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BRODART, CO. Cat. No. 23-221-003 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2021 

MICROFILM - A History 



A History 
1839 - Igo00 







Simultaneously published with this edition of 500 copies in 

conventional format are editions in the form of 35 mm. roll 

microfilm, 3”x5” microfiche and 3”x5” microprint cards. The 

micro editions will remain permanently in print and are 
available from the 

2803 East 56th Street - Indianapolis, Indiana 



“Time and accident are committing daily havoc on the original (papers) 
deposited in our public offices. The late war has done the work of centuries 
in this business. The lost cannot be recovered; but let us save what 
remains: not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and 
use in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such multiplication of 
copies as shall place them beyond the reach of accident.” 

—Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Ebenezer Hazard, February 18, 1791 

“It is my hope that the Society of American Archivists will do all 
that is possible to build up an American public opinion in favor of what 
might be called the only form of insurance that will stand the test of time. 
I am referring to the duplication of records by modern processes like the 
microfilm so that if in any part of the country original archives are 
destroyed a record of them will exist in some other place.” 

—Address by Franklin D. Roosevelt before the 
Society of American Archivists, February 13, 1942 

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AN INpustry Is BorN 


News-Hunery Paris . 















THE LITERATURE of present day microfilming is highly frag- 
mented. There are few books devoted to the subject and details 
of equipment, processes, applications, achievements, ideas, per- 
sonalities and related matters are scattered in learned journals, 
house organs, popular magazines, trade papers and specialized 
publications, in newspapers, proceedings, transactions and simi- 
lar often obscure places. Many data are not published at ail 
but exist in reports, memoranda and surveys available only to 
limited audiences. The fields of application moreover range so 
widely that few individuals have more than a hazy idea of the 
scope of the industry. No one really knows the whole story. 

For research in microfilming in the 19th century the docu- 
mentary picture is even worse if that could be possible. Before 
reading this book few people may have realized that micro- 
filming has a history extending back to the very dawn of 
photography as we know it. Through the genius and work of 
two men, Dancer the Englishman and Dagron the Frenchman, 
microfilms became a practical reality more than a hundred 
years ago. Reductions greater than those now in common use 
were employed to produce microfilms that could meet the rule- 
of-thumb test of quality, that is, be enlarged back to original 
size without substantial loss of definition or legibility. Several 
of these microfilms still preserved are of excellent quality and 



are greatly admired today. They were not isolated laboratory 
triumphs but resulted from commercial applications which in 
their day were as successful as they were spectacular. Micro- 
film copying of manuscripts and historical documents for 
preservation and use was known and practiced. The begin- 
nings of microfilm in business and industry as well as in science 
are clearly evident. More perhaps in the way of reproducing 
scenes and pictures in this form was done then than at the 
present time. One of the most interesting applications and 
the best known today was the predecessor of the V-Mail of 
World War II, the transfer of letters and official dispatches 
on microfilm by air into Paris during the siege of 1870. The 
first air mail on any considerable organized scale, the “Pigeon 
Post” is a monument of postal history; it is as much a mon- 
ument to successful microfilming. The story is thrilling, com- 
plete with escape from Paris by balloon, pursuit by hard riding 
Prussian Uhlans, disguises and final escape. The subsequent 
account of work with makeshift equipment and supplies 
ordered by pigeon to be delivered by balloon, reads almost like 
a novel. It is here more fully described and documented than 
in any other single place in or out of print. The achievement, 
however, was only one culmination of a series of developments 
that made microfilming a practical tool. 

If one had the incentive and drive, the patience, the 
knowledge or intuition of where to look and the spare time of 
about twenty years he might retrace the path of the author 
through the resources of many great libraries, museums and 
private collections. He could also conduct correspondence 
with individuals in many countries, translate from all current 
European languages and find here a scrap, there a fragment 
and somewhere else a nugget of information. All of these 
would serve to fill in the giant jig saw puzzle which hitherto 
has constituted the early history of microfilming. The author 


has provided a clear guidebook in his chronology and biblio- 
graphical notes for supplemental research and by his trail blaz- 
ing has eased the path of future students. He would be the first 
to declare that the whole story has not yet been told, but the 
reader will be equally ready to believe that without his efforts 
it is unlikely that future productive research in this field would 
be immediately undertaken. 

Born in upstate New York, Frederic Luther was first 
attracted to academic life and specialized in the fields of 
history, archeology and cultural anthropology. In the process 
he developed both an intense interest in all branches of photog- 
raphy and professional skill as a photographer. His first micro- 
films in any quantity were made in 1934 when, in Mexico, he 
undertook to reproduce manuscripts, historical and anthropo- 
logical material using a Leica camera and accessory equipment 
of his own design. Five years later he left the academic field to 
specialize in commercial microfilm work, heading the Photo- 
record Department of Marks & Fuller, Inc. In 1941 Western 
Electric managed to interest him in heading a Department 
devoted to microfilm technology, the production and distri- 
bution of industrial motion pictures and the Company Lecture 
Bureau. In 1951 he decided to enter the microfilm business and 
established the Frederic Luther Company in Indianapolis, 
Indiana. For over 25 years he has pursued his avocation of the 
study of the history of photography and more specifically the 
history of microfilm. The present book clearly demonstrates 
the advantages of a scholarly research background tempered by 
the experience of a successful business man. 

A long time member and supporter of the National Micro- 
film Association, Mr. Luther is now a member of the Board of 
Directors. He has been a frequent contributor to programs at 
Annual Meetings and to the Association’s news sheet, the 
National MICRO-NEWS. He has held important Committce 


Chairmanships and assignments. When the theme ot the 1959 
Annual Meeting was announced as “A Centennial of Micro- 
film Progress, 1859-1959”, to honor the centennial of the 
granting of the first microfilm patent to René Prudent Patrice 
Dagron, on June 21, 1859, it was hoped that Mr. Luther might 
release some part of the manuscript he was known to have pre- 
pared. At first he demurred in the belief that his close con- 
nection with the Association would make such publication 
undesirable. He was finally persuaded to complete a man- 
uscript and permit it to be published under the auspices of the 
National Microfilm Association in time for release at the forth- 
coming Washingon, D.C. Annual Meeting in April, 1959. 

This edition is limited to 500 copies in conventional 
printed format but arrangements have been made to keep it 
permanently in print through the issuance simultaneously of 
copies in microfilm and microprint formats. The Association 
is both pleased and proud to assist to some degree in making this 
fundamental study available to its members and to the general 

VERNON D. Tare. 

Annapolis, Md. 
December, 1958 


THE NAMES of two men dominate the early days of microfilm- 
ing. To the English scientist, inventor and optical manufac- 
turer J. B. Dancer, whose talents and varied interests left their 
marks in many fields, belongs the credit for making the first 
microphotograph and for carrying on many of the experiments 
which made microfilming a practical medium for reproducing 
manuscripts, printed and pictorial records. 

To the French chemist, portrait photographer and in- 
ventor, René Dagron, a man of ingenuity and single-minded 
purpose, we owe the establishment of microfilming on a com- 
mercial scale. 

Other names appear in the story of microphotography 
during the three-score years covered by this History. Many 
were men of great capabilities and wide renown in other fields. 
Their talents were not, however, applied in any great degree 
toward microphotography. To an extent quite unusual in 
modern technology, current microfilm and micro-opaque tech- 
niques, equipment, and applications trace their ancestry 
directly to the work of the two pioneers, Dancer and Dagron. 
Many of today’s concepts in this burgeoning industry were 
first employed by one or the other of these men. 



Of the two, John Benjamin Dancer was born first. He 
came into a world trembling under the weight of at least two 
bitter wars, adding his small voice to the din of the London 
of George III, on October 8, 1812. England, of course, was 
embroiled in its second war with its former colonists in Amer- 
ica; and the garrison at Fort Dearborn, where Chicago later 
was to rise, had shortly before been massacred by Britain's 
Indian allies. On the Continent the kulaks of Tsar Alexander 
were returning to the ashes of Moscow, and the half-million 
men of Napoleon were tramping the destiny of their leader 
into the endless snows of Russia. 

The conquests of man over the stubborn allies of economic 
complacency and social stagnation were beginning to flower in 
the industrial revolution. A race of technological giants was 
abroad in the land: Davy, Ampere, Volta and Watt were stiil 
alive and active; Robert Fulton and Paul Revere had not yet 
been gathered to their fathers. Soon to burst upon the world 
with new and staggering concepts were Darwin, Morse, 
Wheatstone and McCormick. 

Between the birth of Dancer in 1812 and that of René 
Dagron on March 17, 1819, an entire age passed into the 
shadows of folklore. Names as familiar as the memories of 
childhood—names to conjure with—disappeared as the golden 
leaves of the maple before the onrushing winds of autumn. 
In 1813 died Benjamin Rush, Zebulon M. Pike, and the Indian 
Prophet Tecumseh. In 1815 and 1816 it was Frederick Mes- 
mer and Gouverneur Morris. In 1818 America saw Paul Revere 
slip into the pages of history at the age of eighty-three. 

Eagerly receptive to new modes of life and the cultivation 
of a leisure until then restricted to the moneyed and landed 
classes, the common man saw his era begin to dawn. In 1819, 
the very year of Dagron’s birth, the first American-built steam- 
boat Savannah blazed a trail from Europe to America, a trail 


which was to teem with migrating laborers, farmers, mech- 
anics and merchants within a few years. Indeed, while but a 
few thousand such persons made the westward trek in 1820, the 
migration swelled until more than five million migrants had 
followed the industrial rainbow within the next four decades. 

Although we tend to think of the Nineteenth Century as 
one of ruthless economic exploitation of the workers, the long 
swing of the pendulum of social justice toward a more equitable 
form of class economy already had set in. It comes as some- 
what of a surprise to learn that the Philadelphia cobblers had 
been unionized as early as 1792. It is even more astounding 
to find the printers, machinists, hat makers, millwrights, fur- 
riers, loom weavers and plumbers organized within ten years 
after the abolition (on the Fourth of July, 1827) of slavery 
in the State of New York. 

With technology and collective bargaining combining to 
create a new and powerful class proud to call itself bourgeois, 
a yearning for some of the luxuries of the aristocracy was 
quickly spread. Sentiment, and a desire to “keep up with the 
Joneses” made these people hunger for a means to provide 
portraits within range of each new genealogically-conscious 

At the other end of the supply-and-demand channel were 
artists and technicians who long had sought a means of mech- 
anically recording what their eyes had seen. Indeed, there has 
been circulated for a number of years a cynical phrase, to the 
effect that all or most of the so-called discoverers of photo- 
graphy were “terrible painters”; the implication is, of course, 
that having failed to make the grade with a brush they inge- 
niously whipped up a clever substitute for their indifferent 
talents. As is common to many such deceptively simple 
Witticisms, it — aside from the undeniable fact that Daguerre 


and some other early experimenters were painters — is a com- 
plete misrepresentation of fact. 

This is no place to discourse on the relationship of photo- 
graphy to the fine arts. Any reader wishing to follow the 
argument through to its inevitably inconclusive results is 
invited to read the recurrent and exasperatingly dull articles 
which have been popping up in photographic journals for over 
a century. The rest of us may forget these bombastic gene- 
ralizations and judge for ourselves the artistic merits of such 
pioneers in photography as Leonardo da Vinci, David Octavius 
Hill, and the first American Professor of Fine Arts, Samuel 
F. B. Morse. We may also note how many of the names of the 
pioneers given in succeeding paragraphs belong to scientists, 
not painters. 

Before the shopkeepers and the craftsmen of the Nine- 
teenth Century could secure their low-cost portraits the photo- 
graphic process had to be simplified. The evolution of photo- 
graphy is a fascinating but also a long and complex subject, 
and must be but briefly summarized here. As every person 
who ever loaded film into a box camera is well aware, the 
photographer’s camera consists of a track to hold the sensitive 
film in place, a lens to focus the image on that film, and a box 
to keep out stray light. This basic construction, with one 
exception, is found in the camera described by Aristotle, at a 
time when Alexander the Great was still a child in Macedonia. 
The exception was that in place of the lens was a tiny opening, 
acting precisely as does the pinhole aperture “lens” of today’s 
student of photography. This tiny aperture focused the image 
on a white screen in the back of the camera, while the box was 
large enough for a person to enter it and trace the image on 
the screen. 

The pinhole aperture was replaced by lenses sometime 
about 1550; the lenses served to give both a sharper and a 


brighter picture on the screen. As time went on the con- 
struction of lenses was improved and a translucent screen 
was substituted for the opaque one; in easily portable form, 
since the image now could be traced from outside the box, the 
camera became the tool of many painters. It was used for trac- 
ing in the outlines of a subject, leaving more time for the free- 
hand incorporation of detail, and proved invaluable to many 
explorer-artists who illustrated the popular travel books of the 
early Eighteen Hundreds. The engravings of Mayan ruins 
with which Frederic Catherwood illustrated John L. Stephens’ 
“Incidents of Travel in Central America” in 1839 were made 
with one of these camera-lucidas. 

