Exhibit on noted 19th century Newark clergyman & inventor
The John Cotton Dana Library is pleased to sponsor an exhibit honoring the accomplishments of
Hannibal Goodwin, 19th century clergyman, inventor, and Newark resident. Items on display include a selection of cameras, photographs and other memorabilia drawn from the collections of the Fleetwood Museum of Art and Photographica (North Plainfield, NJ). Sara Parmigiani, a curator at the Museum,
has kindly selected and installed the exhibited items.
An Episcopal minister, Hannibal Goodwin served in two Newark churches. Following his graduation
from the General Theological Seminary (NY) and ordination in 1851, he was assigned to churches in Bordentown and Trenton. His third parish was St. Paul’s Church, located just a few blocks from the campus at M. L. King, Jr. Blvd and Market St. After five years at St. Paul’s, Reverend Goodwin’s
health began to fail and, following medical advice, he went west and settled in California. When
the Reverend’s health improved, he returned to Newark where he served as rector of the House of
Prayer for twenty years.
Reverend Goodwin organized Christian education classes for the children in his church and
incorporated images to enhance learning. He relied on a primitive projector, a Magic Lantern, which used glass slides. In the hands of the children, the glass slides broke frequently. At the time,
glass was the only available medium for light sensitive chemicals. A self taught chemist, Reverend Goodwin pursued an alternative that would be flexible enough to wind on a spindle. He looked to celluloid, a recent discovery by John W. and Isaiah Hyatt of Newark. By the time he retired from
the ministry in 1887, Reverend Goodwin had developed a celluloid film that could be treated with an emulsion of photosensitive chemicals. Processing of the film could take place locally unlike the
paper backed films of Eastman Kodak which had to be sent to the company. Reverend Goodwin applied
for a patent in 1887.
In 1898, Reverend Goodwin was awarded a patent for his discovery and, a few months later, the
Goodwin Film and Camera Company was established to produce the film and the camera equipment
required to use it. The film was heralded by a very young motion picture industry and chosen by
Thomas Edison for his productions. Several examples of still and motion picture cameras are
included in the exhibit. Following the rector’s sudden death at the close of 1900, his family sold
the business to the Anthony and Scovill Company who manufactured the film under the name, Ansco.
Shortly after their acquisition, the Anthony and Scovill Company filed a challenge to a patent
issued to Eastman Kodak in 1889, two years after Reverend Goodwin’s application. The case dragged
on until 1914 when the U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the rector had indeed been the inventor. The assignees of the Goodwin patent were awarded $5,000,000 from Eastman Kodak and
Hannibal Goodwin was vindicated.
The exhibition will be on display though June 30th.
|Camera on loan from the George Helmke collection at the Fleetwood Museum of Art and Photographica, North Plainfield, NJ. Photo by Ann Watkins.