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  Hess-Ives Corporation

Although Henry Hess's surname received top corporate billing as President, the creative impetus behind the landmark photography firm, Hess-Ives Corporation, was inventor Frederic Eugene Ives. Born to Hubert and Ellen Beach Ives in Litchfield, CT on February 17, 1856, he became a printer's apprentice at age 11, following the death of his father. It was during his apprenticeship that the young man was introduced to photography. In 1875, Mr. Ives headed Cornell University's photographic laboratory, and for the next three years worked on developing photo-engraved printing plates from pen sketches, which were used to illustrate collegiate papers. He also experimented with an early halftone gelatin relief process.

Within a year after leaving Cornel, Mr. Ives opened the Crosscup & West Engraving Company in Philadelphia, which specialized in halftone plate manufacturing. That same year, he married Mary Elizabeth Olmstead, with whom he would have a son, Herbert Eugene. More of an inventor than a businessman, Mr. Ives's tireless efforts in perfecting the halftone printing process truly revolutionized the publishing industry. Sadly, despite receiving more than 70 patents for his many inventions, he never patented his halftone method, which would have proved to be extremely lucrative. After Crosscup & West Engraving was destroyed by fire in 1885, Mr. Ives turned his attentions to color photography, developing and patenting an award-winning photochromoscope system. In 1892, he experimented with a technique known as composite heliochromy, which allowed a photographer to record three images onto corresponding sensitized plates by utilizing a photochromoscope camera specially fitted with light filters, mirrors, and prisms. These color plates received international industry attention when exhibited at London's Royal Photographic Society, and led to Mr. Ives's RPS fellowship as well as several scientific medals of achievement.

During his time in Philadelphia, Mr. Ives was introduced to local businessman Henry Hess. Born in 1862 in Darmstadt, Germany, he applied his engineering background to the steel industry, becoming the founder and president of Hess-Bright Manufacturing Company and Hess Steel Company. In 1911, the inventor and entrepreneur teamed to form the Hess-Ives Corporation, which pioneered hicrography, a unique color printing system. The firm manufactured Hicro cameras, which could be used for both monochrome and color photography, with prices ranging from $25 for fixed focus to $75 for 5x7 Bellows focusing cameras. The Hicro was fitted with a holder that contained a set of three color plates (blue, green, and red) known as a Hipack to produce a hicrome or color photograph. Light passed through a reflector treated with a yellow coating that contained blue rays, which recorded violet light elements onto the outer plate, and allowed the red and green rays to pass on to the two rear plates. The front plate was green-sensitive, and stained to be used as a filter that would allow only the red to pass and be imprinted on a panchromatic red-sensitive back plate. The results could be impressively achieved by professional and amateur photographers alike.

On March 24, 1922, Henry Hess died of a massive heart attack while on vacation with his family. His partner continued operating the Hess-Ives Corporation while perfecting his color photography processes and equipment until his death in 1937 at the age of 81. It is believed that the Hess-Ives Corporation closed within two years after Mr. Ives's death. His son, Dr. Herbert Eugene Ives, was a physicist and became a noted color photography researcher in his own right.

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1918 The American Annual of Photography, Vol. XXXII (New York: The American Annual of Photography, Inc.), pp. 56-63.

1916 American Photography, Vol. X (Boston: American Photographic Publishing Company), pp. 35-36.

2008 A Biographical Dictionary of People in Engineering by Carl W. Hall (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press), p. 111.

2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 762.

2016 Frederic E. Ives Papers (URL:

1916 Hess-Ives Hicrography (Philadelphia: Hess-Ives Corporation), pp. 1-13, 24-27.

1922 Journal of the Franklin Institute, Vol. CXCIII (Philadelphia: The Franklin Institute), p. 714.

1937 Life Magazine (Jul. 19) (Chicago: TIME, Inc.), p. 12.

1922 Moody's Analyses of Investments and Security Rating Books by John Moody (New York: Moody’s Investors Service), pp. 485-486.

1916 National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. XV (New York: James T. White & Company), pp. 77-79.

2013 Twentieth-Century Color Photographs: Identification and Care by Sylvie Penichon (Los Angeles: The Getty Conservation Institute), pp. 133-134.

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