With the perfection of the camera it was only natural that 
attempts be made to capture its image photographically. The 
alchemists of the dark ages were well aware that compounds ot 
silver darkened under certain conditions. In 1727, the year 
that Isaac Newton died, a versatile German chemist named 
Schulze proved that the darkening agency was light. By 
placing black stencils over paper coated with silver chloride he 
succeeded in making the first photograms, although they were 
of course, fugitive, for he had no way of preventing the black- 
ening of the rest of the silver sheet when he had removed the 

Although numerous other chemists duplicated the results 
of Schulze in their experiments, it was not until a century and 
a half later that the next major advance in photography was 
made. Then, in 1819, an English astronomer, Sir John Herschel, 
discovered that a colorless salt compound named sodium thio- 
sulfate would dissolve away all silver compound not previously 
exposed to light while leaving the exposed and blackened grains 
of silver unharmed. Thus, with the use of this salt (identical 
to the “hypo” of the modern photographer), the future of 


photography was assured. It now became primarily a job of 
adaptation and refinement. 

Seldom has there been such an air of popular expectancy 
over an impending scientific development as there was over 
the prospect of every untaught draftsman becoming his own 
Leonardo. And yet, the experiments and plans of the photo- 
graphic pioneers of the Eighteen Twenties and Thirties were 
shrouded in the heaviest secrecy. This secrecy cost the world’s 
first photographer, Joseph Nicéphore Niepce, his legitimate 
claim to that title for over 125 years; not until the 1950’s did 
Helmut and Alison Gernsheim discover and publish the historic 
first photograph, and the process by which is was produced 
never was in common use. 

Finally, in 1839, when Dancer and Dagron both were in 
their twenties, photography officially was introduced to the 
waiting world. And when the announcement came it turned 
out that not one but two basic processes were involved. One 
of these was the daguerreotype, invented by Louis Jacques 
Mandé Daguerre, a successful French painter of dramatic 
canvases in which concealed lights caused the scenes to move 
and change before the very eyes of the audience. 

The second process was the Talbotype, invented by Wil- 
liam Henry Fox-Talbot, an English gentleman and a former 
member of Parliament. These two methods, each vigorousiy 
championed on both sides of the Channel, were to share the 
photographic field for well over a decade, until both were 
rendered obsolete by the long popular “wet plate.” 

Without delving too deeply into its mysterious workings, 
we may note here that the daguerreotype was a metal plate, 
either silver or silver-coated copper, which was subjected to 
iodine fumes to make it more highly sensitive to light. After 
receiving the image produced by the camera lens the plate was 
developed by being subjected to the action of mercury fumes. 


The resulting photograph, a positive or correct reproduction 
of light and shade in the original, remained on the surface of 
the original plate. Duplication was possible only by making 
a number of original snapshots of the scene; later, it became 
possible to duplicate the daguerreotype by re-photographing 
the plate itself. 

This was the process by which the first microphotographs 
were made. 



“We find miniatures of printed books (holding out the promise 
of future publications in miniature), or that of condensing in volume for 
preservation in Museums, etc., the enormous mass of documentary matter 
which datly more and more defies collection from the mere impossibility of 
stowage, but which will one day become matter of history.” 

—Report by the Jury on Photography 
(1851 London World’s Fair) 

JosEPH SIDEBOTHAM started the whole controversy. 

Sidebotham was a well-to-do printer of calico cloth in 
Bowdon, England. In his spare time he was an enthusiastic 
microscopist and amateur photographer, travelling to nearby 
Manchester to meet and talk with other gentlemen of like inte- 
rests. Out of these talks grew, in 1858, the Microscopical Sec- 
tion of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, in 
whose founding he was a prime mover. 

Sidebotham also was a member of the Manchester Photo- 
graphic Society, and in 1859 was acting as its vice president. 
When the vice president arose to speak or to read a paper the 
assembled members knew that they were in for a lively time. 

On the first Wednesday in April, 1859, Mr. Sidebotham 
arose, addressed the Chair, and immediately launched into his 



current paper, entitled “On Micro-Photography.” He was 
annoyed, it soon appeared, by certain claims made in the cur- 
rent newspapers. The guilty articles referred to a marvelous 
new invention, the making of tiny photographs which were 
to be viewed through a microscope. New invention, indeed! 
Why, his friend John Dancer had made such novelties for 
nearly twenty years. Not only did he, Joseph Sidebotham, 
have in his possession two of the Dancer microphotos which 
were over six years old, but he understood that Queen Victoria 
had long ago been given a set of microscopic portraits of the 
royal family. “Mr. Dancer’s modesty will not allow him to 
speak of his own discoveries,” continued the speaker, “but I am 
sure you all join in the annoyance I have felt in seeing persons 
coolly claim as their own new discoveries what our respected 
townsman has accomplished so many years ago”’. 

The publication of Mr. Sidebotham’s paper came as a 
distinct shock to the editor of the Photographic Journal, a Lon- 
doner named George Shadbolt, who had started making and 
selling microphotos as novelties in 1854, considering himself 
the originator of the process. In an editorial he called upon 
Sidebotham to substantiate his claims. 

In his reply, dated May 4, 1859, Sidebotham not only 
reiterated his earlier claims for Dancer, but included letters 
from Dancer and from E. W. Binney, a well-known and re- 
spected geologist of Manchester. The whole formed a body of 
evidence so overwhelming that a downcast Shadbolt published 
as an introduction to the letters, a retraction of his own claims 
to priority. 

If the controversy had shattered the illusions of George 
Shadbolt, it at the same time established, once and for all, John 
Benjamin Dancer of Manchester as the world’s first microfilm 
technician. This priority is often overlooked today by many 
writers on the subject — usually in favor of the founder of 


commercial microfilm, the Frenchman, René Dagron — but 
since 1859, the fact of Dancer’s claim to priority never has 
been seriously disputed. 

John Benjamin Dancer was the only son of Josiah Dancer, 
a versatile and popular English optical craftsman and lecturer. 
He was born, as mentioned previously, in London on October 
8, 1812. At an early age he became an apprentice in his father’s 
business. This was not a natural course to take, for Josiah (his 
father) had served an apprenticeship in the optical work shop 
of his father, Michael Dancer, and later had been placed under 
the tutelage of a Mr. Troughton, founder of the firm of Cooke, 
Troughton and Simms, telescope makers in the city of York; 
Cooke, Troughton and Simms today is a well-known firm 
manufacturing engineering and scientific instruments, and is a 
subsidiary of Vickers, Ltd. 

Young John Benjamin Dancer was about five years old 
when his grandfather died in 1817. About a year later Josiah 
moved the family business and his five children to Liverpool. 
Omnivorous in his reading, pedantic in his relations with his 
fellow man, Josiah Dancer become well known among the 
bluestockings of Liverpool as a popular lecturer in physics and 
astronomy. His abundant energy and social graces (he played 
the pianoforte and the organ) found some measure of addi- 
tional expression when he helped to found the Liverpool Lite- 
rary and Philosophical Society and the Liverpool Mechanics’ 
Institute. Proficient in reading the Western classics in Latin, 
Greek and Hebrew, he also found application for his unusual 
ability to read the world’s most ancient mathematical treatises 
in their original Arabic and Egyptian texts. What he learned he 
passed on to others, and it is recorded that the lecture-hungry 
members of the Literary and Philosophical Society were more 
accustomed to seeing Josiah Dancer on the rostrum than any 
other member. Josiah himself taught the classics and the sci- 


ences to his son, leaving only the French lessons to a professional 
tutor. Following the family tradition he soon took John into 
the business, and the boy soon proved invaluable as an assistant 
at his father’s frequent lectures. 

In 1835 Josiah died, and John was left alone to carry on 
the business. Although he still was in his early twenties, his 
father’s lessons had given him a decided versatility in the sci- 
ences, and he continued Josiah’s lecture program; it is not at 
all improbable that the Dancers had found their science lec- 
tures to be a profitable form of public relations activity. John 
also continued the laboratory experiments which he had been 
conducting throughout his adolescent years. He long had been 
interested in the optical projector, or the “magic lantern” as 
it then was called. To increase the brilliance of the screen 
image, he in 1837 replaced the oil lamp illuminant behind the 
transparent art slide with a lump of lime made incandescent 
in a flame of oxygen and hydrogen; this “‘lime-light”’ projector 
was popular throughout the rest of the century and, through its 
application to theatrical spotlights, has given us such current 
phrases as “a craving for the lime-light.” 

A year later, in 1838, Dancer discovered a means for depo- 
siting copper electrolytically; at about the same time he in- 
vented the rapid action spring make-break contact which made 
possible such devices as the electric door buzzer. In neither 
case did he patent his invention. A man of many talents, he 
was experimenting at this same time with the production of 
ozone — anticipating Schénbein, who identified and named 
the gas in 1840. 

When the news of Talbot’s and Daguerre’s success in pro- 
ducing permanent photographs was announced, Dancer imme- 
diately began his own experiments with the newly published 
formulae. Since Talbot effectively discouraged the use of his 
process by attempting to retain control through patents, 


Dancer — in common with many other enthusiasts — took up 
daguerreotypy. He became England’s first commercial photo- 
grapher located outside London. 

Late in 1839, having worked until now entirely from pub- 
lished accounts of the Daguerre process, he set out for London 
to examine the first exhibit in England of Daguerre’s own pho- 
tographs. It was quite an undertaking, this trip to London, for 
instead of being a train ride of but a few hours it was a stage- 
coach journey over rough and rutted post-roads, requiring 
three whole days. The trip ended in complete satisfaction for 
Dancer, however, since he quickly realized that his own 
daguerreotype plates were fully equal in quality to those of 
the inventor himself. 

After his return to Liverpool Dancer began the manu- 
facture of daguerreotype cameras and added them to his already 
impressive line of optical products. To promote the sale of 
these cameras he offered to process the plates exposed by the 
users of his equipment. This item is of interest, for it estab- 
lishes him as the first commercial practitioner of ‘““D & P” work 
(developing and printing) in all England, the prototype in 
fact of the modern drug store’s photographic department. 

Active as he was with microscope and camera, it seems 
only natural that Dancer should have attempted to combine 
the features of the two techniques. And so in 1839 he installed 
a microscope lens (of one-and-a-half inch focal length) in a 
camera and succeeded in making a microphotograph. The 
photograph so obtained was examined under a microscope, and 
many were the o/’s and ah’s emanating from the friends of 
Dancer who saw it. This, the earliest example of microphoto- 
graphy on record, had for its subject a document twenty inches 
long; at the 160:1 reduction used by Dancer the image was one- 
eighth of an inch in length, yet the writing on the document 
was described as perfectly legible under a 100x microscope. 


This ancestor of all microfilm documents has long since 
disappeared, and we have no other samples of Dancer’s 1839 
work along these lines. We do know, however, that he conti- 
nued to make such photographic novelties for a time, and even 
produced some experimental microphotos with lenses made 
from the eyeballs of freshly-killed animals. 

At about the same time as his microphotographic experi- 
ments, he began making photomicrographs, or larger-than- 
life-size photographs of microscopic subjects. Here Dancer 
cannot be credited with the first such successful photographs, 
but it is of passing interest to note that about a year after the 
introducion of daguerreotypy he was able to exhibit before an 
assemblage of 1500 persons a daguerreotype of a flea which 
covered a 642 x 8% inch plate. All of his photomicrographs 
also have disappeared. 

Some months afterwards, in 1841, Dancer and his family 
(for he had married shortly after the death of his father) 
moved from Liverpool to Manchester. As a business partner 
he took along a fellow technician, and the new shop was adver- 
tised as “Abraham and Dancer, Opticians and Philosophical 
Instrument Makers.” Dancer’s first home in Manchester was 
in suburban Cheetham Hill; in the rear of the house he built a 
private astronomical observatory. Continuing his interest in 
the popular lecture series, he became a member of the Manches- 
ter Literary and Philosophical Society in 1842, and there made 
many influential friends, some of whom were even then 
achieving more than local renown. 

One of these was Dr. James Prescott Joule, a twenty-three 
year old physicist who was engaged in research on mechanical- 
thermal relationships — research which was to result in 
the law known to every student of physics as Joule’s 
Equivalent. Dr. Joule was a faithful customer of the Dancer 
shops, and in 1843 he requested the optician to build several 


thermometers for laboratory use; upon their completion the 
physicist pronounced them the first scientific thermometers 
with any pretense to accuracy ever made in England. 

Abraham soon tired of the partnership; it was dissolved 
in 1845, after which Dancer continued alone. At about the 
same time he moved his home and business to a large house in 
suburban Ardwick, there continuing his flourishing trade in 
telescopes, sextants, transits, and microscopes. One of his 
earliest microscope purchasers in Manchester was the noted 
chemist John Dalton, originator of modern atomic theory; 
the microscope he built for Dalton was displayed (with appro- 
priate comments on its high quality) before the Manchester 
Literary and Philosophical Society some 80 years later. 

