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The Religious Affiliation of
Hannibal Goodwin
who had perfected a way of
applying photographic emulsion to a roll of film


Hannibal Goodwin, an important figure in the development of the technology used to create motion pictures, was an Episcopalian minister.

From: Scott Wise, The Film 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential People in the History of the Movies, Citadel Press Book/Carol Publishing Group: Secaucus, New Jersey (1998), pages 4-5:

Dickson immediately created several key alliances that would help him proceed. Foremost among these was his relationship with George Eastmans company, which supplied a steady stock of photographic supplies, particularly paper film. Dickson first attempted to attach photographic images to the cylinder of a phonograph by wrapping paper sheets around it. Initially, he used a telescope instead of a lens to look down and view the jittery images rolling under his nose. Building a camera and viewing instrument based on the phonograph proved problematic. First of all, the movement of passing photos was indistinguishable. What was needed was a method to make each still frame stop for a split second, and the phonograph s cylinder could not be made to perform that way. Another concern was the opacity of the paper film. Dickson had read of a product called celluloid, developed by John Carbutt. Carbutt's transparent sheets were being advertised as a replacement for plate glass negatives. Dickson ordered a supply and again tried rolling pieces of the malleable material around a drum, but the celluloid was still too rigid.

Dickson then sought out Hannibal Goodwin, an Episcopalian minister who had perfected a way of applying photographic emulsion to a roll of film. Suddenly, Dickson saw a ray of hope: a more flexible roll of celluloid film, combined with the emulsion process, could become an essential ingredient to commercial success. Befriending Coodwin and Carbutt, Dickson coerced them into relinquishing their patents to the Edison company. Edison's reputation for stealing the ideas of others was firmly rooted by this time, but Dickson assured both men that the prestige and resources of the West Orange lab would help them properly protect and profit from their hard work.

His persuasiveness would have a lasting impact on the future of film in several ways. Immediately, the Edison company received an overwhelming advantage in controlling the technologies required to create images on filmstrips. Furthermore, Dicksons close association with the Eastman company provided it with a substantial lead in manufacturing motion picture film stock; Dickson even traveled to Rochester, New York, to guide Eastman employees through the requirements for coating the celluloid strips with photosensitive emulsion, instructing them to make the rolls 35mm wide and in lengths of roughly 15 meters. And though Carbutt and Goodwin were generously rewarded, their willingness to share their patents would later hurt their chances to receive credit for the discovery of these processes, and ultimately gave Edison legal ownership of film patents for nearly a decade.

By November of 1889, the tenacious Dickson had devised a crude camera to record images on the translucent strips and filmed his first trial, a five-second wonder featuring the movement of fellow assistant Fred Ott. Already, some conventions were being set: the film was 35mm stock from Eastman, it was advanced by sprockets, and the illumination was provided by an electric bulb.

From: Scott Wise, The Film 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential People in the History of the Movies, Citadel Press Book/Carol Publishing Group: Secaucus, New Jersey (1998), pages 55-56:
The greatest achievement of the Eastman company, however, was its ability to keep pace with the changes in the film industry, despite its explosive growth in other markets, such as amateur photography. It is the only vendor to have supplied the film industry continually since its inception (except for a four-year period, when Eastman's participation in the Motion Picture Patents Company prevented him from servicing certain customers). Eastman gave the film business his unflagging support, investing heavily in any technology that was deemed important to the advancement of film. He was skillful at hiring talented inventors to keep his products of the highest quality. His organization was swift in edging the competition and quick to raise capital when needed. His support in the infancy of motion pictures was vital, particularly in seeing that busy producers from Edwin Porter to Mack Sennett received steady shipments of film stock.

In 1902, a significant patent case threatened Eastman's company. Hannibal Goodwin sued Eastman over the infringement of his 1887 patent on flexible celluloid film. The case, which dragged on until 1914, possibly altered the course of film history. It is clear that Goodwin knew of the limited shelf life of his nitrate film, and he had made significant steps toward developing an alternative. But the eleven-year legal battle with Eastman tapped the resources he needed to manufacture a better film stock, and an accident ended Goodwin's life prematurely. Nitrate developers continued to be the standard for film processing--and today present the greatest threat to the preservation of film classics.

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