A Befuddled History of Photography (Part 2. Part One Follows in the Next Issue)
by Col. Stoopnagle

            A fellow looked me straight in the eye yesterday and said: "Stoopnagle, you are a genius."  I thought it awfully decent of the man, and started to shake his hand, when I discovered I had been looking into a mirror.  On reflection, I decided it best to ignore the compliment.  (A genius, by the way, is a man who is endowed with transcendent abilities.  I hope that's good.)

            Anyway, I got to figuring further and, noticing that a coin I tossed came down and landed upright on its edge, I concluded that no one is better qualified to write a thesis on photography than I.  So, in two parts, the first coming later, I shall pour out my meager, though inadequate knowledge of this delicate subject.

How It All Began 

            The first photographs produced in a camera were made by Daguerre (pronounced DAH-GAIR), who wrote the famous treatise called DAH GAIR AND FEEDING OF INFANTS, and a man named Niepce (pronounced NIEPCE), who didn't write anything much.  They happened to have a sensitive, polished, silver plate and inadvertently spilled some iodine on it when Niepce cut his pinkie.  They also happened to have a camera (even though the Kodak Medalist hadn't been invented at the time) so they let some light trickle on the plate.  Then they developed it by means of some mercury vapor they happened to have (mercury vapor is made by boiling thermometers).  They would never have been able to "fix" the resulting image had it not been for some potassium cyanide they happened to have.  They also happened to have considerable luck, and if it weren't for these two old Frenchmen (they would be about 170 years old if they were living today, and far too decrepit to know it). we might still have to cut a pinkie to get a negative. 

And Then---

            The next of photography's advances was made in 1841, 45 years after Napolean's advances to You-know-whom.  This was accomplished by a man named Talbot (pronounced TALBOT).  Talbot invented the "calotype" process, which is apparently a means of typing a calo.  I don't believe this could possibly have amounted to much.  Then, in 1874, exactly 1873 years after the year 1, along came a guy named Bolton (pronounced JONES), and a man named Sayce (pronounced BOLTON) who introduced collodion emulsion without first having been introduced to each other.  This advance gave much greater lack of speed and did almost as much as the cracked lens to spoil photography entirely. 

Still More--- 

            The gelatino-bromide plate came along in 1871, and was dreamed up by a gent named Maddoz (never mind how it is pronounced) and greatly improved in 1878 by Bennet (that's an easy one).  Here appeared what we know today as a "camera," in which the image is impressed on the sensitive surface in a lighttight box in which the plate is fixed in such a position that an image of the object to be photographed is projected on it by a lens, thus getting me a blue ribbon for lucidity (love that gal).

            Now in case your interest, as an expert Kodak man, has been aroused by this sly glimpse into the past, just you wait until next month's issue, when I shall be happy to skip over "isocyanines" and the fact that photography has become the hand maiden of science and commerce and brings you to the year 1919, when I was fired from the University of Rochester for attending all my classes at Cornell.  Then it was that the Eastman Kodak Company was becoming known as the Eastman Kodak Company of its time, and radio wasn't even a sparkle in Marconi's eye.

            Aren't you simply feverish with anticipation.  DON'T ANSWER THAT!


[From the Kodak Salesman, circa 1947]


Page created November 15, 2006.  Copyright 1998-2006 by Richard D. Squires.