While Dancer continued to make microphotographs on 
daguerreotype plates, he considered them primarily as novelties, 
of no great commercial value. The image was weak and re- 
quired an expensive microscope for viewing, which in turn 
meant careful control of the light used to illuminate the tiny 
image. Although he continued to make them for his friends, 
and customers, his activities in the field were designed to show 
his technical skill and the high quality of his camera lenses and 
microscopes. He had about exhausted the possibilities of the 
medium as long as it was restricted to the metal plate of the 

Meanwhile, several inventors had been working with vari- 
ous materials which would have a greater degree of sensitivity 
to light than the Daguerre plate, while holding the fineness of 
detail of that process, yet with a transparency far surpassing 
that of the Talbot paper negative. The most successful of 
these processes was introduced by Frederick Scott Archer in 
1851, in which collodion nitrate (guncotton) , dissolved in ether 
and alcohol, was coated on a glass plate, which was next sensi- 
tized by immersion in a bath of silver nitrate. This was the 


long-popular wet plate, which must be collodionized, sensi- 
tized, and loaded into a light-proof plate holder, all in very 
weak light; next placed in the camera and exposed; and finally 
developed and fixed (again in darkness) before the collodion 
solvents have had a chance to evaporate. 

Dancer, as usual, was quick to grasp the potentialities of 
the Archer wet-plate, realizing that here was an answer to the 
drawbacks of the daguerreotype microphotograph. There is 
no direct evidence to date his first experiments with collodion, 
but in February 1852, less than a year after the introduction of 
the process, he made the first collodion microfilm. 

Dancer’s many-faceted mind was busy with other matters 
in 1852, and he did not immediately capitalize upon his novel 
product. At about this time he invented the photographically 
produced lantern slide, which replaced the hand-drawn slides 
so popular with Early Victorian owners of magic lanterns. Also 
during 1852 he made another important contribution to photo- 
graphic history: the first twin-lens stereoscopic camera. Where 
the pictures for the stereoscope in Grandmother’s parlor 
hitherto had been made with twin cameras or by making 
successive exposures with a single camera, Dancer’s camera 
focused the paired images in a single three-pound box on a 
3% x 6% inch plate. He determined the correct spacing of the 
two lenses (called the interocular distance) to be no greater 
than three inches, a dimension not materially different from 
that recommended for similar equipment today. 

Dancer’s original stereoscopic camera, built of mahogany 
and equipped with the original matched 4% inch, F/5.3 lenses, 
is in the collection of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical 
Society. His attempts to patent it were unsuccessful because 
he had sold such a camera to one of his customers, thus throw- 
ing the design into the public domain. Later, however, he did 
patent an improved model on September 5, 1856. 


His interest in microphotos had not flagged during these 
experiments, although he apparently made relatively few sam- 
ples. Then, in the spring of 1853, another milestone in the 
history of microfilm was passed. William Sturgeon, famed for 
his electrical experiments, had recently died, and three of his 
friends (including Dr. Joule) had commissioned a_ local 
sculptor to carve a memorial tablet in his memory. Edward 
William Binney, a Manchester geologist of some note and one 
of the sponsors of the tablet, took Dancer to the sculptor’s 
studios to view the tablet; while there the geologist requested 
Dancer to photograph the inscription before it was sent to the 
place of installation, the church at Kirby Lonsdale. 

On the same day as Dancer’s visit, April 23, 1853, the 
sculptor delivered the tablet to the photographer’s home in Ard- 
wick. Here, two days later, Dancer photographed the tablet 
on a standard size negative, which he then copied with his 
microfilm camera, producing a positive image in which 680 
letters of the inscription filled a frame but a sixteenth of an 
inch in length. ‘Within a month of the last-named date”’, 
Binney later wrote him, “in the end of May, 1853, you pre- 
sented me with a microphotograph of the tablet, which I 
received with much gratification and surprise, having expected 
only a common, and not a microphotograph from you.” 

In addition to the one he gave to Binney, Dancer made 
several other microfilm copies of the Sturgeon inscription, 
mounting them with Canada balsam on standard 3 x 1 inch 
microscope slides for use with 100 power microscopes; these 
he gave to his friends among the scientists of Manchester, includ- 
ing our old acquaintance, Joseph Sidebotham. These were the 
microphotographs which, six years later, were to be the evi- 
dence which earned for Dancer acknowledgment as the 
inventor of microphotography. 

The extreme interest aroused locally by his microphotos 


indicated a lucrative market to Dancer, and some time later he 
began supplying similar slides to Manchester novelty dealers. 
The popularity of the slides grew until their manufacture 
formed a considerable part of Dancer’s business. 

A description of Dancer’s microfilm camera and method 
of operation has come down to us through his son: 

“An ordinary microscope was not used. A bat’s wing burner furnished 
the light (behind a conventional large-size negative) and this was placed 
inside an optical lantern, the image passing through a lens and condensing 
system giving a convergent beam of light, the latter finally entering the 
micro-objective (in this case a 14”) from the back. The whole thing was 
horizontal, and the entire apparatus was enclosed in a canvas-covered tent, 
a sort of improvised dark room. As a matter of fact, the apparatus was a 
double one, the same light source serving for two lens systems, one on each 
side, so that when the work was in progress two people were kept busy 
changing the negatives and slides, developing, finishing, etc. In this way 
large numbers could be turned out with little loss of time.” 

Meanwhile, other photographers had begun experimenting 
with high-reduction photography, entirely unaware of Dancer’s 
work. That several independent discoveries of the technique 
should occur contemporaneously is not extraordinary; George 
Shadbolt, editor of The Photographic Journal (forerunner of 
the British Journal of Photography) and one of the claimants 
to its invention, wrote: 

“The production of very small photographs is so obvious a possibility 
as to suggest itself to many photographers without its even calling forth a 

remark; and having produced them, those possessed of a microscope would 
as naturally view them by its aid. We know many who did so”. 

Although Shadbolt later withdrew his claim in favor of 
Dancer as the first to make microfilms, he did engage in com- 
mercial production of microfilms during 1854. He was the 
first to use the term “‘microphotograph” for his high-reduction 


films mounted on glass, “for examination only by aid of the 
microscope, as indeed is a necessity, for they cannot be distin- 
guished without’’. 

“The very word ‘micro-photograph’ we also coined to describe them, 
upon the occasion of our supplying Messrs. Smith and Beck, the noted micro- 
scope makers of Coleman Street (London), with some which they desired to 
have for sale. We find an entry made in our pocket book at the time, 
dated March 29, 1854, when we furnished them with twenty-four speci- 

“The dimensions of these portraits and landscapes ranged from the 
1/40 to the 1/20 of an inch square, that is the one-sixteen hundredth to 
the fowr-hundredth part of a superficial inch, one of them being a pretty 
extensive view of Paris. . . 

“The lens employed by us was an achromatic miscroscope objective glass 
of 2/3 of an inch equivalent focus, manufactured by Messrs. Smith and 
Beck, and the negative was placed at a distance of about threet feet from it.” 

Another worker at this time was the treasurer of the Pho- 
tographic Society of London (now the Royal Photographic 
Society of Great Britain). This gentleman, Mr. A. Rosling, 
exhibited his results to the Society on March 3, 1853. The 
Rosling microphotos, being copies of a page from the I/lus- 
trated London News, are the first newspaper microfilms on 
record. The photographer, however, had used the printed page 
not as a means merely of compressing the information con- 
tained within it, but as a focusing target for lens-testing pur- 

The best description of these photographs is supplied by 
Rosling himself: 

“In every instance I have found the definition very perfect; and the one 
now on the table is the eight-hundredth part of the original size: the length 
of the lines composing the lens is the seven-hundred-and-fiftieth part of an 
inch, and about half the thickness of the human hair. The thing, by being 
looked at, will speak for itself as to definition”; 

whereupon another member, Sir Thomas Wilson, placed 
in the record: “You can read it quite perfectly”. 



“The microscopic uses of the photograph have merely been hinted at, 
never tried more than as interesting experiments. The recent burning of the 
(New York) City Hall, though no great loss has been sustained in docu- 
ments, shows the liability to greater danger... Let us imagine the number 
of wills, or worse — because more are generally interested — of mortgages 
liable to be destroyed, which ... would cause boundless litigation... A 
microscopic negative of which, carefully stowed away... would give a docu- 
ment as reliable as the original, by which the vexed question of the right of 
property might be fixed. And yet hundreds of thousands of such negatives 
might be put away in suitable boxes, in a fireproof vault underground, to be 
resuscitated upon the loss of the objects from which they were taken , 

I trust the press will agitate it until it is the custom to make microscopic 
negatives of all valuable public documents.” 

—American Journal of Photography, 1858 

“The whole archives of a nation might be packed away in a snuff-box. 
Had the art been known in the time of Omar, the destruction of the Alexan- 
drian Library would not have been a total loss.” 

—Photographic News, 1859 

RosLING apparently did no microphotography beyond this one 
experiment. But his account, augmented by the growing 
popularity of the Dancer slides, caused many other photo- 
graphers to produce photographs of reduced dimensions and to 



apply the process to other fields. During World War II, De. 
Fremont Rider, then Librarian at Wesleyan University in Mid- 
dletown, Connecticut, published a study of the phenomenal 
but predictable growth of university libraries. Using the Yale 
University collections as an example which illustrated the statis- 
tical norm, he showed that the Yale Library had doubled in size 
every sixteen years. By projection of his statistics of the past 
two centuries of its existence, he predicted that, unless greater 
attention were paid to the acquisition of material in micro- 
~ form, its 80 miles of shelving would grow to 6,000 miles by the 
end of the next hundred years. 

Statistically, Yale should have had at this time of the 1851 
World’s Fair, some 142 miles of shelving; actually, the shelves 
totalled 114 miles. Yet the Jury on Photography accurately | 
foresaw (in the quotation heading Chapter 2) the day when 
microfilm would be called upon to bring relief to the world’s 
great libraries. 

Other men took up the challenge. 

The May 21, 1853, issue of the famed English weekly, 
Notes and Queries, carried a letter to the editor from a Dublin 
scholar asking: ““May not photography be usefully applied to 
the making of catalogues of large libraries?” The letter went 
on to suggest that librarians should replace the laborious job of 
manuscript transcription and cross-indexing of titles with a 
standardized photographic copy of each volume’s title page, 
from which five prints could be made for cross-indexing pur- 
poses. Similar suggestions from its readers bombarded Nofes 
and Queries over the next three years. 

It was another English periodical, however, which carried 
the first positive statement suggesting microfilm in its modern 
sense and on the modern scale. Published in The Athenaeum 
for July 9, 1853, it is in the form of a letter to the editor from 


Sir John Herschel, British astronomer and physicist — and 
discoverer of photographer’s hypo — enclosing a letter written 
to himself by his brother-in-law, John Stewart. 

The Stewart letter is dated June 11, 1853, and deals 
primarily with the new technique of making enlarged paper 
prints from small negatives. Then, in the final paragraph, 
Herschel is reminded that: 

“Should your old idea of preserving public records in a concentrated 
form on microscopic negatives ever be adopted, the immediate positive 
reproduction on an enlarged readable scale, without the possibility of injury 
to the plate, will be of service.” 

Herschel, in his letter of July 6, 1853, enclosing the 
Stewart document, writes: 

“In reference to its concluding paragraph, I will only add, that the 
publication of concentrated microscopic editions of works of reference — 
maps, atlases, logarithmic tables, or the concentration for pocket use of 
private notes and MSS, &c &c and innumerable other similar applications — 
is brought within the reach of anyone”. 

In the autumn of 1853 our old friend Sidebotham turned 
to experimenting with microfilms. Following Dancer’s in- 
structions he made a few examples before he decided that tie 
results were not worth the effort required. However, he re- 
tained them as curiosities to show his friends for some years 

At about this same time, Dr. Hugh Diamond, an out- 
standing amateur photographer and later editor of the Photo- 
graphic Journal, made the first known microfilm copy (as dis- 
tinguished from Dancer’s micro-opaques) of a public docu- 
ment, as suggested by Herschel. The original, a manuscript 
dating from the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Century, contained 
a number of charters, or articles of incorporation. Diamond 
reduced this document to an image 1! x 2 inches in size. 

It was not until the early part of the month of March, 


1854, that George Shadbolt began making microphotographs 
and, as was the case with Rosling, his experiments were for test- 
ing purposes; he used the technique to determine the resolving 
power (i.e., capability of reproducing extremely fine detail) of 
various batches of collodion plates. 

Entirely unaware of the earlier work of such men as 
Dancer, Sidebotham and Diamond, Shadbolt could not have 
failed to know of Rosling’s experiments of the year before, for 
the two men were close friends, and Rosling was one of the 
first to see Shadbolt’s results. Nevertheless, Shadbolt later 
emphasized that the idea was original with himself, and that he 
was at the time entirely in ignorance of any prior production 
of photographs of microscopic dimensions. 

In all probability Shadbolt did not consider the work of 
his fellow Londoners, Rosling and Diamond, sufficiently 
“micro” to be classed as microscopic photographs; their results 
were in the form of images a half-inch or more in length, while 
his own portraits and landscapes “ranged from 1/40 to the 1/20 
of an inch square”’. 

