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J. T. Chapman

Josiah Thomas Chapman was born in the small enclave of Staverton in Wiltshire, England in 1843. Interestingly, his birthplace is located near the scenic Lacock homestead of calotype process pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot. He was sent to Manchester at age 14 to apprentice under his uncle, chemist and druggist Josiah Slugg. Mr. Slugg was also an amateur astronomer, and schooled his young apprentice on optics as well as chemical processes. When delivering his uncle's telescope catalogs for illustrations, he developed important relationships with local photographers and wood engravers.

By 1865, Mr. Chapman had successfully completed his apprenticeship and went to work for chemist and photographic supplier Robert Hampson, and was joined shortly thereafter by fellow chemist and photography enthusiast J. B. Payne. When Mr. Hampson retired six years later, the business was promptly renamed Payne and Chapman. That same year, 1871, Mr. Chapman married Elizabeth Gardiner, with whom he would have six children. Within two years, his partnership with Mr. Payne ended, and the young entrepreneur decided to concentrate on his thriving photographic business. He began experimenting with Dr. R. C. Maddox's dry plate formula, adding alcohol to his gelatino-bromide emulsion. Mr. Chapman used the pseudonym Ostendo non Ostento to publish his formula in the October 1873 issue of the British Journal of Photography. His process studies led to the development of Lancashire and Manchester plates. While dry plates were certainly advantageous, many photographers experienced difficulties determining exposure time and proper lens aperture. Chemists Ferdinand Hunt and Vero Driffield determined that Mr. Chapman's Manchester plates produced the most impressive emulsion speed, and their published findings resulted in a dramatic surge in Manchester plate sales. He designed his first camera, the quarter-plate Manchester, in 1883. Three years later, he introduced the amazingly popular British camera series, a sturdy basic camera that did not compromise quality for affordability. By the early twentieth century, the British camera was available in seven sizes.

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