Police Graflex camera

This versatile but heavy Graflex camera was used by Margate police for many years.

Submitted Margate Historical Society

In the 1940s, when this camera was used by the Margate City Police Department, officers didn’t “collar” or “bust” suspects. They were “pinched,” then interrogated, fingerprinted and photographed. Miranda rights came in 1966.

In Margate, the Graflex "Pacemaker Speed Graphic" single-lens reflex camera was used from 1948 into the 1970s for taking mugshots and crime-scene photos. It’s an awkward and complicated device by today’s smartphone standards. In skilled hands, the photo quality was top-notch, even artistic, but a photographer had to be ready for some heavy lifting.

The lens and stops are mounted on a track that extends from the back of the camera. Interestingly, the lens can be extended beyond the track. Once unmounted, the camera’s flexible accordion body could be slightly bent to take photos from an angle, a useful feature at crime scenes. The accordion part folds back and fastens shut to make the camera slightly less awkward for transporting and storage.

Camera buffs might enjoy knowing it has an Optar lens with a range finder on top. Sadly, we do not have the very impressive flash unit that would have attached to the camera. If you have watched enough old movies, you have seen similar cameras with flash bulbs in the hands of every news photographer gathered at a crime scene.

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