It is not clear which photographer—Shadbolt or Dancer— 
first established a trade in novelty microphotos. Dancer re- 
marked in 1859 that “this (his microfilm of the Sturgeon 
inscription) and other microscopic photographs were well 
known in this locality long before they had been supplied by 
me to dealers in such articles; but when they first reached 
London I cannot say.” Shadbolt’s first acquaintance with 
Dancer’s work (although he did not at the time know it was 
Dancer’s) was in the spring of 1855, when a specimen turned 
up in the capital. 

John Benjamin Dancer, meanwhile, had not neglected his 
many other interests, and on March 9, 1855, he received an 
honor coveted by every astronomer in the English-speaking 
world: he was elected to the Royal Astronomical Society. A 


year and a half later, on September 5, 1856, he was granted 
British Patent Number 2064 for an improvement on his ori- 
ginal (unpatented) twin-lens stereo camera. During this 
same year (1856) Dancer presented to Sir David Brewster 
several examples of his microfilm work. Sir David was a Scot- 
tish physicist who had in 1816 invented the kaleidoscope so 
popular in Victorian parlors, and in 1831 had been the prime 
mover in the founding of the British Association for the 
Advancement of Science. A man of vision and of boundless 
enthusiasm, he spread the fame of the Dancer microphotos far 
and wide. It probably was Sir David who was instrumental 
in seeing that the young Queen Victoria received from Dancer 
a set of micro-portraits of the royal family. 

Two years before he died in 1866, Brewster gave the fol- 
lowing account of the Dancer microphotos: he had received 

“a number of beautiful miscroscopic photographs, consisting of a single 
portrait, groups of portraits, and monumental inscriptions. In order to show 
these to strangers not accustomed to the use of small single microscopes, I 
employed a lens of such thickness, that the photograph was seen distinctly 
by placing a form of the single microscope which I had described and used 
upwards of forty years ago”. 

This magnifier, popularly confused then as now with the 
“Stanhope lens’, is more correctly designated a “Coddington 
magnifier”, even though it properly should be ascribed to Sir 
David Brewster. It is a simple plano-convex lens of such 
thickness that the focus of its spherical curvature coincides 
with the flat surface of the lens. This type of magnifier was 
to play a major role in the future development of microfilm. 

A few months after Dancer had given him a set of his 
microphotos, Brewster made a trip to the Continent. He later 

“When I was in Italy in the winter of 1857 Mr. Dancer’s photographs 
were exhibited in this way (i.e., by means of the Brewster magnifier) to the 


Pope and Cardinal Antonelli at Rome, and at Florence the young Grand Duke 
and Grand Duchess of Tuscany, the Marquis of Normanby, Professor Amici, 
and others. The interest excited by these photographs was so great that I 
showed them to the distinguished jeweler, Signor Fortunato Castellani, and 
suggested to him the idea of constructing brooches containing precious stones, 
so that the photographs might be placed within them, and magnified by one 
of the precious stones, or by colourless topaz or quartz formed into a lens”. 

After having exhibited the photographs in Paris, Brew- 
ster returned to England. Here he resumed work on his articles 
on micrometry and microscopy, for which he had been com- 
missioned by the editors of the eighth edition of the Encycio- 
paedia Britannica, then in process of publication. These articles, 
appearing in volume fourteen of the Britannica, were published 
in October 1857, and included the following passages: 

“Among the wonders of microscopic photography not the least inte- 
resting and useful are the fine microscopic portraits taken by Mr. Dancer 
of Manchester, and copies of monumental inscriptions so minute, that the 
figures in the one, and the letters in the other, are invisible to the eye. A 
family group of seven complete portraits occupies a space the size of the 
head of a pin; so that ten thousand single portraits could be included in a 
square inch. They are executed upon films of collodion as transparent as 
glass; so that a family group could be placed in the centre of a brooch, 
a locket, or a ring, and magnified by the central jewel cut into a lens 
sufficient to exhibit the group distinctly when looked into or held up 
to the light. 

“Microscopic copies of despatches and valuable papers and plans might 

be transmitted by post, and secrets might be placed in spaces not larger than 
a full stop or a small blot of ink.” 

And again: 

“A new method of constructing microscopical scales or systems of deli- 
cate lines, opaque or transparent, and fitted both for astronomical and micro- 
scopical observations, has been recently proposed by Sir David Brewster. 
Mr. Dancer of Manchester has succeeded in making photographic portraits 
upon collodion so small that they are wholly invisible to the eye, and that 
ten thousand portraits may be introduced into a square inch. The film 


of collodion upon which these photographs are taken is so thin and trans- 
parent that it is invisible, and allows objects to be seen through it as dis- 
tinctly as if it were the thinnest glass. If a system of opaque or transparent 
lines therefore is impressed upon it photographically, when reduced to the 
minutest size from a system of large and sharply defined lines, we shall 
have the most perfect micrometrical scale that can be conceived, the portion 
of the collodion that contains no nitrate of silver being as transparent as if 
the dark spaces were solid wires or metallic plates placed in the focus of the 

Brewster’s enthusiasm for microphotography caused a 
great flurry in the photographic world. In September 1857 
members attending the meeting of the British Association for 
the Advancement of Science in Dublin were shown not only a 
collection of Dancer’s slides, but also viewed a similar collection 
made by a Frenchman named Bertsch and exhibited by that 
nation’s delegate, the abbé Moigno. 

On November 5, shortly after the appearance of the 
Britannica, George Shadbolt addressed the London Photographic 
Society and established himself, so he thought, as the originator 
of microphotography; this he did by a description of his 1854 
experiments. He was led into thinking this by Brewster’s hav- 
ing mentioned no date other than that on which he had received 
his gift of microphotos from Dancer; 1.e., 1856. 

The Photographic News, in 1858 and 1859, noted an in- 
creasing interest in the making of microphotos. In addition to 
publishing a description of the processes involved, it carried 
notes on the possibilities of safeguarding archival material from 
loss by fire, on its application to intelligence by means of spies 
carrying reduced plans in hollowed buttons, and to militarism 
by shooting dispatches out of besieged and encircled cities in 
hollow musket balls, all to be accomplished by the new marvel, 
microfilm. A like interest was shown by the editors of Ameri- 
can newspapers. For example, a Dr. Channing of Terre Haute, 


Indiana, showed some microfilms to the editor of the Terre 
Haute Wabash Gazette, on May 24, 1859; the editor expressed 
his amazement in print the following day: 

“That which seemed a mere point to the unassisted eye, when placed 
under the power of the lenses are lines of many words, whole verses, 
portraits and pictures of many characters. It seems beyond the reach of 
science and of genius how this can be, but the fact is before us, and we can 
only look and wonder”. 

During 1859 a number of French photographers and opti- 
cians exhibited microphotos at the Paris Photographic Salon. 
As Louis Figuier wrote in 1860, in his booklet describing the 

“The microscopic photographs were the marvel of the Exposition. They 
quite rightly succeeded in holding the visitor's attention, for they give the 
most astounding idea of the delicacy of the photographic impressions and 
truly confound the imagination”. 

Also in 1859 occurred the Dancer-Shadbolt controversy 
over priority in the production of microfilm. As set forth 
earlier, Joseph Sidebotham opened the controversy by reading 
a paper before the Manchester Photographic Society on April 
6; the matter was closed by the publication of George Shad- 
bolt‘s quitclaim on the fifteenth of May. 


“We have not yet seen anything in the photographic line more beautiful 
than the tiny pictures now made and inserted in little microscopes”. 

Editorial in Philadelphia Photographer, 1866 

RENE Prudent Patrice Dagron was born March 17, 1819 in 
the hamlet of Beauvoir, Department of Sarthe, some 97 miles 
southwest of Paris. At the time Beauvoir was a charming little 
village of a hundred inhabitants, perched on the edge of the roll- 
ing Perseigne Forest, which stretched away westward. Across 
the forest about twelve miles away is the city of Alencon, 
where the northward-stabbing American Third Army nearly 
pinched off the German escape route from Normandy in 
World War II; thirty miles a little to the west of south stands 
the capital city of Le Mans, near which in 1908 the Wright 
Brothers introduced the flying machine to Europe. 

While John Benjamin Dancer was learning the optical 
business in Liverpool, René Dagron was growing up in rural 
France. Beauvoir lies in fertile country; three streams flow 
through the commune, and the soil is a sandy clay, cultivated 
principally in rye and oats. The hilly environs for generations 
had been planted in oak, chestnut and birch, and the men of 
Beauvoir did a small business in lumber; from the orchards 



near the village they gathered the apples whose pressing gave to 
the Beauvoir cider its richly deserved fame. The industry of the 
women included the bleaching of thread and the raising of hogs 
and geese for the Paris market. Percheron horses in some num- 
bers were raised here, the origin of this long-popular breed lying 
in Perche, but a few minutes’ walk to the east. When Dagron 
was young the Percheron was bred for the stagecoach trade, 
but since the advent of the railroad the strain has been increased 
in weight and strength for draft-animal purposes, though it 
still is hard-limbed and active and able to maintain a steady trot 
over considerable distances. 

The life of a peasant was not for René Dagron, and at an 
early age he left Beauvoir for Paris. In the capital he proved an 
apt student in physics and chemistry, lusty young sciences in 
the early Nineteenth Century. As a student chemist, the 
twenty-year old René was more than casually interested in 
the disclosure of daguerreotypy on August 19, 1839. Un- 
doubtedly, he had heard speculations on the closely guarded 
secrets of the process ever since the inventor’s success had been 
announced nearly seven months before. 

It is quite probable that while Dancer was making the first 
daugerreotypes ever produced in the British provinces Dagron 
was polishing and fuming the silver plates in Paris. The 
introduction in 1851 of Archer’s collodion wet-plate laid the 
foundations for the later work of both men, while Taupenot’s 
collodio-albumen dry plate of 1855, and Archer’s patented 
collodion stripping method of the same year, provided Dagron 
with the processes which later were to make him famous. His 
first step, however, was to establish a photographic portrait 

The Dancer microfilms shown by Brewster in Paris in 
1857 caused great excitement among the French photographers, 
while his suggestions that such photographs might be applied to 


the manufacture of novelty jewelry aroused the interest of 
French opticians. Dagron was not yet forty at this time. Not 
having cut much of a swath in Paris with his portrait business, 
he was badly in need of a novelty to lift him out of the shadow 
of more popular portraitists, such as the spectacularly success- 
ful Nadar. “Microphotography”, Dagron told himself, ‘has 
great possibilities — if handled right”. 

In the meantime, the jewelers and opticians of Paris had 
not been idle: at least two of their number had introduced 
minute photographs placed in tiny opera glass watch charms, 
with a magnifier in the charm to enlarge the picture. Also, as 
we have seen, the microscope shops in England had been 
supplied with microphotos by Dancer and Shadbolt for years, 
while Sir David Brewster had printed his suggestions for their 
application to the trinket trade as early as 1857. ‘‘Neverthe- 
less’, pointed out the Société francaise de photographie, “there 
was an important difference between these isolated attempts 
and the considerable development given by M. Dagron to the 
introduction of microscopic photography to the novelty trade’. 

On June 21, 1859, Dagron received the first microfilm 
patent ever granted (France. No. 23,115). The features of this 
patent, shown in Fig. 6, were the simplicity of construction 
and the minuteness of size: so compact was the assembly that 
it could be built into the keys gentlemen carried for the wind- 
ing of their pocket watches. 

This model was the ancestor of a considerable progeny of 
simple microfilm viewers. Similar viewers are manufactured 
and sold today, and most readers will remember those souvenir 
trinkets (disguised even yet as miniature opera glasses, finger 
rings or what have you) which, when held to the eye, depict 
the majesty of a Niagara — or the pellucid beauty of an unclad 
Eve — depending of course on where one buys the viewer. 
Suggestive and indecent microphotos, made by some of 


Dagron’s competitors, were on the market at least by 1874; 
more than any other cause they for a time retarded the general 
accepance of microphotography. 

Protected by his patent, Dagron set out to introduce the 
novelties he called his ‘“‘microscope-bijoux”. His method in 
achieving this end would do credit to a modern publicity man. 
On a day when the police reporters assigned to the prefecture 
on Champs Elysees were engrossed in their never-ending game 
of cribbage, in walked a gentleman to report that he had just 
found a most unusual ring on the boulevard. It is not difficult 
to imagine the desk sergeant as he picks up the ring, places his 
eye to a tiny opening pointed out by the stranger, and shouts 
to the waiting gendarmes and reporters: 

“Pierre! Jean! All of you! Take a look at this!” 

Such a curious find on the fashionable promenade was a 
godsend to the bored and sentimental newsmen, and all Paris 
was treated next day to paragraphs of rhapsodic prose on the 
polished boulevardier who could, in a bustling capital, gaze in 
all seemly privacy upon the features of his loved one, to weep 
or tenderly to smile at the precious memories thus evoked. 

It was with the timing of a master publicist that a modest, 
middle aged businessman diffidently presented himself at the 
police station next day to claim the “lost” ring — not only as 
owner but as creator as well. 

