History of Photography | American Experience | Official Site

History of Photography | American Experience | Official Site


The Wizard of Photography |


History of Photography


Frenchman Nicéphore Niépce produces first permanent photograph of a view from nature. Uses the photosensitivity of bitumen of Judea.

Frenchmen Jacques Louis Mande Daguerre and Nicephore Niepce sign partnership agreement to work on perfecting photography. 

January: Englishman William Henry Fox Talbot presents to the Royal Society of London a paper on photogenic drawing, permanent camera obscura images made with photosensitive silver salts on paper.

March: American Samuel F. B. Morse, in Paris to promote his telegraph, meets with Daguerre and returns to New York to teach the process. Among his pupils is noted photographer Matthew Brady.

August: Noted French scientist Francois Arago, with Daguerre, announces the details of the first commercially practical photographic process, the daguerreotype, before a joint session of the French Academies of Science and Fine Arts. A sharp mirror-like image on a silvered copper plate, the daguerreotype exploits a photosensitive latent image that is developed with mercury. The direct positive images start a craze of popular interest.

Talbot patents the calotype, a negative-positive process on paper that employs the latent image developed by gallic acid.

Englishman Frederick Scott Archer coats glass plates with sticky wet collodion with silver salts.

Frenchman Louis-Desire Blanquart-Evrard makes positive photographic prints on paper coated with albumen (egg whites).

From 1851-1854, ambrotypes are introduced in Europe and U.S. and are used in mid1850s. These wet collodion images are made direct positives by blackening the back of the glass plate and like daguerreotypes are carried in plastic cases. Replaced with wet collodion negatives and positive paper prints that dominate photography next 25 years.

July 12: George Eastman is born in Waterville, New York.

February 27: Matthew Brady takes a photographic portrait of Abraham Lincoln in New York.

In London, James Clerk Maxwell demonstrates a projected color photographic image, using three different color filters. 

Alexander Parkes produces a celluloid-like cellulose material. 

April 27: George Eastman’s father, George Washington Eastman, dies.

George Eastman’s sister, Katie Eastman, a polio sufferer, dies.

Henry Alvah Strong family moves into the Eastman household as short-term boarders, meet George Eastman, and begin an increasingly important relationship with him.

Englishman Richard L. Maddox discloses the gelatin dry-plate process for photography. Commercial exploitation begins in 1878.

John Wesley Hyatt trademarks the name “celluloid” in U.S. and Great Britain.

George Eastman is a junior bookkeeper at the Rochester Savings Bank.

August: American Eadweard Muybridge develops a fast shutter that aids him in making photographs of objects in motion.

George Eastman prepares to travel to Santo Domingo to speculate on land. To document his findings, he begins study of photography.

Among numerous English photographers, Charles Bennett improves gelatin dry plate photography, increasing the photosensitivity of the silver-salted gelatin emulsion (hence photographs take less exposure time) . Eastman sees the report in the “British Journal of Photography.”

April: George Eastman patents “a method and apparatus for coating plates for use in photography.”

April: George Eastman sets up a photographic dry-plate production shop in Rochester.

January 1: Henry Strong begins to invest in the Eastman Dry Plate Company, becoming president. George Eastman is treasurer.

September 5: George Eastman resigns from his position at the Rochester Savings Bank.

Etienne-Jules Marey invents a repeating camera that can record multiple images on the same plate.

May 5: George Eastman and William Walker receive patent for the Eastman-Walker Roll Holder, a device that advances film for cameras to which it is attached. Soon afterward, Eastman sends Walker to England head to his London office. 

August: Eastman hires Henry M. Reichenbach, a chemist to improve the photographic emulsion and to develop a substitute for paper film.

Eastman introduces a “detective camera,” which incorporates the Eastman-Walker Roll Holder.

The Reverend Hannibal Goodwin, a minister at the House of Prayer in Newark, New Jersey, invents a method for making transparent, flexible film and applies for a patent.

December: The Eastman company starts use of the Kodak trademark.

