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)
(Brady posed in some of his photographs - the right photo by Timothy O'Sullivan at the battle of Cedar Mountain shows
Brady in the same clothing, hat, and photo wagon as image below obtained from the Library of Congress collection I am
certain both pictures are of Brady)

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.
(Congress later paid him $25,000)  A second set of negatives were acquired by the Edward Anthony company who were owed monies for supplies.  The trail of these negatives became hazy with time, some were broken, some lost.  The negatives remaining ended up the the Library of Congress collections where they safely repose today.  (and may be viewed on their website)

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.
Burgess joined Brady as an apprentice in 1855 and became his partner in 1863.  When the business folded in 1872, Burgess took Mr. Brady's Day Book along with a substantial collection of negatives. He had many adventures with Brady and later became a well known inventor
and citizen of Owego.
 See my research about Andrew Burgess and the Brady Day Book negatives

About Ansco and the Brady Prints.......

Music Playing - this is a real Civil War era band - courtesy Library of Congress

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