The newshawks, well aware of the interest aroused in the 
city by their effusive descriptions of the ring, pressed the photo- 
grapher (for it was, of course, our René Dagron) for further 
details. Thus it was that Paris once again read of the marvelous 
jewelry, and learned that its ingenious manufacturer, M. 
Dagron, would make such delightful novelties available to all 
who came to his studios at 66 rue Neuve des Petits Champs. 


Public response to this generous offer was immediate, as 
indicated in the following passage published in an English jour- 
nal not long afterwards: 

“When the dijoux of M. Dagron made their first appearance, an unani- 
mous feeling of astonishment and admiration was excited. Nothing could 
be more extraordinary, in fact, than to find in the setting of a ring or of 
a pin, through an almost imperceptible hole, a portrait or other subject of 
the size of a carte de visite. The public enthusiasm in connection with this 
novel and interesting application of photography, and the eagerness to 
possess the precious treasures, excited among photographers a general desire 
to make the most of this recent discovery.” 

Thus, hardly had Dagron begun to reap the profits of his 
ingenious idea before a host of competitors arose to share his 

Despite the heavy competition offered by his competitors, 
Dagron found business in his novelty jewelry so good that he 
was moved to expand his workshops again and yet again, until 
within thirty months after his first patent was granted he had 
a force of 150 workmen turning out trinkets which sold at but 
a few cents apiece. Forty years later a writer was to reminisce 
nostalgically about a product of the Dagron ateliers, the bone 
penholder of his schooldays; this he described as containing “a 
photographic image, the size of a point of a needle”, on which 
was copied a microscopic calender rendered perfectly legible by 
the lens. 

But Dagron was not content merely to hold his own 
against his competitors; in an attempt to gain a monopoly of 
the trade, he overreached himself, and thus suffered his first real 
setback. In the early summer of 1861 he brought suit against 
another French inventor named Martinache, charging invasion 
of his patent. Martinache, defending his own microfilm viewer 
patents of April 4 and May 7, 1861, successfully fought the 
suit, and Dagron & Company finally purchased the Martinache 


process for approximately $6,000 on July 23. The price, very 
high for the times, indicates the high commercial value placed 
on the business. 

During this time Dagron’s attorneys had been busy pro- 
tecting him abroad. On March 28, 1860, he received a British 
patent based on claims similar to those made in his original 
French patent, and on August 13 of the same year he was 
granted U. S. patent No. 33,031, based on like claims. 

On July 18, 1861, one of his employees, a M. Berthier, was 
granted French patent No. 50,469 on a very ingenious process. 
This consisted of cementing a thick glass plate (bearing a 
microfilm on its inner surface) to each end of a small block of 
optical glass. The entire assembly was then placed in a grinding 
jig which transformed the flat end-plates into convex lenses, 
each focused on the image borne by the opposite plate. The end 
result was a cylinder of glass whose rounded ends acted as 
lenses. By placing one of these lenses to the eye the image 
lying opposite was enlarged, while the closer image was so tiny 
and so far out of focus as to be invisible. It was, of course, 
merely a clever adaptation of the Brewster magnifier, but it 
became so popular as to supersede most of the earlier models in 
the Dagron workshop. Dagron took out a duplicate patent on 
these claims in England on September 19, 1861. To make the 
construction of the viewer more easily understood the drawings 
accompanying this patent are reproduced in Fig. 8. 

At about this same time Dagron brought suit against a 
group of fifteen opticians in Paris for the manufacture and 
sale of viewers in defiance of his patents. The fight was bitter 
but short-lived. Dagron supported his action with his patents 
of June 21, 1859, and March 8, 1860, and with the Martinache 
patents of 1861. It is interesting to note that at the trial he 
stated that he did not consider himself inventor either of the 


microphotograph or of the means of viewing the tiny pictures. 
He did consider that he was the originator of the idea for incor- 
porating the image and its viewing lens in jewels and trinkets, 
and that he was the first successfully to manufacture the view- 
ers in their present minute size. On this basis he claimed the 
exclusive right to manufacture and sell all viewers having such 
dimensions and incorporating permanently affixed images. The 
court, however, held that “prior to 1859, microscopes of 
minute dimensions and contained in metal cases had been fabri- 
cated and placed on sale”. The court further observed that 
“extrinsic modifications of an optical instrument whose dis- 
covery dates back for nearly three centuries and which has been 
made in so many diverse forms” could not form the basis for 
a patent. Granting that Dagron had succeeded in achieving a 
minuteness in size not previously realized, still the principles of 
his viewers were in use by other optical manufacturers to the 
date of his patent. Finally, the court held that the description 
published in the Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1857 constituted 
publication sufficient to place the idea for incorporating view- 
ers in jewelry within the public domain. 

Dagron lost no time in carrying an appeal to the Correc- 
tional Tribunal of Paris. Here the presiding justice, M. de 
Lelain-Chomel, handed down an opinion on January 28, 1862, 
which upheld the lower court’s decision, nullified Dragon’s 
patents, and thus broke his monopoly. The appellate court 
did, however, emphasize its belief that Dagron had acted in 
good faith in bringing prosecution: while assessing to Dagron 
all court costs it dismissed the pleas of the opticians for dam- 
ages. It also denied the petition of some of the delegates, who 
had asked — in a spirit indicative of the bitterness of the trial — 
that the decision be published in the newspapers and placarded 
all over Paris. To crush even further their energetic com- 


petitor, Dagron’s rivals later had him prosecuted for photo- 
graphing the statues of the Louvre and including them in his 
“Views of Paris”. 

René Dagron was not one to be stopped by these setbacks. 
His fertile mind was already at work on new advertising pro- 
jects, and he applied for permission to exhibit his wares at the 
1862 World’s Fair in London. Aimé Girard, Professor of Chem- 
istry at the Imperial Polytechnic School, was delegated by the 
jury on admissions to inspect the Dagron studios. M. Girard 
visited Dagron’s workshops on this mission during October 
1861. Thoroughly impressed by the businesslike activity of 
the establishment, Girard not only recommended him to the 
jury on admissions but also undertook to describe to the influ- 
ential Société francaise de photographie the studios and the 
processes involved. 

All in all, 1861 was an eventful year for René Dagron. A 
son, who became the noted Parisian physician and medical 
writer, Georges Dagron, was born on April 17. The Dagron 
Company had filed suit against Martinache and had paid out 
$6,000 for the Martinache viewer patents. The Company had 
filed suit against a powerful group of competitors. Dagron 
himself had been granted patents both by the United States 
and by Great Britain. One of his employees had received 
a French patent on a new type of viewer, and this viewer 
already was being placed in production. The company was 
planning an exhibit for the London Exposition. He had been 
formally recognized at last by France’s leading photographic 
society. And his workshops hummed as his 150 employees 
turned out enormous quantities of inexpensive microfilm view- 
ers. Four other patents were granted in 1861 to the inventors 
Cuvillier and Héricé. 

The next year, 1862, also started off with a bang. Soon 
after he lost his appeal against the opticians, Dagron began to 


assemble the materials for his exhibit in London. Then, as part 
of his policy of institutional advertising he presented a set of 
microphotos to England’s Queen Victoria, timed to be acknow- 
ledged during the Exposition. At the same time, having 
become reconciled to the loss of his monopoly, he swung to 
the other extreme and began selling microphotographic equip- 
ment and supplies to amateurs and to his professional com- 
petitors (E. and H. T. Anthony & Company — later to become 
Anthony & Scoville and still later the Ansco Company — acted 
as his American distributors in the eighteen-sixties.) He pub- 
lished a 36 page booklet which he called “Cylindres photo- 
microscopiques montés et non-montés sur bijoux, brevetés en 
France et 4 l’étranger”. That his advertising media were well 
chosen is attested in the “Scientific Record of the International 
Exhibition of 1862”, which says: 

“The photo-micro-jewels of Dagron sold in large num- 
bers in the French Department of the Exhibition”. 

In 1864 Dagron published another booklet, ‘““Traité de 
photographie microscopique”, (see section on Documents and 
Notes) which sold for fifty centimes and is today his second 
best known piece of writing. In its thirty-six pages he not only 
describes in minutest detail the process he follows in making 
microfilm positives from standard size negatives, but he in- 
cludes an appeal to the sentimental instincts of his readers: 

“We offer to all, at a price more than reasonable, the means of pro- 
ducing economically and with the greatest of ease those little cylinders 
called ‘stanhopes,’ . . . mysterious objects wherein each can hold that which 
is most cherished in the world”. 

He assumes unto himself the well-deserved honor of 
having created the microfilm industry, dating its birth from his 
1859 patents: 

“Microscopic photography has become in five years’ time truly an 
industry drawing unto itself over two dozen tributary crafts, notably the 


trinket trade. No one else has practiced to such an extent as we the industry 
we have created”. 

And he ends by printing a price list of every manner of 
equipment necessary to the microfilm producer: Reducing 
camera (complete with lens), 110 francs; cup of Canada bal- 
sam to attach microphoto to the stanhope (Brewster magni- 
fier), 5 francs; stanhope magnifiers, 8 francs per gross (a 
little less than a penny apiece). 

Dagron’s ““Traité” was an immediate success, and was 
reprinted and abstracted in many of the scientific periodicals 
of the time, even finding its way into the journals of other 

At the January 1864 meeting of the Photographic Society 
of Scotland, Sir David Brewster read a paper which, for the 
first time, gave the true relationship of both Dancer and 
Dagron to the development of microfilm technique. Dancer 
is presented (by implication only, however), as the originator 
of the process, while the author pays tribute to Dagron’s 
“ingenuity with which he had produced a new article of manu- 
facture”. This accolade is of particular interest, for it was 
Brewster’s contribution to the Britannica in 1857 on which 
rested the adverse decision of the court in the patent suit 
of 1862. 

Brewster went on to express regret that the Jury on 
Awards of the 1862 Exposition had seen fit to present only an 
“Honourable Mention” certificate and not a medal to Dagron 
for his exhibit. For the benefit of the Society Brewster 
described a typical bijow being marketed by the Dagron studios 
at this time: 

“We have now before us one of M. Dagron’s photomicroscopes, con- 
taining a photograph of Sir Walter Scott, and sold at Messrs, Knox, Samuel, 
and Dickson’s for one shilling. The cylinder lens is only one-third of an 
inch long, and its diameter one-tenth of an inch. It is placed within the 


eye-end of an ivory tube, which screws into a larger piece, so as to resemble 
a minute opera glass. The larger or object-end has an aperture of ome- 
twelfth of an inch, and the smaller or eye-end an aperture of one-twenty-fifth 
of an inch, through which we see the portrait as large and distinct as if 
it were an oil picture on the wall”! 

Meanwhile, Dagron was not ignoring the other avenues 
of advertising, and we find him buying space in the 1864 
city directories to draw attention to his business, located not 
far from the Place Vendéme in central Paris: 

“Dagron & Co. Microscopic photography. Rue Neuve des Petits 
Champs, corner of rue d’Antin. 

“Patentee in France and Abroad. Microscopic photographs, unmounted 
and mounted in jewels as well as in rings, pins, watch-keys, watch-charms, 
wedding rings (containing the portraits of both the wedded pair without 
increasing the size of the ring). Pen-holders containing a perfectly legible 
microscopic calendar. Precious, semi-precious, and colored stones contain- 
ing photographs invisible to the naked eye, etc. 

“This ingenious discovery, a photographic innovation introduced by 
M. Dagron, combines the useful and the valuable with the greatest of novelty. 
It is extremely interesting to view, either alone or together, the portraits 
of an entire family, with fidelity of resemblance and a three-dimensional 
quality, the whole embodied in the most delicate jewels. 

“Photographs of all kinds and sizes. Manufacturer of apparatus for 
microscopic photography. 

“This establishment is remarkable for the unusual location of its 
immense studios and its magnificent salons, occupying the second floor 
of the imposing building at 66 rue Neuve des Petits Champs”. 

Unusual location is right. Located in the Gaillon Quarter 
of the Bourse, the rue Neuve des Petits Champs was the proto- 
type for Thackeray’s ‘“““New Street of the Little Fields”. In 
a building close by the Dagron studios the first Napoleon had 
married his Josephine. At the time of Dagron’s residence at 
Number 66 he had as co-tenants in the same building a bake- 
shop, a couturiere, a beauty shop, an attorney, and a surgical 


bazaar. Seventy-five years later, as World War II broke out 
over Europe, the neighborhood was little changed, and housed 
a variety of photographers, cafes, lawyers, and dress shops. 

As indicated in the advertisement quoted above, the in- 
creasing notice accorded Dagron’s work was not limited to 
the photographic world; later in the same year (1864) the 
Emperor (Napoleon III), who worked hard to gain a repu- 
tation as patron of the arts and sciences, authorized Dagron to 
assume the title of court photographer. 

Carrying on his program of exhibits Dagron had a booth at 
the 1865 Exposition de Porto and there was awarded the 
“Medal of the Second Group”. 

