Ansco was the descendent of the E. & H. T. Anthony Company, which supplied photographic equipment prior to and during the Civil War.  Anthony merged with the photographic division of Scovill a manufacturer of camera equipment.  The new company was called Ansco.

Ansco supplied much photo equipment to the U.S. government during World War One.  In 1928 the company was purchased by Agfa of Germany and was called  Agfa Ansco .  They manufactured a complete line of both amateur and professional cameras from their Binghamton N.Y. camerawork's, which was staffed by many craftsmen of German descent.  The Ansco amateur cameras later became collectors items.  They had a camera factory that made
both professional and amateur cameras of excellent quality.

In February 1944 Agfa Ansco ceased to exist, the company being sized by the U.S. government under the Alien Properties Act.  In essence, the new boss was the U.S. Attorney General.  During World War II Ansco made amazing technical progress with a color negative/positive process called Ansco Color, a color film that could be processed by the user called Anscochrome, black and white photofinish papers, printing papers, and new higher speed black and white films.  Ansco had won an Academy Award for their color film in the documentary production Nanook of the North.  The famous flag raising photo on Iwo Jima by Mr. Rosenthal of the Associated Press was taken on Ansco Superpan Press film pack film 4 x 5".  (I met him in New York after the War)


Prior to the war, formulas and techniques of film making were kept "top secret" by the Agfa German scientists.  The plant employees were often not fully informed as to the techniques of their production.

A story told to me was:  'suddenly, the latest batches of black and white film showed an amazing increase in film speed.  No one could understand it.  After much research they found that the American cows were eating mustard plants.  The needed gelatin was made from these cow hoofs, and they caused a complex chemical reaction, which later lead to very much increased film sensitivity.'  The German Scientists were amazed.  Ansco still had
many scientists and engineers of German decent when I was there.


When Ansco was on its own, there were remarkable technical advances made. They made a $1,000,000 addition to their film plant (in 1944 dollars)  Ansco was a true, aggressive competitor to Eastman Kodak and finished World War II in a very strong position.

After the War, Ansco was dominating in the professional photographic markets.  They continued to aggressively market amateur cameras and film too.  They had leads in photofinishing, school photography, professional studio markets.   However, the ownership by the U.S. government began to put on the brakes.  They could not increase their manufacturing plant.  Ansco also for some reason also missed the photofinishing switch to color negative film, and color paper even though they had pioneered the process.  They concentrated on amateur films such as Anscochrome/Printon positive/positive process, and introduced fairly unsuccessful products such as high speed Super Anscochrome, and 8mm Moviechrome motion picture film.  Although still very strong in professional markets, Ansco was being surpassed by Kodak.  The company was a Division of General Aniline and Film Corporation
(GAF) but later went into a slow decline, I believe due to a lack of outside capital investment.

It was a wonderful time for young Bill Ryan as professional publications, and advertising led me into all parts of the company, learning much about photographic manufacture and marketing.  Management in their advertising department left much room for responsibility, and rapid learning.  Ansco was "a beautiful company " and truly was a credit to its heritage as the oldest photographic manufacturer in the United States.  I regretfully departed to manage another photo company leading me to a lengthy
career in the photo industry..........., but that's another story.............

     P.S. I have a complete bound set of Ansconian magazines from the 1920's thru
     World War II - I believe this to be the first true photo magazine published in America
     eg. Anthony's Photographic Journal.  The story of Ansco is the story of photography
    in the United States.

Back to Ansco and Mathew Brady's negatives