Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ansco, Agfa, Eastman Kodak...who's next...Illford, Fugi?

Since Eastman Kodak has dumped its still film and paper interests, I thought it would be timely to note that Kodak did have some competition and also died.

Ansco Film Company


Ansco was the name of a photographic company based in Binghamton, New York, which produced inexpensive cameras for most of the 20th century. It also sold rebadged versions of cameras made by other manufacturers, including Agfa and Chinon. A Minolta-built Ansco model was the first 35 mm camera in space.

The company was founded in 1842 (pre-dating Kodak in the photography business) as E. Anthony & Co. (later E. and H.T. Anthony & Company, when Edward Anthony's brother officially joined the business) and became the Anthony & Scovill Co. in 1901, after a merger with the Camera business of Scovill Manufacturing (Connecticut). That year the company headquarters relocated to Binghamton New York. This was already a site of one of ANSCO's paper manufacturing facilities. Just after that, in 1905 it settled a landmark patent infringement case against Eastman Kodak, who had been violating the Goodwin roll film patent (Hannibal Goodwin of Newark, New Jersey) held by ANSCO. The Settlement by Kodak was very small compared to the damage done to ANSCO, which already had financial issues as a result of lost business to Eastman Kodak. In 1928 Ansco merged with the German photo company Agfa into a corporation named Agfa-Ansco. Later that year that firm and other German owned chemical firms were merged into a German-controlled (by IG Farben) Swiss-based corporation named Inter-nationale Gesellschaft für Chemische Unternehmungen AG or IG Chemie, for short. In 1929 the parent corporation's name was changed to American IG Chemical Corporation or American IG, later renamed General Aniline & Film, which continued to produce cameras under the Agfa-Ansco name.

During the period before the U.S. entrance into World War II, the Agfa-Ansco business grew enormously, with added manufacturing capacity in paper, film and camera manufacturing. The Agfa-Ansco interests in the U.S. and Binghamton factory were taken over by the U.S. government in 1941 due to its ties with Germany. The company was the last business to be sold as enemy assets to American interests in the 1960s. At that time, a new headquarters was constructed in Vestal, New York, adjacent to the new college campus of Harpur College (now Binghamton University). This location is the only remaining evidence of ANSCO in the Binghamton area, and is currently occupied by the University. It continued to do business after World War II as Ansco until 1967 when the company adopted the parent's name of General Aniline & Film (GAF), and a variety of cameras as well as films were sold under this name until the business was shut down in the early 1980s. The last Ansco cameras were produced in the early 1990s by a Hong Kong business that bought the rights to the name.

 Ansco All-Weather Film


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