About a year later an editorial by the influential Edward 
L. Wilson appeared in his Philadelphia Photographer and 
aroused a considerable amount of interest in the microfilm pro- 
cess. That Wilson was aware of the fame of Dancer and 
Dagron is indicated in the following paragraph: 

“In Europe this branch of photographic portraiture is making rapid 
strides. At Manchester, England, there is a very large establishment en- 
gaged in producing not only portraits, but all sorts of copies, views, &c, on 
slides for the microscope. In Paris there is a similar establishment, under 
the care of M. Dagron, we believe, employing over one hundred and thirty 
persons in this branch alone”. 

Similar exploitation in America came slowly. The collec- 
tions of the American Museum of Photography in Philadelphia 
contain today several microphotos mounted on microscope 
slides, made by the Langenheim brothers. They cannot be 
dated positively, but probably were made sometime in the 

In the autumn of 1863, Colonel N. Pike modestly reported 
to the American Photographic Society that “having been very 
successful in making these (microscopic) pictures, I will give 


as briefly as possible the formula and a description of the 
instrument by which they are made”. Pike’s process was 
similar to that of Dagron. 

The first studio in America to be devoted exclusively to 
the production of novelty microfilms (and also to offer a 
course in which prospective microfilm technicians might learn 
the technique) was that of John H. Morrow, located at 14 
John Street, New York City. “Mr. Morrow obtained his 
instructions from head-quarters, that is, from Dancer, Man- 
chester, and Dagron, Paris”. His studio is described in the 
editorial of Septmber 1866 by Edward Wilson referred to 
above. In view of its historical importance to Americans we 
quote from that editorial: 

“Mr. Morrow has opened his rooms and is prepared to do any amount 
of work, which, from a number of specimens we have seen, is most excel- 
lent and charming. We were shown opera-glasses, watch charms, finger- 
rings, breastpins, eye-glasses, knives, canes, penholders, pencils, pipes, porte- 
monnaies, &c in great variety. By close examination, a little sparkling dot 
would be found, not as large as the head of a pin. Looking through these, 
we would see most wonderful beauties, such as masonic certificates, college 
diplomas, the Lord’s prayer, portaits of fifty people, all distinct, or it 
might be the Cabinet, our own picture, or that of some other distinguished 
individual! The most beautiful application of this elegant process is to 
finger-rings. No matter what color the stone may be, it may be so ground 
as to be used for a microscope for viewing the picture of the one you love 
best or the least. 

“Mr. Morrow took great pains to show us his whole modus operandi 
of printing, &c, which was very novel and interesting. . . 

“The process is very simple and easy, and the instruments used low in 
price, and not complicated. Fifty-six pictures have been made in one 
minute by a girl working six instruments at one time. Mr. Morrow’s terms 
are reasonable; and he comes to us highly recommended as to reliability by 
other parties in New York, who are well known to our readers. This 
beautiful application of photography ought to be extended, and we hope it 
will. Mr. Morrow is now manufacturing largely for Messrs. Gurney and 
Son, and others, in New York”. 


The year 1867 is chiefly notable for an extensive descrip- 
tion of the microphotographic process included in the second 
edition of Sutton’s “Dictionary of Photography”; nine years 
before, the first edition had brushed the process aside as 

Dancer, having continued his researches in other branches 
of science, at this time was interested in the application of 
the microscope to investigations of respiratory diseases and to 
the broader problems of public health. In 1867 he read a paper 
before the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society on the 
microscopic examination of flue dust. 

Dagron, meanwhile, was exhibiting at the Universal Expo- 
sition of Paris in 1867, and again won honorable mention for 
his microphotographs. Once again the Dagron exhibit was 
productive of admiring articles in the scientific press. One 
such article refers to “those astounding ‘microscopic photo- 
graphs’ invented by M. Dagron, whereby he places a monument 
in a ring and a portrait on a pinhead”. The popularity of his 
microphotos is attested later on in the same article, which 
remarks that “during the Exposition some merchants, who 
carried their display of wares about their necks, followed the 
passerby in order to sell him, for 50 centimes, a View of the 
Exposition in a penholder! Actually, it is a tiny lens, as large 
as a pin, set in a penholder and enclosing a view of the Palace 
from the Champ de Mars. How strange and admirable an epoch 
is ours, when one must consider banal and pass by without stop- 
ping before marvels just because they have been in existence 
for perhaps a dozen years!” 

About a year later, in 1868, Dancer read a second paper 
on public health before the Literary and Philosophical Society; 
this time he dealt with the solid particles to be found with a 
microscope in Manchester’s smoke-laden air. It may be expected 
that such papers were received with something less than paeans 


of congratulations from the factory owners and mill super- 
intendents of Lancashire; such gentry felt that discussion of 
public health was bordering on the new Marxian socialism 
arising in Europe or, worse, smacked even of Voltairean skep- 
ticism regarding this best of all possible worlds. 

Finally, in keeping with the evolution of the animated 
lantern slide so popular in the Sixties, a French photographer 
named Anguier described (in June 1868 — and patented the 
following year) a process in which microphotos attached to a 
pair of Brewster magnifiers mounted in rubber could be given 
the illusion of related movement through pressure applied to 
the rubber mount. 

Meanwhile, war clouds once again were scudding across 
the skies of Europe. 

Wilhelm I, king of Prussia, had placed Otto von Bismarck 
in the Chancellor’s chair while General von Moltke became the 
Army’s Chief of Staff. The power-hungry Prussian General 
Staff chose a group of rival German states as the luckless guinea 
pigs to prove the theories of Karl von Clausewitz, and modern 
warfare was born. Responsibility for the struggle, later known 
as the Seven Weeks War, is now placed directly on the shoulders 
of Bismarck. 

Napoleon III, of France, fresh from his attempt to set up a 
satellite empire in Mexico, viewed the rising star of Prussian- 
ism with envy; with characteristic imprudence he determined 
single-handedly to eclipse that star. An excuse for aggression 
was readily manufactured, an excuse so flimsy that a disillu- 
sioned Frenchman was caused to describe his own nation as “a 
people of firebrands, always ready to overthrow the map of the 

The formal, or professional, aspect of the Franco-Prussian 
War which resulted, beginning in the confident rattle of the 


Emperor’s sabre on July 19, 1870, ended in the crash of French 
hopes on the first day of September, six weeks later, when the 
Emperor and his army surrendered at Sédan. From this day on, 
until the final armistice five months later, the French war 
effort was a blundering but heroic struggle by amateurs — 
amateur militarists, amateur statesmen and Republic builders. 

The isolation of Paris by the besieging Prussian armies was 
a crushing blow to French pride. It is not difficult to imagine, 
even in these days of helicopters and point-to-point radio, the 
sense of imprisonment suffered by the inhabitants of the 
Capital, to say nothing of more serious privations. To re- 
establish communications with the guerilla forces fighting in 
the provinces became more than a duty with the people of 
Paris. It became an obsession, and every suggestion for 
relieving the blackout of news, however impractical, was 
eagerly tried. Into the rarified atmosphere of pseudo-scientific 
planning soared the schemes to provide Paris with news from 
the world outside. 



"I propose to send a letter off by the balloon which will leave in the 
morning. The idea seems to be that the balloon line is a success. I wish there 
could be a balloon to come in, for this absence of all intelligence from the 
outside world is becoming quite unbearable”. 

—Entry for September 26, 1870: Diary of the American 
Minister to France. 

IT Is SEVEN o'clock, just six minutes before sunrise on the morn- 
ing of November 12, 1870. The siege guns of the encircling 
German armies have been in full cry since dawn, and a column 
of smoke in the Southeast already marks a new fire in the 
beleaguered city. Throughout the hours of the night there 
has been a bustle of activity in the great train yard of the Gare 
d’Orléans in the Montmatre section of northern Paris. Work- 
ing under a battery of locomotive headlights men struggle with 
a pair of enormous, half-filled balloons. The monstrous shadows 
move erratically over the roadbed and rails, the Prussian guns 
boom with monotonous regularity, and the weird cries of the 
hurrying workmen echo from the walls of the cavernous sta- 
tion. There is little wonder that the scene reminds many spec- 
tators of Gustave Doré’s new and popular woodcuts depicting 
Dante’s seven circles of Hell. 



Over in a corner the Postmaster General, Dr. Rampont- 
Lechin, repeatedly consults his watch with a worried air, raises 
a moistened finger to test the westerly wind, and impatiently 
turns to speak in a low voice to Eugéne Godard, director of the 
balloon service. The crowd hovers near, expectant and anxious, 
awaiting the arrival of the intrepid men who are braving Bis- 
marck’s threat of court-martial and a spy’s death to cross the 
German lines in a drifting balloon. A little apart from the 
crowd stand several officials of the newborn Third Republic: 
Béchet, Chassina, Hervé-Magnon, and a clique of budding 
bureaucrats. Beyond one catches a flash from the heavily 
be-medalled and be-braided admirals in charge of the defense 
of Paris; Challié and Fleuriot de Langle. 

And now a thrill passes through the crowd, as the first four 
passengers arrive: MM. René Dagron, photographer; Albert 
Fernique, professor of engineering; Jean Poisot, artist and son- 
in-law of Dagron; and Gnocchi, asssitant to M. Dagron. These 
men are to leave in the balloon called Niepce. 

Almost immediately the passengers of the second balloon, 
named the Daguerre, step into the lighted area: MM. Nobe- 
court, expert on the care of messenger pigeons; Pierron, en- 
gineer; and M. Pierron’s dog, who was to attempt to return 
to Paris through the German lines with messages secreted in his 

A quick greeting is exchanged between the passengers and 
the two sailors who have been instructed by M. Godard to pilot 
the balloons: Jubert of the Daguerre, Pagano of the Niepce. 

By now the mail cart has arrived with four bags (nearly 
six hundred pounds) of mail, which are speedily placed in the 
basket of the Daguerre, already packed with some of Dagron’s 
cameras and chemicals. M. Nobécourt climbs into the nacelle 


with the crates of thirty homing pigeons which he has brought, 
Pierron hoists aboard his dog and himself, and the Daguerre 
is ready to take off. 

Across the court Dagron and his party are attempting to 
fit themselves into the basket with thirteen hundred pounds of 
M. Dagron’s photographic equipment. Last to clamber aboard 
are the two student aeronauts, who — by the way — have 
never taken a balloon trip before. 

Anchor and dragline are checked at the last moment as 
they hang on the sides of the nacelle, and Pagano and Jubert 
exchange signals. The balloons, held by a small army of volun- 
teers selected from the crowd of onlookers, balance them- 
selves on the breath of the breeze, oscillating with the regular 
swing of a pendulum. Each sailor drops a little ballast to 
steady the craft; then, at exactly ten minutes past nine, they 
cry out the magic words, “CAST OFF!” 

The balloons rose easily and were quickly borne in an 
east-north-easterly direction by the brisk breeze; within a 
half-hour they had been lost to view by the watchers at the 
railway station. Arriving over the Prussian lines at eleven 
o’clock at an altitude of about 2600 feet the balloonists were 
astounded to find themselves in the midst of a lively fusillade 
from the ground. Although more than a score of balloons 
had preceded them since September 23, German rifle fire had 
been ineffectual at such an altitude and one or two aerial 
travellers had had the unmitigated effrontery to release visiting 
cards to float down to the enraged and impotent Germans 

Chancellor Bismarck, however, had not contented him- 
self with merely threatening aerial blockade runners with death; 
he had also turned to Krupp, already famous as the greatest 
armament makers in all Europe. Krupp’s answer was simple: 
take the long-range, breach-loading artillery rifles which had 


changed artillery history at the Battle of Sadowa four years 
before and remount them for vertical as well as horizontal 
traverse. There seems to be some evidence as well that rocket 
barrages against the balloons were used experimentally. 

The Niepce and the Daguerre were the first to encounter 
the new German anti-aircraft barrage. An efficient Prussian 
fifth column operating within Paris had informed the enemy 
of the imminent departure of equipment and pigeons to estab- 
lish a photographic airmail system between Free France and 
the besieged capital. The wind was westerly. The German 
artillery was waiting. 

As the hostile shells whistled about their frail and highly 
inflammable craft, the travellers hastily set about jettisoning 
ballast. Here the supreme example of amateurish lack of fore- 
sight was discovered; the sand ballast in the Niepce had been 
hung in bags made of cotton cloth so rotten that the bags had 
broken under the constant movement of the nacelle of the 
balloon, and more than seven hundred pounds of sand was 
strewn over the floor of the basket and the chests of photo- 
graphic equipment. In frantic haste the five men scooped the 
ballast overboard with a shallow plate until the balloon had 
risen beyond artillery range. 

Unfortunately, however, the Daguerre was hit before she 
could get away, and the occupants of the Niepce watched with 
heavy hearts as she descended giddily, carrying Jubert, Nobé- 
court, Pierron, the dog, the pigeons, the mail, and the rest of 
M. Dagron’s equipment. She struck, modern warfare’s first 
flak-riddled casualty, on the wall of a farm at Joissigny, near 
Ferriéres in the suburbs of Paris. Almost immediately a troop 
of hard-riding Uhlans came galloping up to seize the prize 
and her cargo. 

