Photoweigh Photobooth


Our young man on the right, in 1934. Love those almost identical suits and those hairstyles!

Photoweigh photobooth photos are rare. Between the 1930s and 1970s when the last of these booths disappeared, there appears to have been only a handful scattered across the UK, Germany and France. Although a business called the American Automatic Photoweigh Company Inc. was registered in America, there does not appear to have been any booths operating there.

These English photos from 1934 and 1939, above and below, are even rarer than typical, holiday-souvenir Photoweigh images, as they show the same young man in two close poses with his male friends. There are many photos for sale online which purport to show gay or lesbian lovers. In most instances it is decidedly unclear as to whether the subjects are just pals or in closer relationships. However in this instance, I think it is safe to say the men pictured here are more than just friends.


Again in 1934 but now on the left, in a joyful embrace.

At a time when homosexuality was still criminalised, taking affectionate same sex snapshots to a commercial printer, posed risks to what would have needed to be clandestine relationships. Without access to your own darkroom, photobooths were the only way to commemorate a gay relationship in private and with confidence. Photobooths created images without a tell tale negative or in the case of some Photoweigh machines where a paper negative was supplied with the finished positive, leaving no record in the machine.

Despite the happy and loving nature of these photos, there is a heartbreaking poignancy to them, given the prejudice and suffering endured by the same sex community at the time. The young man who is pictured in all three photos, looks a jolly type. I hope that translated into a fulfilling and happy life despite the obstacles he would have had to face.

You can read more about the history of this type of photobooth here, and see more Photoweigh images here.


Five years later, a solo portrait.


This has to be my favourite Photoweigh image and also one of my all-time-favourite photobooth photos. The reason I particularly love this image is that it reminds me of the wonderful comic character created by Rowan Atkinson, Mr Bean and his best friend Teddy.

Teddy is Mr. Bean’s teddy bear and perhaps Mr. Bean’s best friend. Mr. Bean often pretends Teddy is alive and he is often privy to Mr. Bean’s various schemes. I wonder what relationship the young man in the booth photo had with his bear, and what might have prompted him to take him to the booth for a photo? He looks a bit too old to be playing with a teddy bear, so perhaps it was taken to entertain a young child?


Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean, with his friend Teddy.

I had assumed that this Photoweigh photo was taken at a railway station in Frankfurt but on Googling the address Kaiserstr 67 (full address Kaiserstraße 67 60329 Frankfurt am Main – see picture of location as it looks today, belowfound that it is part of a shopping street. Where the booth once stood is now the Yan Jing Chinese Restaurant.

More Photoweigh photo examples from the UK and Germany can be seen here, along with a detailed history of the booths written by David Simkin of Sussex PhotoHistory.

Another blogger of vintage photographs, Richard Overy, has found some wonderful examples of other Photoweigh photos from the UK from Barry Island. The links to those photos are below. I would also encourage you to explore more of Richard’s found photo blog for more interesting old photographs.


Kaiserstraße 67 60329 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Yan Jing Chinese Restaurant is currently located where the Photoweigh Photobooth stood in the 1930s


June 23, 1937

Following on from David Simkin’s guest post of last week, above is the first of a very rare series of eight Photoweigh photobooth photos that I own. I have never seen another long sequence of the same person in this type of machine. I have arranged them in correct chronological order, if they are dated but have guessed the order for the rest of them. They were all taken in the UK.


June 26, 1937


25 (Month obscured), 1938


Details faded.


On back – June 1939

On the back of this photo is written Douglas, June 1939. I have presumed that to be a place rather than a person’s name, based on the inscription on another photo, below. There is a town called Douglas in South Lanarkshire in Scotland and the capital of the Isle of Man is also a town called Douglas. The photo could have been taken in either one of these towns, however, the Isle of Man is the more obvious holiday destination. On consulting David Simkin, he confirmed Douglas on the Isle of Man to have been a popular holiday destination at the time these photos were taken, and therefore the most likely location of the Photoweigh booth.


21st of … Other details have faded.

On the back of this photo is written ‘S.Quinn”, which I believe to be the name of the lady pictured in the series.  As the only clearly dated photos were all taken in June of the various years, I like to think that these were a souvenir of her annual holiday, taken at the same time of the year, in the same town and in the same booth over many years.

Each photo measures approximately 40 x 83 mm and they are all printed on a heavier weight stock than is usual for other types of booth photos, but seems to be standard for Photoweigh photos.

