Tru-Vue Library Cases

Tru-Vue Library Case Identification

By Tom Martin

Shortly after Tru-Vue began selling their films and viewers, people started requesting storage cases specifically designed to keep their new treasures. At first Tru-Vue sold the cases outright. However, they quickly realized that they could sell more films if they offered the library cases as a premium. Over the years they had several types of promotions ranging from discounted cases, to free cases with a minimum purchase of films (usually 12 films).

I have seen only a few advertisements for the library cases, so years of production and official names are a guess

Paper Covered Library Case

I have not seen any advertising or invoices listing the first library case, but I frequently see them with blue, or early red, film boxes and shiny faceplate viewers, so I am guessing that these boxes were first introduced in 1934. They are wooden boxes covered in a textured brown paper, with a gold leaf imprint "Tru-Vue Library" on the top of the case. The case stays closed with a swing hook latch on the front, and is hinged in the back with only the paper covering and liner. As you might guess, the paper hinge is often torn, sometimes all the way through. They are an attractive case, but not very common.

Leatherette Library Cases

The next case to be released is the leatherette covered wooden library case. An early ad sheetad sheet shows blue film boxes in the case, so I a guessing a 1935 release date. Similar in size and design as the paper covered case, the leatherette library cases are a bit more sturdy, covered in a faux leather or leatherette and with two metal hinges in back. The front latch was changed to a tab and snap type latch which requires a little more pull to open. The case came in either a dark green or dark brown leatherette, which the ads never mentioned, so you received whichever color Tru-Vue had in stock at the time. The leatherette library cases also had the gold leaf imprint "Tru-Vue Library" on the top of the case.

Inlaid Library Cases

Most arguably the most attractive Tru-Vue library cases are the inlaid wood cases. They came in three different patterns; squares, small arrows, and big arrows (technically they are not arrows but chevrons, however, most people say they look like arrows). I do not know what order they were released or the first release date, but an ad sheet for the inlaid squares library case showed a black streamline viewer in the case. I am going to say 1939 to 1942 for production dates on these. The US was coming out of the depression, wood was cheap, labor was cheap, so it was easy to make these very labor intensive boxes and still sell them for only $1.25 each.

The case design differs from the early cases in that it is slightly larger and is not divided in the interior. Instead, the cases either have a tan two partition cardboard box, or they have two of the black streamline viewer red box bottoms with a couple of spacer pieces to make the film boxes and viewer fit snuggly (or you can leave the viewer out and fill the second box also with films and store 24 film boxes instead of 12 film boxes and a viewer). The front latch was also dropped in this design.

These are the only Tru-Vue library cases that do not have the Tru-Vue name on them.

Note: Tru-Vue also made an inlaid wooden gift box which is pictured in the article on gift boxes.

Embossed Library Cases

After World War II started, both labor and wood became very expensive, so Tru-Vue came up with a new design of library case. Using stiff cardboard as its base, the new cases were a simple box with a flat lid, all covered in vinyl. The tops had machine embossing of either a floral or patriotic eagle design. This embossing was usually painted with gold paint, but unpainted versions are often seen. The red viewer box bottoms were also used in this new design to hold the film boxes and viewer. The Tru-Vue name is embossed on the inside of the lid. I am giving these a start production date of 1942.

Bakelite Library Case

After the war, Tru-Vue was finally able to get bakelite in colors other than black, so after experimenting with a few different colors in their viewers, in September of 1947 they launched a large marketing campaign with a new antique ivory and cocoa brown streamlined viewer. Since none of the initial viewer advertising shows a new library case, I am guessing that it took Tru-Vue a month or two before they release their newly designed library case made of bakelite in the same ivory and brown colors.

Besides being made of bakelite, the new library case was different in several features. First, is that the interior is divided into individual spaces for each film box. Also, the space for the viewer is smaller, so that the viewer sits up instead of laying down. This smaller space means that if you want to store just films and no viewer, there is one less row of space, so the total number of films you can store is 20 instead of the previous 24. The hinges are a spring type design, so that they hold the case cover open (or snap it closed) instead of relying on gravity.

A new stylized Tru-Vue logo on a thin brass plate (promoted as being "monogrammed in burnished gold" according to their ad sheets) was added to the top of the case. (As a side note; these little brass plates were also attached to dealer film trays and early 2D projectors) Inside of the case lid are detailed molded instructions on returning the business reply card to register your Tru-Vue viewer for a "lifetime guarantee".

Although very attractive, the down side to these cases are that the bakelite and hinges easily break, and are very difficult to repair.

Bookshelf Library Case

The last library case that Tru-Vue released was a paper covered, two piece box that looked like a book. Released in 1950, the case was listed on order forms as "Library Book (case)" and sold for $0.75 each. The case holds 24 film boxes in six rows of four. The odd thing about these cases is that they came with little removable trays to hold each row of boxes. I have seen only one of these cases that had 6 trays in it, most had only 2 or 3. I assume that since they are so small and unattached that many were lost over the years, but I have found that if you use one tray every other row, 3 trays work well for keeping your film boxes organized.

Cleaning and Repairing Tru-Vue Library Cases

It is difficult to find mint condition library cases. Most were well used and preformed well at protecting their contents, so they often need cleaning and repair. The first suggestion that I can make for cleaning is to use a clean rag, with water, and a tiny amount of dish washing soup. Use very light pressure to scrub, and dry and check frequently to ensure that you are not damaging the case. The photo below shows cases that were cleaned too hard and were damaged by the cleaning.

Repairing damaged cases is not for the light of heart. If you do not feel confident in making these repairs, leave the case as is, and they are what they are.

If you do decide to repair a case, here are some pointers. For paper covered cases that have tears and peeling paper, you can use a clear drying glue, such as Elmer's, but be sure that you wipe off any glue on the surface of the paper so that there are no shiny spots before it dries.

For the inlaid wood cases, a very fine sandpaper or steel wool can be used to remove dirt and scratches (to a point). After cleaning, you can use linseed oil or one of the newer polishing oils to protect the case. Cracked wood can be repaired using traditional wood repair methods, but is best left to experts.

Torn-off lids on the paper covered and embossed library cases can only be taped back on. I use a very strong, clear, packing tape, about 1/2 inch wide, on both the exterior and interior sides of the hinge area. Tape the interior side of the hinge area first, then close the lid and tape the exterior of the hinge (so that the lid will close properly). This is not a invisible repair, but it does keep the lid attached and working.

Library Case Values

With the currently dropping economy, it is difficult to assign values to Tru-Vue library case values. I would value a mint condition library case at about $25, a worn or repaired case at $15. Of course, the value remains in how much the case means to you.

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This page last updated 12 August, 2010
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