By 1:30 P.M. the Niepce had reached an altitude of about 
five thousand feet. The voyagers decided, in view of the fact 


that little ballast remained, to land; yet, not knowing whether 
they were over Prussian — or French-held territory, the need 
was manifest to descend rapidly in order to give the pursuing 
German cavalry as little time as possible to arrive. Without a 
landing crew to seize the trailing ropes the landing was pre- 
carious; the anchor could find neither hedge nor bush to grasp, 
the wind was strong, and the balloon lay over and travelled 
more than a mile at breakneck speed, the basket dragging and 
bumping along the ground. 

The situation was desperate: five men and over a half ton 
of equipment crowded in a space four by five-and-a-half feet 
were tossed about like the ivories in an agitated dice box. Poor 
Fernique was caught with his neck between crossed ropes and 
saved himself only by a frenzied effort; Gnocchi, the photo- 
grapher’s assistant, had a similar experience and was saved 
from serious injury only by a fortuitous rolling of the basket. 
Dagron, a man well past his youth, was endangered by a swing- 
ing box when his son-in-law saved him from a broken head. Ail 
were indeed grateful when the cotton fabric of the balloon was 
so whipped and buffeted that the gas escaped from the tattered 
shreds and the basket finally came to rest. 

The adventurers had little time for self-congratulation, 
however. Peasants, hurrying toward the fallen balloon, inform- 
ed them that they were inside the Prussian lines, near Chalons- 
sur-Marne (main staging area at the time for Prince Frederick 
Karl’s army in Eastern France), and that the Uhlans would 
arrive at any moment. They soon learned that they were but a 
few miles from the River Marne and the little city of Vitry- 
le-Francois (later an important rail junction and prime target 
of General Patton’s 1944 American army); in less than five 
hours the Niepce had travelled about 125 miles across hostile 
territory. (See map, Fig. 7). 

The five men had barely time to dress themselves in peasant 


caps and blouses given them by the French patriots and to load 
their equipment on two little farm wagons before the Prus- 
sians arrived and seized one of the wagons. The Prussians 
trained their rifles on the group of Frenchmen standing before 
them, but did not open fire, and before they could determine 
which men were from Paris the now unburdened and revital- 
ized remnants of the balloon claimed their attention. During 
the ensuing excitement the Parisians escaped, taking the second 
wagon full of equipment with them. 

At this time M. Fernique separated himself from the party 
and set off alone for the hamlet of Coole, on the stream of the 
same name; the others were to meet him there later with thic 
wagon. As it turned out, however, Fernique travelled six days 
alone through enemy-held territory. His mission was to estab- 
lish various means of communicating with Paris from the pro- 
vinces, and in Auxerre on the Yonne River, he and Professor 
Bart (secretary general of the prefecture and holder of the 
Chair of Physiology at the Sorbonne) undertook to organize 
a subfluvial messenger service. They placed dispatches in 
spherical containers designed to float just below the surface of 
the river and placed these in the River Yonne, to drift down- 
stream to the Seine and thus to Paris. This, and all such later 
attempts proved fruitless, for the Germans intercepted the 
floats upstream from the Capital; the enthusiasm for the system 
by the French is illustrated by the fact that the day after the 
Prussians withdrew their nets following the armistice some 800 
of the containers floated into Paris. 

Meanwhile, Dagron, Poisot, Gnocchi, and Pagano, unable 
to reach Coole, wound up in the even smaller settlement of 
Vesigneul, farther downstream. Here the four men were hid- 
den in the attic of the mayor’s house, while the baggage, with 
the exception of one chest, was concealed in the barn. Mme. 
Songy, the mayor’s wife, hid the credentials of the party in her 


pocket. The fugitives had barely reached the attic when a 
pursuing detachment of Uhlans stumbled upon the stray chest 
and left for reinforcements, whereupon Mayor Songy loaded 
the Parisians into his carriage and took them to the home of 
the priest of Fontaine-sur-Coole, a village some fifteen miles 
from the famous cathedral city of Rheims. 

Since the rectory recently had been made the billet of 
Prussian officers the fugitives obviously could not remain there, 
so they proceeded with a recommendation from the priest to 
a fellow curate at Cernon, a village of about 165 inhabitants 
even farther north; there the travellers arrived at ten o’clock 
in the evening, hungry and exhausted by what probably had 
been the most exciting day in their lives. 

Even here they found no rest, for a group of peasants who 
brought their equipment from Vesigneul warned them that 
the Prussians were at that very moment in hot pursuit. So the 
weary party moved on in their flimsy peasant garments, chilled 
to the marrow by the cold autumn night, and arrived in Bussy- 
Lettrée at five o’clock on the morning of Sunday, November 
13. Armed with a letter from Cernon’s curé they were wel- 
comed by the schoolmaster, who thawed them out with a good 
fire and procured carriages for them. 

That same day the adventurers entered the slightly larger 
village of Sompuis, having made nearly a complete circle in 
their flight through the countryside since leaving the balloon. 
In Sompuis they found that M. Fernique had passed through 
the night before, and by the kind offices of the postmaster 
they were conducted across the boundary between the depart- 
ments of Marne and Aube to arrive at the village of Dampierre 
at one o’clock on the morning of November 14. 

In Dampierre they were befriended by a physician, who 
put them in touch with teamsters possessing Prussian permits 
to transport wine. The ever-ingenious Dagron loaded his 


cameras, plates, and chemicals into empty wine casks and the 
party travelled on to Nogent, then up the Aube valley toward 
Pougy and Vendeuvre. 

On the last leg of this trip they were warned that the 
enemy was requisitioning horses and wagons in Vendeuvre, so 
they turned back and travelled downstream until they came to 
the ancient and pretty little city of Arcis, at the head of navi- 
gation of the Aube. Since they could not pass inspection of 
the wine casks at the city line they left them in a little village 
outside the city, while the men went on into Arcis. They found 
the hotels filled with Prussians, and M. Dagron was accosted 
in the dining room of his hotel by a Hanoverian horse-doctor 
who felt out his sympathies by offering to bet 100 thaler that 
Paris wouldn’t hold out another fortnight; the Frenchman let 
wisdom rule his pride, however, and successfully avoided the 

The wine cask camouflage had now served its purpose, and 
during the night the equipment was repacked in baskets and 
boxes. Since all roads leaving Arcis were patrolled after seven 
o’clock, the Parisians left at four in the morning for Troyes, 
and arrived without incident. In obedience to some unspecified 
demand of the police, Pagano the Sailor was left behind in 

Troyes, a very ancient city of about 40,000 population, 
located on the left bank of the Seine in the middle of a vast 
and fertile plain proved a difficult place to obtain horses and 
wagons, but these were finally rounded up with the assistance 
of a patriotic merchant of the city. The party, now reduced 
to three by the absence of Pagano, left Troyes at three o’clock 
on the morning of Thursday, November 17, and travelled 
southwest to Saint Florentin, in the department of Yonne. 
Turning west here they came upon a body of Prussians, whom 
they had been trailing by twelve hours, bivouacked in the tiny 


settlement of Avrolles, which the Prussians had just taken. 
This hamlet was at the forks of the road leading to Sens, site of 
the beautiful Gothic windows now incorporated into the archi- 
tecture of The Cloisters in New York’s Fort Tryon Park. 

While M. Dagron and his assistant were being held by 
the German sentries, M. Poisot was demanding permission to 
travel on from the major in charge of the detachment. This 
gentleman had retired to a nearby commandeered chateau for 
the night, and was adamant in his orders that no one was to 
leave Avrolles before the Prussians, who were scheduled to 
advance at eight o’clock the following morning. At this same 
time a series of rifle shots heard in the distance caused the sen- 
tries to look upon their captives with suspicion, and they were 
about to set upon the Frenchmen when Dagron’s son-in-law 
returned from the major, and the travellers were allowed to 
take their wagon to a nearby farm. 

As it had begun to rain they sought refuge in the barn, 
but the Prussians ordered them out. Their suspicions now 
fully aroused, the sentries insisted on inspecting the contents of 
the wagon, saying the Frenchmen surely had come from Paris 
with contraband goods. The trio denied this and stoutly main- 
tained they had just arrived from Troyes, and demanded the 
presence of an officer to attest their story. 

Time passed as the disputants bickered, and the officer, 
comfortable enough in town, did not arrive. Meanwhile, the 
local teamster returned to the barn for his lantern, whereupon 
the sentries, thinking their captives had violated their injunc- 
tion, went to the barn to investigate. During their absence the 
Dagron party was able to cross the road to a tavern, where they 
spent an uneasy night under the distrustful eyes of Prussian 
officers. By this maneuver they escaped but they also lost 
several additional pieces of equipment important to their mis- 


On the following morning, Friday, November 18, the 
Prussian forces moved off toward Joigny; the vanguard had 
hardly cleared the village when it made contact with the de- 
fending French forces in Brienon. The skirmish, of course, 
closed that road to the Dagron party, so they took off across 
fields in a torrential downpour, alternately pulling and pushing 
their clumsy wagon across plowed and sodden ground. Before 
long they arrived at a good sized village on a raised plateau 
which was held by French patrols; it was Mont-Saint-Sulpice, 
and marked the end of their six days of travel through occu- 
pied territory. 

In Mont-Saint-Sulpice, however, an unexpected challenge 
beset them. Instead of being hailed as brave and patriotic men 
who had risked their lives to bring their equipment through the 
enemy lines they found the authorities regarding the entire 
tale of their adventures with a jaundiced eye. The result of 
these suspicions was that they received a recommendation which 
was, to say the least, lukewarm in tone. 

Still traveling south they crossed the Serein River and 
entered Seignelay, where they were forced to undergo several 
indignities and to see their baggage searched, all because of the 
wording of the permit from Mont-Saint-Sulpice. They left 
Signelay as soon as possible, accompanied by a military guard, 
and soon arrived in Moneteau, where they were better received. 
By eleven o’clock that night they had arrived at the home of 
the prefect in the large and very ancient city of Auxerre, seat 
of government for the department of Yonne; here at least they 
were expected, having been described by M. Fernique, who 
already had left. 

After a short rest the three men travelled on through 
Nevers and on to Tours, seat of the fighting French govern- 
ment under the leadership of Léon Gambetta. They arrived at 
Gambetta’s home at eight o’clock on Monday morning, Novem- 


ber 21, just nine days after leaving the Gare d’Orléans in Paris. 
Here they were reunited with M. Fernique; here also a little 
later they were to learn that a forest ranger in the woods at 
Ferriéres had been able to save one mailbag and six pigeons from 
the wreck of the Daguerre; he had used the pigeons to convey 
to Paris six identical messages: “Large blue and yellow balloon 
fell at Joissigny. Prussians captured balloon, voyagers. Have 
been able to save a mailbag and six pigeons”. The twenty-four 
remaining pigeons were captured and used on two different 
occasions by the Prussians to send false and disheartening in- 
formation to beleaguered Paris. 



Saturday, November 26: Being eaten with diversified seasoning, are 
horses, dogs, cats and rats... Rat roast, rat ragout, rat en paté, rat barbecue, 
rat salad, minced rat it is all the same. Supreme consolation: statistics show 
at present 25 million rats in Parts...” 

"A new pigeon brought 500 private dispatches today. . .”. 

—Journal du siege, 1870 

Tours had not been the original objective of Dagron and 
Fernique. They had set out for Clermont-Ferrand, a city some 
thirty miles southwest of Vichy and destined to became one 
of the most important synthetic rubber centers on the con- 
tinent during the much later Nazi occupation of France. The 
sequence of events leading to this change is a story of bickering 
and petty jealousies among the founding fathers of the Third 

The siege of Paris began little more than a fortnight after 
Napoleon III and his proud French army had surrendered at 
Sedan. On September 4, 1870, a one-eyed, thirty-two year old 
anti-imperialist politico named Léon Gambetta had arisen in 
the Hotel de Ville in Paris to proclaim the dissolution of the 
Empire and the birth of the Third Republic. His demand for 

continued resistance against the Prussians struck a responsive 



chord in the hearts of the humiliated French people, and led 
to the creation of a Fighting French movement. Militiamen 
sprang to arms in the provinces, and the streets of the capital 
began to bristle with barricades. 

On September 16 the first Prussian patrols arrived before 
Paris; two days later the last mail train left the city for Brest 
at 3:00 P.M. In a single day’s action the enemy troops took, 
almost without suffering any casualties, three positions which 
completely neutralized the effectiveness of the forts of Mont- 
rouge, Vanves, and Issy, and brought more than a fourth of 
Paris within the range of hostile gunfire. The coming events 
of the fall of the Maginot Line, and the whole aspect of fluid 
attack versus static defense most emphatically cast their shad- 
ows before — seventy years before — on the suburbs of Paris 
that momentous September day in 1870. 

The sudden success of the attacking forces, giving the 
lie to the bland assurances of their officers, struck terror in 
the hearts of the defenders of the capital. Observation balloons 
under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Usquin were rapidly 
run up, and the balloonists had a ringside seat at the crucial 
battle. We have the description of an eyewitness to follow: 

“Clinging to their cars the aeronauts of the captive balloons could 
observe with an indignant eye, while unable to do anything about it, the 
episodes of that fateful day. They saw the Prussians forming their columns 
of attack, and our soldiers in zouave uniforms throwing away, after a mere 
sham resistance, their guns in order to flee more rapidly. With their eyes 
the aeronauts followed these cowards, who ran through the doors of houses 
spreading alarm, until the indignant populace stopped them”. 

