The Ansco Company has a dramatic history that dates back to Daguerre. It was America's first producer of daguerreotype plates and manufactured and marketed photographic equipment and hand cameras long before there was an Eastman Kodak. According to Ansco executive A. C. Lamoutte, the company's origins began with Scovill Manufacturing Company. Originally a brass producer, the company expanded its operations to include manufacturing metal plates and supplies as the photographic market grew. To accommodate this ever-changing business, a separate entity, the Scovill-Adams Company, was established in 1889. During this period, the New York-based E. & H. T. Anthony Company was also selling photographic equipment while the newly-formed Eastman Kodak Company was serving as a distributor for Anthony plates. But the ambitious George Eastman was not content peddling another company's wares. He began producing his own cameras and opened a chain of stores exclusively featuring Eastman Kodak products. This created intense market competition between Anthony and Eastman Kodak, with the wealthy Eastman getting the upper hand by buying out independent suppliers.
To stay competitive, Anthony purchased Goodwin Film & Camera Company in 1901. Episcopal priest Hannibal Goodwin invented a transparent film roll that served as an impressive substitute for glass plates. After several attempts, Reverend Goodwin was finally awarded a patent, and Anthony began successfully manufacturing Goodwin's film. Shortly thereafter, E. & H. T. Anthony merged with Scovill Manufacturing in an effort to combat Eastman Kodak's market monopoly. Their partnership resulted in a name change to Ansco, and moved its base of operations to Binghamton, New York. In 1902, Goodwin sued Eastman Kodak for patent infringement, and though the case dragged on for more than a decade, Eastman Kodak was found guilty, and the $5 million judgment awarded to Ansco gave it the capital it needed to survive.
By January 1928, Ansco merged with Germany's Agfa, which necessitated a name change to Agfa Ansco. This merger strengthened the company in the lower-end camera market, but Eastman Kodak still had the high-end camera market to itself. Nevertheless, Agfa Ansco did receive recognition by the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, first in 1936 for its Agfa infrared film and two years' later for its pan motion picture film. Agfa Ansco became a subsidiary of the General Aniline & Film Company in 1939, and after the United States entered World War II, Agfa Ansco was seized because of its German corporate connection. Its camera production was replaced by wartime film and optical equipment, and was eventually overtaken by the U.S. Treasury and later transferred to the Office of Alien Property Custodian. By 1944, the name reverted back to simply Ansco for obvious reasons.
The postwar years sadly did nothing to alter Ansco's course. It continued to place second behind frontrunner Eastman Kodak, although it did distinguish itself in amateur camera production and developing high-speed reversible film for the space program. By 1967, its name changed again to General Aniline & Film (GAF). In 1978, the Ansco trademark was no more when it was sold to Hong Kong's Haking Enterprises, which later made cameras under its Ansco Photo-Optical Products Corporation division. legacy was later honored by Roberson Museum and Science Center in an exhibit entitled, "Ansco: Cameras, Community & Construction." In his article, "A Brief History of Agfa, Ansco and GAF Cameras," James Ollinger laments, "Poor Ansco has arguably the most tortured history of any of the major marquees." But while frequently relegated to second billing to Eastman Kodak, Ansco's industry star shined brightly for nearly a century and remains an impressive marquee name to photographic historians worldwide.
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2015 Bird's Eye View Showing ANSCO Camera Works, Johnson City, New York, PU-1916 (URL: http://www.delcampe.net/page/item/id,61925906,var,Birds-Eye-View-showing-ANSCO-Camera-works-Johnson-City-New-York-PU-1916,language,E.html).
2015 A Brief History of Agfa, Ansco and GAF Cameras by James Ollinger (URL: http://www.jollinger.com/photo/cam-coll/histories/history-ansco.html).
2011 Ansco Chronology (From a Binghamton, N. Y. Point of View) by William L. Camp (URL: http://billsphotohistory.com/3.html).
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 50.
1919 The Poster, Vol. X (Chicago, IL: Poster Advertising Association), pp. 25, 47, 49, 51).
1915 Printers' Ink, Vol. XCII (New York : Printers' Ink Publishing Company ), pp. 41-50.
1903 Western Camera Notes: A Monthly Magazine of Pictorial Photography, Vol. VI (Minneapolis, MN: Western Camera Publishing Co.), p. 187.
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