Eastman introduces the “roll holder breast camera,” known generally as the Kodak camera, which is easier to use and mass-produce than its earlier detective camera. Its retail cost is $25.

On a trip to Europe, George Eastman meets George and Josephine Dickman. 

August 27: Eastman introduces a transparent, flexible film, which uses celluloid as a basic material, to the public.

September: The Reverend Hannibal Goodwin files an interference against Eastman for the use of transparent, flexible film.

December 10: Henry M. Reichenbach, working under the employ of George Eastman, patents a method of making transparent, flexible film.

Thomas Edison orders specially designed rolls of the new transparent, flexible film from the Eastman company for use in his development of a motion-picture camera.

Eastman breaks ground for first buildings at Kodak Park in Rochester, New York.

January 1: George Eastman fires his chemist, Henry Reichenbach, when his plan to start his own company is discovered.

January: Eastman fires William Walker as his London manager and replaces him with George Dickman.

Eastman hires William Stuber. He soon becomes head of the Emulsions Department. 

November 8: Wilhelm Roentgen of Germany invents the x-ray photograph.

Lumière brothers of France exhibit cinema projector. 

Between 1895 and 1898, Eastman purchases three companies that hold important roll-film system patents.

November 15: George Dickman dies in London. Thereafter, George Eastman becomes a lifelong companion of Dickman’s widow, Josephine.

The Brownie camera, designed for Eastman by Frank Brownell, is introduced at a retail price of one dollar.

December 31: The Rev. Hannibal Goodwin dies as the result of injuries suffered in a street-car incident. 

A photographic method that allows images to be reduced or enlarged, known as the photostat, is introduced.

June 16: Maria Eastman, George Eastman’s mother, dies in Rochester, New York, at the age of 85.

In France, Auguste and Louis Lumiere introduce the Autochrome, the first color photography system that can be used by amateurs.

Siegrist and Fisher develop the first subtractive color photography process, which will become the basis for Kodachrome.

March 6: George Eastman formally commits to donating two and one half million dollars to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on the condition that he remain anonymous. He is dubbed “Mr. Smith.”

George Eastman prepares to travel to Santo Domingo to speculate on land. To document his findings, he begins study of photography.

March 10: An appellate court upholds a ruling against the Eastman Kodak Company for infringing Hannibal Goodwin’s patent on transparent, flexible film and orders the company to pay five million dollars in cash to the Ansco Company, which then owned the Goodwin patent.

January 10: Mr. Smith, the anonymous donor to MIT, is revealed at an annual alumni dinner to be George Eastman.

September 4: The Eastman Theater is opened in Rochester, New York.

May 20: AT&T sends photographs by wire in an important step toward the invention of television.

George Eastman retires from Eastman Kodak and names William Stuber to succeed him as president.

October 25: John Logie Baird, a Scotsman living in England, transmits the first photographic image with a full range of half-tones without the use of wires.

George Eastman goes to Kenya on a six-month safari, during which he films a wild rhinoceros charging him on Cine-Kodak film.

Reliable photoflash light bulbs become available to photographers. 

Harold Edgerton develops the stroboscope, a precisely timed flash that allows photographers to capture motions of infinitesimally short duration.

March 14: George Eastman takes his own life with an automatic pistol at his home in Rochester, New York.

Eastman Kodak introduces the Kodachrome process of color photography, invented by Kodak employees Leopold Damrosch Mannes and Leopold Godowsky.

Chester Carlson invents “electron photography,” which later comes to be known as xerography, or simply photocopying.

Zoomar introduces the zoom lens, the invention of American Frank Back.

Edwin H. Land announces his invention of the Polaroid camera, which can develop images inside the camera in approximately one minute.

Kodak introduces the Instamatic line, the first point-and-shoot cameras.

Fuji introduces the Quicksnap, a disposable camera that revisits the original Kodak principle: the user sends the camera into the manufacturer, which then develops the film.

Kodak introduces the Photo CD, the first method of storing digital images to become available to the general public.

February: JPEG, a compression standard for storing and sending photographic images over the Internet, is described in a paper published in “IEEE Transactions on Consumer Electronics.”