Industry, Inventions and a
New Amusement Experience at the CNE New developments in industry and manufacturing was one of the main features of the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto in the early decades of this century. The budding consumer society was developing a fascination for work-saving devices and toys for both young and old. Self-serve vending machines were beginning to appear -- and perhaps the most unique of these was David A. McCowan's "Phototeria". This wonderful electro-mechanical-chemical contraption produced a photographic likeness of a person within a minute.
The Phototeria was an "amusement" in the sense that it was such a novel attraction and "entertainment centre".The April 14, 1928, issue of the Toronto Star Weekly prepared Torontonians for a strange new experience:
The Phototeria was also an example of inventiveness scoring on the growing public passion for consumption. And, of course, consumption meant the movement of capital and the creation of jobs:
David A. took his Phototerias to the CNE in about 1928. One of the associated family stories relates that his father, Alex, while counting the quarters, marvelled at how easily these automatic photograph "vending" machines brought in money -- it was as simple as dumping the coins from the big sack onto the dining room table. Alex would, of course, be recalling the hours of back-breaking work that it took forty years before to "put on a load of straw... Got $9 per ton." We must remember, however, that David had invested years of research and development in his Phototeria.
April 14, 1928,
issue of the Toronto Star Weekly as cited in
We were very pleased to help with the research on the Canadian chapter the book, “American Photobooth: The History and Art of the Photobooth in the U.S. and Canada”. This book includes a section on the McCowan Phototeria, invented by the young David A. McCowan who had, growing up in southwest Scarborough, “stammered lamentably”. According to Bill McCowan, there was a McCowan Phototeria at Scarboro Heights Park.