For more fascinating information about Automatic Photos and their history please visit  Sussex PhotoHistory and see David Simkin’s guest post on this blog, here.


Details of date have faded or it was never dated.



From Katherine’s collection

The now extinct Photoweigh photobooth machine took a photograph of the customer as he or she sat on a weighing machine.  Photoweigh photos are rare enough, but even more so the one from my collection above, as it includes the “negative” and a branded folder.


From Katherine’s collection

It is very difficult to find information about Photoweigh machines. I approached UK based photo collector and writer, David Simkin for more information, after finding his online article Automatic Portrait Photographs in which he mentioned the machines. His website Sussex PhotoHistory is designed to be used by people researching their family history, who wish to date family photographs and also for those interested in the history of photography.I highly recommend a visit.

David kindly did this guest post for me –

I am working on the assumption that a Photoweigh machine was installed on or near Brighton’s Palace Pier, (England) sometime in the early or mid 1930s.


Anatol Josepho, the inventor of the first automated photobooth, opened his “Photomaton Studio” in New York City in September 1925. In March 1927, Josepho sold the rights of the Photomaton process to Henry Morgenthau’s business consortium.

By the end of 1927, a British investor group purchased rights to distribute the Photomaton in Europe and Canada.

In 1928, Josepho sold the European rights for the Photomaton to an English/French consortium.

The Photomaton Parent Corporation Limited was set up by Clarence Hatry in 1928 to operate automated photograph machines in hundreds of public places such as railway stations and amusement parks.


I presume that by 1930, the novelty of the coin-operated photobooth had waned and that entrepreneurs were looking for a novelty or gimmicky variation on the self-operated portrait photo booth. Someone came up with the idea of a “Photoweigh” machine, a piece of apparatus, which took a photographic portrait of a customer as he or she sat on a weighing machine. The resulting photo strip would give details of the weight of the sitter as well as displaying the usual photographic portrait.

The earliest evidence I have found of an apparatus in England that took a small photographic portrait, while recording the weight of the sitter, is a photo of a bespectacled man wearing a trilby hat, with a tobacco pipe clamped between his lips. According to the printed display, the photograph was taken on 29th October 1931 at Selfridges Department Store, London. The photobooth photo (below) was sold on eBay in May 2014 for £10.50, (US $17.85). This early example does not carry the trademark of Photoweigh Limited.

photoboothPhotoweighDidn't win 10PoundsEbay

Ebay scan

Photoweigh Ltd. is mentioned as a recently established business in the 1933 edition of the British Journal of Photography. A firm called the American Automatic Photoweigh Company Inc. was listed in the American State of Delaware in 1934.

The 1933 edition (Volume 80) of the British Journal of Photography lists Photoweigh Limited as a recently registered company (viz. ” Photoweigh. Ltd. (276,512). — Private company. Registered June 1. Capital, £5,000, in 4,000 5% redeemable non-cumulative preference shares of £1, and 20,000 ordinary shares of 1s. each. Objects: to carry on the business of manufacturers and dealers in optical, scientific, photographic and industrial instruments, cinematograph and other films, projectors, cameras and magic lanterns, etc.”).

Presumably, Photoweigh Ltd. set up a booth near or on Brighton’s Palace Pier between June 1933 and 1938.

In his 1938 novel “Brighton Rock“, the writer Graham Green mentions the Photoweigh kiosk being located in the tunnel under the Palace Pier in “the noisiest, lowest, cheapest section of Brighton’s amusements”.

A Photoweigh booth (owned in the 1960s and early 1970s by George Keeble) was situated on Brighton’s Palace Pier until 1972.


I very recently received a Photoweigh photo from Clifford Groves of Brighton. (Above) The photograph was taken in 1964. Cliff Groves explained the circumstances in which it was taken. 
”I am the good looking one on the right, the other chap is Gil Tipping – a good friend of mine still after 50 years. We were both working the summer season on the Palace Pier, in the “Palace of Fun”. There were no gaming machines only what we called “gaffs”. These were very similar to fairground stalls. Gil was running a bingo stall and I was on air rifles. The mods and rockers were creating havoc on the seafront the day the smudge (photo) was taken and it was 
(as the Chinese say) an interesting time – battles galore!

Once again, here is the Sussex PhotoHistory link. Please explore this wonderful photographic resource.

From David's collection

From David’s collection. Like mine with the negative and folder, (top of page) this is a very rare item.


Another Ebay item

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