Celluloid Photographic Film

John Carbutt, b 1832 George Eastman Packaging for the first Kodak rollfilm

As soon as the 'gelatin dry plate' process of photography had replaced the 'wet collodion' process in the 1870s, the search was on for a lighter and less fragile support than glass. Methods involving peeling the gelatin emulsion from paper and other flexible backings were tried but all proved unreliable.

The first experiments at using celluloid as a film backing were by French photographers David and Fortier, and by Waterhouse in England but the methods were difficult and the film too uneven and streaky for photographic use.

John Carbutt, an English photographer who had emigrated to America, set up the Keystone Dry Plate Works in 1879 to manufacture gelatin dry plates. He persuaded the Celluloid Manufacturing Co. to produce a thin celluloid film which was sufficiently transparent. They did this by slicing a thin layer from a block of celluloid - this was then pressed between heated polished plates to remove the slicing marks. Carbutt started to manufacture cut film using this material sometime before1888, but it was slow to catch on. Two key events which would make celluloid film a necessity had yet to happen - roll film cameras and motion pictures.

Independently, Rev. Hannibal Goodwin had also devised a process for making celluloid film and applied for a patent in 1887, but for various reasons the patent was not granted until 1898. In the meantime, George Eastman had started production of rollfilm using his own process. It was eventually ruled that Kodak had infringed Goodwin's patent which by then had been sold to Anthony & Scovill (Ansco) after Goodwin's death as a result of an accident just as he was starting a company to manufacture his film.

     
 
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