Kirk Thorsteinson: The Agfa Advertising Phono-Postcard


Agfa History Timeline

Originally founded in Berlin,1867, its name was changed to AGFA (Actien-Gesellschaft für Anilin-Fabrikation) in 1873. Its core buiness was the production of chemicals and films for photography. When Agfa obtained the Rietzschel camera works in Munich from Bayer in 1925, it tagged all Rietzschel products with its Agfa rhombus. In 1926 it introduced the first true Agfa camera, the Standard. In 1927 the name Rietzschel disappeared from the products. In 1927 the successful Billy camera series was introduced, and Agfa licensed Ansco to manufacture its products for the American market. In January 1928 Ansco merged with Agfa in the United States and the name is changed to Agfa Ansco Corporation.

Agfa Phono Postcard Graphics

As this card has entirely English language text, it is believed that Agfa (Germany) commissioned Wecoton to produce this phono postcard as an advertising tool to be exported to English speaking markets that excluded the American market.  It is possible that the intended market of this advertising could have been just the English speaking colonial communities (i.e. in Asia) that were very popular tourist destinations at the time for European and English travelers. As a point of comparison, the following advertisements are from the same time period as the “Agfa - Use Agfa Articles” Phono Postcard.



The graphic on the left is from a 1928 Agfa German Print Advertisement.  Translation of the text is; “Agfa Cameras and photo articles secure full success”.The graphic on the right is a 1929 “Ask for Agfa Film” Advertisement (USA Market) taken from “Taking Better Pictures with the No. 2A Antar box Camera” Manual (Agfa Ansco Corporation, Binghampton, N.Y. 8-29-26.  Printed in the USA.)  As Agfa merged with Ansco in Jan 1928, the printing code agrees with a printing date of Aug 1929.

Even after only a few years following the acquisition, there is an obvious exchange of advertising graphics between Agfa (Germany) and Agfa Ansco in the USA.  In the above advertisements you can see the use the woman holding a camera in the Agfa Ansco advertisement and the artist line drawing rendition of the same image in the German print advertisement.



The focus of the advertisement is the promotion of Agfa film but the camera in both images suggests an early version of the Agfa Standard roll film camera.  The Agfa "Standard" folding cameras were produced from 1926 to about 1933, in a wide variety of versions differing in combinations of shutter/lens, finish and type of support.  A “Standard” camera can be easily identified by the label "STANDARD" that appears on the handle underneath the lens panel.  Roll film use was gaining in popularity due to its ease of use and Agfa would have been keen on promoting its sales at that time. This is in contrast to the “Agfa – Use Agfa Articles” phono postcard, as the focus of the advertisement graphic seems to be the general promotion of Agfa products with a focus on roll film.

The film shown in the phono post card graphic is the Agfa-film B2 6 (6 frames of 6x9 cm) and its graphics are consistent for the time period.  However this roll film format does not seem consistent with the type of camera being held by the girl (unless the plate camera was fitted with an accessory roll film adapter back).



On the left is the film as it appears in the Agfa phono postcard graphic.  On the right is an Agfa roll film package taken from an Aug, 1929 camera manual advertisement made for the North American market.  “Succeeding Ansco Speedex Film” has been added to the Agfa Film packaging as Agfa merged with Ansco in Jan 1928.   If the Wecoton “Use Agfa Articles” Phono Postcard was to have been used in North America, the advertising text would have needed to include a reference to Ansco, which it does not.

  The camera in the postcard has yet to be identified and seems to be more of a “generic” camera generated by an artist rather than an actual Agfa camera produced at the time.  This suggests that the focus of the advertisement was for the promotion of Agfa film (and chemicals) rather than cameras, possible because the phono postcard was to be distributed in markets that did not have ready access to Agfa cameras.






"The camera in the “Agfa – Use Agfa Articles” phono post card graphic (shown on the left) most likely is a plate camera rather than a roll film camera.  As a point of comparison, the Agfa Standard plate camera from the time period when the phono postcard was produced is shown on the right. The phono postcard camera struts, shutter, front lens mount design and finder location all appear similar to an Agfa design, however the box shape of the body suggest more of a plate camera design (i.e. possibly 9x12 cm) rather than a roll film camera. The camera is also missing the characteristic “Standard” logo and the wire frame finder found on later versions of the Agfa Standard camera.  The graphic could simply be an artist’s rendition of a generic camera for a market where Agfa cameras were still not readily available. However the camera appears somewhat similar to earlier Ansco cameras and it could be that the graphic was obtained from Agfa Ansco. As there was movement of advertisement graphics between Agfa (Germany) and the Agfa Ansco (America), it is possible that the girl in  the “Agfa-Use Agfa Articles” phono postcard graphic was derived from an earlier Ansco advertisement or possibly a Rietzschel camera works advertisement.

Suen Sui (Malaya) Film Co., Ipoh, Federated Malay States

The back of the “Use Agfa Articles” Wecoton Phono Postcard bares a stamp of the company that received the promotional item in Malaysia and distributed it.


At present little is known about this company other than was likely owned and operated by a Chinese Malay immigrant that imported and sold Agfa products from Germany and was located near the center of town.  The title also suggests that this was a Malay subsidiary of a company that was based elsewhere - quite possibly Singapore - given the time period.  Further research is ongoing with regard to the parent company. 

Store Location and City History

 Ipoh is the 3rd largest city in Malaysia, and is the capital city of Perak State, Malaysia, Central Malay Peninsula.


Map of Central Malay Peninsula.

Ipoh located 200 km north of Kuala Lumpur

Hot Springs, Ipoh, Malaysia

(Circa 1913; Post Card Image)


Ipoh is located in the Kinta River valley Ipoh, a rich tin bearing valley of the river. It grew up as a mining town.  It was transformed into a bustling town during the tin rush in 1877. Many Chinese immigrants arrived and worked as mine laborer, as well as “towkays” (business owners in the Chinese Hokkien dialect) came in to invest in shop houses, making it then and now a predominantly Chinese town. Suen Sui (Malaya) Film Co. shop was located at 150, Brewster Road, Ipoh, F.M.S.  Brewster Road is now called Jalan Sultan Idris Shah, which is located in the middle of town.   “F.M.S.” stands for “Federated of Malay States”. Most major Malaysian towns emerged in the late 19th century. The protectorate of the Federated Malay States was established after the four Rulers of Selangor, Perak, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang agreed to a federation and centralized administration in 1895 and in which the Treaty of Federation was drawn up and signed on the 1st of July 1896.


Malay Rulers at the first Durbar, Kuala Kangsar, Perak

 Malay Rulers at the first Durbar (i.e. royal court or government),Kuala Kangsar, Perak.


By this treaty and the previous acceptance of the British Residents System, the FMS were officially turned into a nominally independent protectorate of Great Britain.  F.M.S.  existed up to the end of the second world war and the liberation of the Japanese occupied Malaysian territories and the formation of The Malayan Union by the British in 1946."