Category Archives: Photography history

Alien Surrender of Shortwave Radios, Cameras, Guns, 1942



Shown here, in the January 1942 issue of Radio Retailing magazine, are resident aliens in Los Angeles lining up at a police station to turn in their cameras, guns, and radios capable of receiving short wave.

The magazine noted that Attorney General Francis Biddle had issued an order that enemy aliens, that is, citizens of Japan, Germany, and Italy, turn these items in to the nearest police station.  An alternative would be to have receiver rendered incapable of receiving signals other than those in the standard broadcast band.  Therefore, the order “seems to open the way for radio servicemen to render a useful service of eliminating shortwave reception from aliens’ sets–and get paid for it.  In this way, the alien may keep his set for regular broadcast listening to U.S. stations, while the police authorities are spared the storage of hundereds of radio sets which they are poorly equipped to handle.  And the radio man collects $1 to $2 per radio set altered.

Typically, the modification consisted of removing the shortwave coils, and providing the set’s owner with an affidavit documenting the modification.

75 years ago today, the Chicago Tribune, January 6, 1942, carried an article regarding the status of the order.  It reported that local officials found the response so far to be unsatisfactory, since fewer than 2550 cameras, guns, and radios had been surrendered as of the previous night, despite an alien enemy population of more than 50,000 (28,000 Germans, 21,000 Italians, and 250 Japanese).

The Chicago police reported that the items surrendered included several antiques, including an 1878 breach loader. One man was reported to have “embarrassedly handing over a sawed off shotgun, possession of which had been taboo in Chicago ever since the prohibition gang war era. He said that he inherited the weapon from his father.”

One man, not bothering to wait for a receipt, simply drove up to the police station, hurried a radio from his car, and drove away. Another motorist tossed a $100 radio from his car and drove off.

The paper also reported a supplemental order from the Attorney General listing the following prohibited items:

Weapons or implements of war or component parts thereof; ammunition of all kinds; bombs; explosives or material used in the manufacture of explosives; signal devices; codes or ciphers: papers, documents, or books In which there may be invisible writing; photographs, sketches, pictures, drawings, maps, or graphical representation of any military or naval installations or equipment of any army, ammunitions, implements of. device or thing used or intended to be used in the combat equipment of the land or naval forces of the United States or of any military or naval post, camp, or station.


Polaroid Swinger Camera, 1965

PolaroidSwingerShown here in the Winter 1966 issue of Elementary Electronics is the Polaroid Swinger camera, which came out in 1965.

Priced at just under $20, the camera was enormously popular. The black and white images developed automatically outside the camera. After snapping the image, the film was removed, and the user had to wait about a minute while it developed. After it did, the film was pulled apart, revealing the image, which then had to be fixed by coating it with a varnish-like compound that came with the film.

The red shutter button could be squeezed, and the camera would indicate “yes” or “no” as to whether the exposure was set correctly.  It accomplished this feat by means of the ingenious mechanism shown below.  Turning the knob adjust the aperture, and by squeezing the knob, it compared the amount of light entering the camera to the light produced by an internal bulb.  When the setting was correct, the internal light caused the word “yes” to appear through the viewfinder.


Not surprisingly, the film is unobtanium today.  However, according to some reports, if you find a roll of the old film tucked away, it will probably still produce a surprisingly good image.


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