Rumors Abound that Jimmy Stewart Owned Soviet Camera Found in the Columbia Gorge
Two men, Ron Campbell and Ethan Field went hiking in the Columbia Gorge and found an antique camera hidden in the mud with the words “Made in East Germany/U.S.S.R occupied” inscribed, a photo of which they posted to Campbell’s Instagram page, emergingeye. It has since been identified as an Exakta camera, made for left-handed people, estimated as from the 1950s Cold War-era. Field, the discoverer of the camera, filmed his discovery via a GoPro camera and posted it to his Instagram, thefieldproject. He has since cleaned it as much as possible.
“How did it get there?” Campbell, an AT&T field network specialist, said during an interview with The Oregonian. “It’s a huge mystery that we really want to solve.”
The pair posted a photo of their find on their Instagram page, @emerging eye, and the video on their other account, @thefieldproject.
There has been numerous speculations on the owner of the camera. Several people have tweeted Joseph Rose, author for the Oregonian of “Watch: Oregon hikers find mysterious Soviet-era camera in Columbia Gorge”, quoting several coincidences that may link actor Jimmy Stewart to the device.
“There was a US importer for Exaktas back in the day,” User BBrx-08 [@brx0] said, “Jimmy Stewart used one in “Rear Window”.”
Another reader emailed Rose saying that Stewart was in the Gorge during the 1950s to film “Bend of the River.” In the Western, he filmed in several locations near Eagle Creek waterfalls as he played a cowboy named Glyn McLyntock who led a wagon train to Oregon all the way from Missouri. Among the Gorge shots, there are views of Mt. Hood, Rooster Rock, and several other landmarks.
Bend of the River was released in 1952, however, two years before Rear Window came out. This means Stewart would have had to owned the Exakter camera at least three years before he filmed the Hitchcock film. If he did lose the camera, it was not reported in any local media, as most outlets were distracted by the riots at the downtown Portland Broadway Theatre. An Oregonian headline read “10,000 Pushing Film Fans Turn Premiere Here Into Mob Scene.”
Others have also pointed out that this model may not have been produced until long after this time period. PetaPixel, a website dedicated to photography and cameras, claims it looks like an Exakta VX IIa, meaning it would have been manufactured between 1957 and 1963, at least six years after Stewart’s filming in the Gorge during 1951. The number engraved on the model may also help lead to the original owner, the report said.
Exacta cameras were not increasingly difficult to get a hold of during this time, and the fact that the inscription on the camera was written in English, not German or Russian, point to the owner being an American. Richard Winger, another reader, also pointed out that Stewart’s daughter attended Lewis and Clark college in the 1960s and may have hiked to the Gorge and lost her dad’s camera. He was also a student at that point, and says she was at the college when he brother died in the Vietnam War and may have subsequently left at the time.
Field has since sent the film inside the camera to a Portland shop.
“My homie Ethan @thefieldprojects found it [the camera] almost completely buried! And it still has film in it! He already found someone that can develop it! Will let u know what’s up!” Campbell wrote in his Instagram caption.
There, a technician will try to reverse the chemical process in which the film is developed, but due to the corrosion of the camera and the age of the roll, it may end up destroying it. The pair say they found a crack in the back of the camera, but the film was contained in the left, due to it being a left-handed camera, and was found intact.
“We all hope the film can be developed, and will find out asap!” Campbell wrote. “Imagine a beautiful photo of punch bowl falls 60-70 years ago! Or a photo of the photographer,, the very first selfie maybe??!!!”