Born on a farm in what is now Cayuga Lake, New York, on April 21, 1822, photographic inventor and Episcopal minister Hannibal Goodwin enjoyed a happy childhood on his parents' farm. He was a popular student and a cheerful maker of classroom mischief. By the time he entered Schenectady, New York's Union College and later Yale College, he had become a serious student. However, as a law student, he became interested in theology after attending an Episcopal service. He became a minister shortly after his 1851 graduation, and married New York City native Rebecca Allen the following year.
While rector of St. Paul's Church in Newark, New Jersey, Rev. Goodwin began exploring inexpensive printing methods for his church choir music. He discovered this could be accomplished by photographing musical characters on a large board, and plates were produced from these negatives. He then used this process to photograph biblical subjects and scriptures for instructional purposes. Thereafter, Rev. Goodwin pondered whether it was possible to replace glass with celluloid film to make negatives. Applying his knowledge of chemistry to his experiments, he discovered that a durable transparent strip could be wound onto a spool, from which negatives could be produced. This lightweight material would be a dream for the traveling professional photographer who had to transport heavy glass from location to another.
Rev. Goodwin applied for a patent for his invention in early 1887 only to learn that Henry Reichenbach, a chemist for the Eastman Company, had applied for a similar patent for roll film. This began a lengthy legal process that was not settled until Rev. Goodwin was finally granted his patent on September 13, 1898. While awaiting his patent, he continued his photographic experiments and invented a screen and plate holder for half-tone processing. During his lifetime, Rev. Goodwin never profited from his important inventions. Two years after receiving his hard-won patent, seventy-eight-year-old Rev. Hannibal Goodwin died of a heart ailment at his home in Woodside, Newark on December 31, 1900.
After Rev. Goodwin's death, his widow Rachel formed the Goodwin Film and Camera Company, which was later purchased by the Ansco Company of Binghamton, New York. In December 1902, two years' after Rev. Goodwin’s death, Ansco filed a patent infringement lawsuit against the Eastman Company. Eastman promptly released a statement saying, "We do not think Goodwin ever had any workable process for making a transparent film. If he had, we never heard of his using it or anyone else making any use of it." Nevertheless, after yet another prolonged period of litigation, a settlement reached in March 1914, which required the Eastman Company to pay a significant sum to the Goodwin family, who were deemed to be the rightful patent owners.
1920 American Biography: A New Cyclopedia (New York: American Historical Society, Inc.).
1901 The Churchman, Vol. LXXXIII (New York: The Churchman Company), p. 56.
1913 A History of the City of Newark, New Jersey, Vol. II (New York: The Lewis Historical Publishing Co.), p. 855.
1922 The Inland Printer, Vol. LXIX (Chicago: The Inland Printer Company), p. 856.
1901 Western Camera Notes, Vol. II (Minneapolis, MN: Western Publishing Co.), p. 219.
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