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In 1949, they made 30-year Charles Percy President of the Company. He came to be known as the “boy wonder” - increasing sales by a factor of 32 and the number of employees by 12 - before beginning a career as liberal Republican (remember those?), losing a race for governor to Otto Kerner - who would later be sent to prison - before winning three terms to the U.S. Senate. After Percy left, the company had the usual trajectory of lost opportunities. It bought - and sold - what's now the Proquest database of newspapers. It acquired Devry Technical Institute, but spun it off in 1987. In 2000, it was split into separate companies, with soon-to-be-bankrupt Kodak acquiring the company's scanner business in 2009. In 2011, Böwe Bell & Howell itself went bankrupt and was sold to Versa Capital to pay off the debt. That same year, the corporate headquarters was moved to Durham, North Carolina, where the company has had a plant since 1997. About 250 employees are left.
The Chicago firm of Pond and Pond were Bell & Howell's architects. On May 1, 1927, Irving K. Pond celebrated his 70th birthday by doing a somersault on the roof of the YMCA Building. Bell & Howell sent its cameraman to record the event.
Out from the Sidelines: The Autobiography (and Confessions) of Irving K. Pond.