|In 1959 I was a young journalist working in
the advertising department of Ansco, Binghamton N.Y. - -
I was in charge of Ansco's professional publications and
also did some work on The Ansconian magazine, which was the direct
descendent of Anthony's Photographic Journal.....Bill Ryan
Ansco was the result of the merger between the Edward Anthony Photographic company and Scovill manufacturing, who made cameras, and thus was the oldest photographic materials company existing. It was later purchased by Agfa of Germany in 1928, and was called Agfa Ansco up to the beginning of World War II. Ansco was then seized by the Alien Properties Commission and operated under government supervision during the War. Ansco had thus begun its history in the year of 1842.
It was technically a very advanced company. In the professional markets it stood toe to toe with Eastman Kodak as a strong competitor. In fact, my very first job was preparing a paper for the U.S. Patent Office Centennial regarding the "Goodwin" patent. Mr.Goodwin was a Methodist Minister who devised a coating of flexible base film, eg. roll film and sold his patent to the Anthony company. There was then a bitter patent fight with the Eastman Kodak company over flexible roll film. The Anthony (Ansco) company won. However, Mr. Eastman later proved to be the better in marketing. I was told that when the payment in settlement was finally made, it was paid in gold, delivered by a special train to Binghamton. They told me that the party lasted for weeks, and probably was the ruination of the Anthony company. The company was sold to the Germans in 1928.
Government ownership put a severe clamp on future growth, and sadly the photographic materials manufacturer that was Ansco in those years, no longer exists. The name was later sold to another company, and still exists as a registered trade mark.
Mathew B. Brady operated highly successful portrait studios prior to the Civil War. He purchased much of his photo supplies from the Anthony Company. When war began Brady decided to record it feeling there would be a later market for the pictures. There were well over 200 photographers working in the field independently, and in addition to taking his own photos, Brady financed and purchased the work of many field photographers.
His strange looking darkroom wagon became a familiar sight on the battlefields, and many
photographers copied his wagon. The technical problem of preparing a
photo "wet plate collodion process negative" and developing it in the
field were immense. The plate had to be developed before it dried,
otherwise areas became insensitive. Fresh, clean water was hard to
find, there were often dust and scratches in the plate. You can
clearly see the photographer's finger prints on many of the negatives.
Further the chemicals used were dangerous. (Brady lost his eye sight near
the end, which may have been the result)
He took great risks both physical and financial.
His studio business suffered. And when the war ended, the market for
his pictures (presented in picture book format) was not nearly enough to
cover his expenses. He was financially stressed. In 1874 he
sold a set of negatives to the War Department for only $2800.
Ansco acquired another set of glass plates with
excellent portraits. They were located in an old carriage house in Owego,
N.Y. This was a fascinating story, as the Ansco advertising
department was then located in an old building at number 1 Davis Street,
Binghamton N.Y. This was also the old headquarters building of the
Anthony Company. I was told by Mr. Harry Panko, sales promotion
manager, that his phone rang with a call from a Mr. George Andrews who had
located the negatives. In July of 1998 - I did some internet
searching and discovered these negatives had arrived in Owego with Mr.
Andrew Burgess who was an assistant manager of Brady in his studio.
Music Playing - this is a real Civil War era band - courtesy Library of Congress
| Start page | Bill Ryan at
About Ansco |
Stories in Pictures
Pictures | Gettysburg Address |
| Fairfax Courthouse | Confederate Grins | Wet Plate negatives | Retouching? | Double Printing | Amazing Sharpness |
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