St. Louis, Missouri was once known as the center of America's dry plate industry. Some attributed this phenomenon to the muddy water of the Mississippi River while others suggested St. Louis' climate was responsible. Whatever the reason, Mr. Ludwig F. Hammer and his St. Louis-based competitors provided nineteenth-century America with the highest quality dry plates.
Born in Wurttemberg, Germany in 1834, Mr. Hammer completed his formal education in Germany before immigrating to the United States in 1854 in hopes of opening his own photography studio, which achieved modest success that allowed him to provide for his growing family. The man who became known by the affectionate moniker "Papa Hammer" sold his photography studio to his son Ludwig Jr. in 1890. His attentions turned to dry plates, which culminated in the establishment of the Hammer Dry Plate Company, of which Mr. Hammer served as president and manager. It became so successful that the illustrious Scovill & Adams manufacturing company became the firm's Eastern agents.
The Hammer Dry Plate Company soon distinguished itself for its durable and affordable dry plates, and became the a leading producer in both St. Louis and elsewhere. As its clever advertising reminded old and potential customers, if a holder was loaded and twelve of Hammer's dry plates were exposed and a photographer did nothing more with the camera for an entire year and this operation was repeated, the dry plate quality would be identical to those that were exposed the previous year.
It was Mr. Hammer's commitment to quality and customer service that was the driving force behind his company's success. His company provided satisfied customers with fog-free negatives and plates that were both fast and extremely adaptable. The company was also famous for its extremely informative short text entitled "A Short Story on Negative Company," which it shipped free to all inquiring customers. Mr. Hammer's pleasant and amicable disposition won him several friends within the St. Louis community, and he encouraged his family to be active participants in both business and civic affairs.
The loss of his beloved wife in 1907, though devastating, did not slow Mr. Hammer down. He continued to to make improvements to his dry plates and always seemed to remain a step ahead of his competition. By the 1920s, the four leading dry plate manufacturers throughout the United States were Eastman Kodak Company, and the 'big three' St. Louis-based Central Dry Plate Company, Cramer Dry Plate Company, and of course the Hammer Dry Plate Company. The business continued flourishing after Mr. Hammer's death on May 8, 1921 at the age of 87. Hammer dry plates are highly prized by photographic historians and collectors.
1913 The Camera, Vol. XVII (Philadelphia: The Camera Publishing Company), p. 301.
1922 Hearings Before the Committee on Finance, United States Senate on the Proposed Tariff Act of 1921 (Washington: Government Printing Office), p. 1590.
1921 The Photographic Journal of America, Vol. LVIII (Boston: American Photographic Publishing Company), p. 233.
1913 The Photographic Times, Vol. XLV (New York: The Photographic Times Publishing Association), p. viii.
1902 The Photographic Times-Bulletin, Vol. XXXIV (New York: The Photographic Times-Bulletin Publishing Association), p. 42.
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