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Guide to the Exactus Photo Film Corporation Records, 1914-1918
Special Collections M055  
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information

  • 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