranged chronologically under the names of persons involved. The rest of the material falls chronologically under subject headings.


Rice, Archie
Miller, Guy C.
Peters, Thomas Kimmwood
Peterson, Harry C.
Lever, David
Cosmos Film Company
Palo Alto Film Corporation


Box 1, Folder 1

Stock certificate book

Box 1, Folder 2

Disbursement ledger (of stocks)

Box 1, Folder 3

Stocks journal & ledger

Box 1, Folder 4

Stocks journal & ledger

Box 1, Folder 5


Box 1, Folder 6

Minute book - Directors' & Stockholders' Meetings, 1914 Aug. -1915 Nov.,with loose material, by-laws, etc.

Box 2, Folder 7-26

A - Z Correspondence In and General

Box 2, Folder 27-45

A - W Correspondence Out

Box 2, Folder 46

Resignations from Exactus

Box 2, Folder 47

Harry C. Peterson correspondence out, 1915-1917, n.d.

Box 2, Folder 48

H. C. Peterson correspondence in, 1915-1917, n.d.

Box 2, Folder 49

H. C. Peterson - Typescript of article on Leland Stanford, Sr. for San Francisco Chronicle

Box 2, Folder 50

Thomas K. Peters - correspondence and agreements, etc.

Box 2, Folder 51

T. K. Peters' inventions - descriptions for patents, promotional brochure

Box 2, Folder 52

Carlos P. Griffin, patent attorney - correspondence, bills, etc.

Box 2, Folder 53

Archie Rice - correspondence & notes on films, filming, etc., 1915 and n.d.

Box 2, Folder 54

Archie Rice - expenses for Exactus & suit

Box 2, Folder 55

Garden City Investment Co. & George T. Lemon - correspondence, agreements, and minutes

Box 2, Folder 56

Belmont School film - correspondence & scenario

Box 2, Folder 57

Guy C. Miller correspondence

Box 3, Folder 58

Charters and stock certificates

Box 3, Folder 59

Promotional material - Exactus, background & promotion - T. K. Peters

Box 3, Folder 60

Cosmos Film Co. - general correspondence & promottional

Box 3, Folder 61

Contracts, applications, leases, agreements, insurance, etc.

Box 3, Folder 62

California Corporation Dept. correspondence, permits, reports, receipts, etc.

Box 3, Folder 63

Inventories, Exactus equipment, etc.

Box 3, Folder 64

Lists of stockholders and creditors, stock sales, etc.

Box 3, Folder 65


Box 3, Folder 66

Film lists - Exactus and others

Box 3, Folder 67

Correspondence re: bids on prospective work

Box 3, Folder 68

U.S. State Dept. & Consular Service Reports on Film Industry and Demand

Box 3, Folder 69

Scenarios, etc. - general

Box 3, Folder 70

Scenarios, etc. - school and library reels

Box 3, Folder 71

Library film correspondence

Box 3, Folder 72

California State Library correspondence re: library film

Box 3, Folder 73

Settlement bills, receipts and statements (I); and Creditors' suit assignments, etc. (II)

Box 3, Folder 74

Accounts, bills, receipted bills, receipts, etc.

Box 3, Folder 75

Tax statements, receipts, and information

Box 3, Folder 76

Bank book, bank statements, cancelled checks, script receipts, drafts

Box 3, Folder 77

Miscellaneous printed matter

Box 3, Folder 77a

Miscellaneous background material - notes about company by T.K. Peters included

Photo File , Folder 78

Various photographs and film strips