Tru-Vue Projectors

Tru-Vue Projector Identification

By Tom Martin

It didn't dawn on the Tru-Vue company that people might be interested in projecting their Tru-Vue films until after WWII. To be fair, home slide projecting in general did not become popular until the first color film came out (which was Kodachrome in 1935). Just as people's interest began to grow, WWII started for the United States and Kodachrome could only be used by the military. However, after the war people's interest in color film and projecting took off. View-Master (Tru-Vue's biggest rival) introduced their first projector in 1947, and Tru-Vue had nothing that they could counter with.

Since I have seen only one advertisement for anything relating to Tru-Vue and projection, some of the following comments are a guess as to the order and actual production by Tru-Vue for projecting their films.

2D Slides

The quickest way for Tru-Vue to get into the projection business would be to cut up their existing films and mount them in standard 2x2 mounts that anyone with a 2D 35mm projector or hand viewer could view. The biggest audience for this product would be tourists to the different sightseeing locations that Tru-Vue already had films for, and who would like slides of the location to bring back home to project to friends and family.

The first box of Tru-Vue slides that I came across were in a red and gray box (Tru-Vue started using in the mid-1940's). The box said that they were "Tru-Vue Photo Mounts" and that the 15 transparencies were "For Projection" (the 15th slide was the title frame). The slides themselves were labeled "Tru-Vue Incorporated" and had a red dot in the lower left corner to indicate to the projectionist how to orient the slide in the projector (he turns it over so that the mark is in the upper right for projection).

Next, I found about 30 Tru-Vue film images in 2x2 mounts that were not in a box, and they did not have any identification on them. They did have handwritten numbers on them, but these numbers did not put the slides in the same order as they were in the uncut films (and some images were missing). These might be an earlier experiment by Tru-Vue, or they might be an entrepreneur cutting up Tru-Vue films on their own and reselling them under a different brand. Hard to say without more information.

I also have found color Tru-Vue slides in red, white, grey, and blue double matchbook style boxes, so Tru-Vue continued to promote their 2D slides right up to the very end.

The First Projector?

The first Tru-Vue projector that I came across was a Spartus 2x2 slide projector that had the Spartus logo removed and a Tru-Vue metallic sticker (the same as used on some Tru-Vue dealer trays and library cases) stuck to the side of the projector that has the On/Off switch. (Note: Spartus was a low-end camera line made by the Herold Manufacturing Co. in Chicago.)

Since this seems rather crude, I am not sure whether this was an official product sold by Tru-Vue or something one of the employees put together as a prototype.

The Officially Produced Projector

I had always wondered if Tru-Vue ever made a projector for their films, and several years ago I finally found one.

The projector was still a Spartus projector, but the removed Spartus logo was now replaced with a round Tru-Vue logo. However, the key feature of this projector was the filmstrip advancing holder which replaced the standard 2x2 slide holder. Instructions included with the projector showed how to project Tru-Vue films using this creative but simple mechanism. The projectionist would turn the film upside down and insert it from the right side (with the lens facing the screen) until it engaged the toothed gear. He then would turn the advancing knob on the top of the film carrier to advance the film. Of course this meant that the audience would see several repeated images scroll by before reaching the next view on the film, but it did work.

As luck would have it I then found a SECOND Tru-Vue projector last year that did come with the case, which turned out to be the regular cardboard Spartus case with the Spartus logo.

The projector also came with an advertising sheet which stated that you could purchase a 2x2 standard slide holder for $1, and a carrying case for $3.50. The advertising sheet had a printing date of September, 1950, just a few months before Sawyers bought out Tru-Vue, so not many of these projectors were made or sold.

Sawyers Tru-Vue Projectors

After Tru-Vue was bought out by Sawyers, the brand was used for children's stereo and mono products. Since the emphasis was products for children, Tru-Vue items were made as inexpensively as possible. The first product Sawyers produced were large rectangular stereo cards with 7 views (just like View-Master reels). The cards were large so that they would be easier for children to manipulate, and instead of the more expensive Kodachrome film that View-Master used, Tru-Vue used the cheaper Ansco film. The Tru-Vue viewers were made of plastic instead of bakelite, and had fewer metal parts.

Sawyers did realize that they were missing a potential market for the Tru-Vue brand by not having a projector for the cards. Their View-Master projectors were very popular, but to make a viewer large enough to fit the Tru-Vue cards would raise the sell point to a level similar to their View-Master projectors. In the late 1950's Sawyers came up with a solution to the large sized Tru-Vue projector problem by deciding to make special Tru-Vue cards that were only one half of the stereo pair. The small plastic projector was packaged with a set of themed mono film cards, and its cardboard packaging had a white "screen" on it that the children could use to project their slides on. There was only one model of the Sawyers Tru-Vue projector, but there were many different slide sets and packaging motifs made over the years. When Sawyers sold View-Master to GAF in 1967 the Tru-Vue view brand was retired, and no more Tru-Vue projectors were made.

Tru-Vue Projector Advertisement

Here is a copy of the Tru-Vue projector advertisement.

Tru-Vue Projector Instructions

Here are scans of the two sides of the Tru-Vue projector instructions.

Projector Values

The 2x2 Tru-Vue slide projector is more of a curiosity than a stereo collectible, so I would value it at $40 - $50.

Since the official Tru-Vue filmstrip projector is so rare, I really could not put a price on it. It would come down to condition and how many people feel that they have to have one in their collection.

The Sawyers Tru-Vue projectors are fun and come in many different sets and packaging. Collectors are only interested in complete sets, and the packaging must be in nice condition. I would value them at $20 - $40.

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This page last updated 12 April, 2011
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