The inner circle of the city’s defenses held, however, and 
the Prussians settled down to consolidate their positions and to 
contact their effecive fifth column inside the city. Frederick 
the Great had emphasized the role of the spy in wartime opera- 
tions, and the Prussians now boasted of having 30,000 spies 


throughout France. To eliminate the possibility of coordina- 
tion of attacks by the garrison of Paris with those of the armies 
in the provinces, all communications were cut. Railroads, 
roads, watercourses: all, right down to the last footpath, were 
closed to the French. 

The besiegers even dredged the telegraph cables from the 
bed of the Seine, and the last telegram from outside arrived at 
noon, September 19. An attempt was made to smuggle mail 
through in the carts of hucksters; that not a single cart was 
able to penerate the lines is hardly surprising. From September 
20 to October 30 some eighty-five postmen tried to slip 
through the lines with messages concealed in hollowed coins, in 
specially prepared artificial teeth, and even in incisions made in 
the skin. Of the eighty-five only eight were able to deliver 
their messages, while fourteen were captured and at least one 
was shot by the Prussians. 

On January 11, 1871, toward the end of the siege, five 
individuals contracted with the post office to attempt to run 
the blockade by means of the famed Paris sewers and quarries; 
later, one of the volunteers using the same route for General 
Trochu, military governor of Paris, fell into a pool of filth in 
the sewers and met a horrible death by suffocation. 

Some days before the city had been encircled, however, the 
Jardin des Plantes had received a thousand homing pigeons 
from the prefect of the Départment du Nord and from the 
Chamber of Commerce in Lille, together with a hundred more 
from the citizens of Laval. The husband of Mme. Anais 
Ségalas, a well-known poetess in her day, is credited with sug- 
gesting these be used for communication with Unoccupied 

Since the useful load a pigeon can carry is no more than 
about a thirtieth of an ounce the messages were necessarily 
limited and reserved for official use. To secure a greater chance 


of delivery each message was duplicated in the loads of ten 
pigeons, and in this manner some four hundred pigeons were 
released in Paris to fly home during the siege. 

Enthusiastic French aeronauts were not long in pressing 
forward the advantages of leaving Paris by free balloon. In 
addition to the sentiment and tradition afforded by the balloon 
corps organized under Colonel Coutelle during the First Re- 
public in 1794, these arguments may be summarized as: fre- 
quent breezes to carry the craft over the lines of siege; carry- 
ing capacity sufficient for a half-ton of passengers and cargo; 
a readily available gas supply from the illuminating gas mains 
or Paris! 

Enthusiasm in the government was great, and permission 
was given for a trial. Nevertheless, the project almost died at 
the very outset when the first take-off was attempted in an 
ancient balloon which had been badly overloaded in the care- 
less optimism of the pilot. Wilfrid de Fonvielle, ardent aero- 
naut and writer of popular science articles, rescued the program 
from abandonment by persuading the Director of Postal Ser- 
vice, Dr. Germain Rampont, to make a second attempt, this 
time with a more modern balloon and a competent aeronaut. 

On the orders of Dr. Rampont the observation balloon 
located at Place Saint-Pierre, in northern Paris, was cut loose 
at 7:45 A.M. September 23. Carrying about four hundred 
pounds of mail the balloon, christened the Neptune, immedi- 
ately drifted off to the westward. 

As he passed over Versailles the owner and pilot, Claude 
Jules Duruof (who less than a year later was to be on trial for 
his life for participation in the Communard uprising of 1871), 
was greeted by an angry hail of bullets from the ground. 
Utterly contemptuous of the rifle barrage the aeronaut let 
float down upon the heads of the besiegers a series of greeting 
cards addressed to King Wilhelm, Queen Augusta, and Prince 


Bismarck, taking care to show the fashionable touch of the 
boulevardier by turning down a corner on each card before 
releasing it. What effect such impertinence may have had 
upon the future Kaiser and his queen is uncertain; the “Iron 
Chancellor,” however, is reported to have given way to choleric 
rage and to have ordered that any persons captured while at- 
tempting to cross the lines of siege by air would be considered 
spies and summarily shot. 

The Neptune did not expose M. Duruof to any such peril 
but floated off northwestward. By eleven o’clock it had cov- 
ered seventy-five miles and landed in unoccupied territory 
near Craconville, Department of Eure. 

Encouraged by the success of the Neptune a second bal- 
loon, the captive stationed at La Glaciére on the Boulevard 
d’Italie, slightly larger than the Neptune and bearing the name 
Ville de Florence, took off the second day after Bismarck had 
received his greeting from Duruof. 

Piloted by the aeronaut Gabriel Magnin and chartered 
by the Ministry of Public Works, the Ville de Florence carried 
one passenger, a M. Lutz, in addition to three hundred pounds 
of mail, including a printed appeal from Victor Hugo to the 
Prussian soldiery, a bit of wartime propaganda “couched in the 
well-known flowery rhetoric” of the poet. 

After the successful trips of these two pioneer balloons 
the postal authorities were convinced of the value of a regular 
balloon service, and the world’s first successful airmail system 
was established in a decree issued by Dr. Rampont on Septem- 
ber 26. In this decree private mail was divided into two 

Letters, which must weigh no more than a seventh 

of an ounce and whose postage was fixed at twenty 
centimes; and 


Postal Cards, which must weigh no more than a ninth 
of an ounce and measure no more than 2 by 4% 
inches, but which could be sent anywhere in France 
or Algeria for ten centimes. 

At about this same time contracts were signed with two 
groups of aeronauts to build for the government new balloons 
to replenish the dwindling supply. Workshops were set up in 
the temporarily empty railway stations of Paris and the govern- 
ment was soon receiving an average of one new balloon each 
day. In all, over sixty balloons left Paris during the nineteen 
weeks of siege; altogether, they carried 164 passengers and 
23,670 pounds of mail, or somewhere between two and a haif 
and three million dispatches and letters. 

Even so, the balloon-post was but a half-solution to the 
reopening of French communications, for the traffic was all 
one-way. Floating back on a whimsical breeze in a free bal- 
loon to hit a target only six miles in diameter was too difficult 
a task to be practicable, although the Tissandier brothers, 
enthusiastic amateur aeronauts, made two such attempts. Un- 
der the auspices of the august Academy of Sciences a blimp, 
the Duquesne, was built and left Paris in January, with three 
sailors laboring mightily at hand-powered propellers; turn 
as fast as they might, the sailors caused the Duquesne to deviate 
from the course set by the prevailing winds not one whit, for 
this was still thirty years too soon for the successful accom- 
plishment of directional flight. 

Of the scores of aeronauts and their passengers who left 
the capital by balloon only five were able to return to Paris 
bearing messages. 

Many were the schemes brought forth for returning news 
to the invested city; some of them bordered on the fantastic. 
At three o’clock on the morning of January 15 an inventor 
named Delente left in the balloon Vaucanson with the govern- 


ment’s blessing to build a boat he had designed for crawling, 
submerged, along the bed of the Seine. In the words of a con- 
temporary, ““M. Delente did not return in his submarine boat; 
the armistice, which made his efforts unnecessary, perhaps was 
one of the reasons”’. 

In addition to such schemes as man-powered blimps and 
riverbottom tractors, several projects were advanced for the 
carrying of dispatches into Paris by other than human messen- 
gers. The efforts of Albert Fernique to establish a floating 
dispatch service have been touched upon already, and a con- 
tract was signed on December 6 between the Postal Authority 
and MM. Venoven, Robert, and Delort for a similar project. 
Postage was to be fixed at one franc, with each letter limited 
to the weight of a seventh of an ounce; of the amount collected 
for postage the concessionnaires were to receive eighty percent, 
half of their share to be paid upon consignment of the mail to 
the river, the other half upon receipt in Paris. 

Next to be attempted was the use of messenger dogs in 
an effort to run the blockade. M. Pierron, as we have seen, 
left with his dog on November 12, only to be captured by the 
enemy when the Daguerre was shot down. M. Hurel, another 
proponent of this system of dog-delivery, was offered 2090 
francs for each delivery which reached Paris within forty-eight 
hours after being consigned to the hollow collars of the dogs; 
he left with five shepherds on the General Faidherbe on January 
13, and released his canine couriers some twenty-five miles 
outside Paris. 

An ironic circumstance was the cause of the downfall of 
this scheme: food had become so scarce in the beleaguered city 
that nearly every stray dog soon found its way to the stew 
kettles, and the government was obliged to warn the hungry 
populace of the expected arrival of the four-footed messengers. 


Once again the Prussian intelligence scored a beat, and not one 
of the dogs ever reached the city. 

Encouraged by the success of the flights from the Jardins 
des Plantes to Lille and to other home lofts in Unoccupied 
France, homing pigeon enthusiasts early began a campaign for 
the use of their birds in bringing dispatches into Paris. Long 
years of tradition bolstered their argument, for the use of hom- 
ing pigeons to carry messages is as old as the time of King Solo- 
mon; again, in 43 B.C., Marcus Brutus, within a year after his 
assassination of Caesar, used courier pigeons to notify the Rom- 
an consuls that he was besieged, in Mutina (now Modena, in 
northern Italy) by Mare Anthony; this provided a very close 
parallel for purposes of argument in 1870. 

More recently, that father of modern journalism, James 
Gordon Bennett, in cooperation with the Baltimore Su and the 
Boston Daily Mail, had set up in 1838 a regular pigeon dispatch 
system which eventually reached from Halifax to Washington; 
Bennett’s pigeons were responsible for many a news scoop and 
were maintained as an auxiliary service by his New York 
Herald for many years after the invention of the telegraph. In 
Europe, furthermore, it had been the custom of the captains 
of French boats crossing the Channel in the late 1830’s to 
release a pigeon bearing news of safe arrival as soon as the 
steamer came under the cliffs of Dover. 

The instantaneity and greater reliability of the electrical 
telegraph had nearly eliminated the use of the pigeon for any 
but racing purposes by 1870, however, and the siege found 
Paris with but twenty lofts in existence, all privately owned. 
The members of the pigeon fanciers society ‘““L’Espérance”’ 
apparently were the first to offer their birds to their country’s 
service, although the rival society ‘“‘Roitelet” was not long in 
following their example. Vice President van Roosebecke and 


Secretary Dérouard, both of “L’Espérance”, presented their 
plan to General Trochu, military governor of Paris, about 
September 22. 

General Trochu showed great interest in the plan, and sent 
the gentlemen to Dr. Rampont, Postmaster-General. Dr. Ram- 
pont also was interested, and the second balloon to leave Paris, 
the Ville de Florence, carried three pigeons, all of which re- 
turned with notices of the successful completion of the flight, 
arriving in the capital within two and a half hours after the 
balloon landed. 

Impressed by this experiment, Dr. Rampont placed M. 
Chassina, who was postal director for the Department of Seine, 
in the post of administrator of the pigeon post, while M. 
Dérouard, as owner of one of the city’s largest lofts, was charg- 
ed with overseeing the loft installations, reception of incoming 
birds, etc. Several of the members of both societies left Paris 
for the Provinces to oversee the handling of the birds as they 
arrived by balloon, and M. van Roosebecke himself was assigned 
to the headquarters of the government’s provincial delegation 
in Tours. 

One of the members, M. Nobécourt, was travelling with 
Pierron and his dog on the ill-fated Daguerre when she was 
shot down, and he was taken prisoner along with most of the 
thirty pigeons he was carrying. As we have seen, however, 
a forest ranger in the woods at Ferriéres was able to save one 
mailbag and six pigeons from the wreck before the Prussians 
could get them, and he used the birds to convey to Paris six 
identical messages. 

Before the siege was over the balloon post had carried 
between three hundred fifty and four hundred pigeons out of 
Paris, although only about seventy returned. M. Dérouard 
himself supplied 53 birds to the Postal Authority, of which 
all but two were lost. 


A number of factors influenced the number of messenger 
birds returning; some were captured before reaching Free 
France; some, no doubt, had been insufficiently trained, for 
most of the seventy birds which returned belonged to but a 
handful of lofts; some fell victim to the cold weather, for 
December was several degrees colder than normal and birds 
were seen to drop even while circling over the place of de- 
parture; some pigeons were claimed by the Prussian infantry, 
who emulated the rival editors of James Gordon Bennett by 
shooting down the couriers; some fell prey to trained falcons 
brought in from Saxony to hunt down and kill the messengers: 
Nineteenth Century jet fighters flashing down on Piper Cubs. 

Nevertheless, the pigeons did get through, sending news- 
starved Parisians clamoring after the tired birds as they flew 
on to the home loft, and sending feature writers into reams of 
lyric prose demanding the inclusion of the pigeon on the 
city’s heraldic arms. The pigeons themselves were given such 
pet names as “Gladiator” and “Daughter of the Air”, and some 
were apparently at least as well known to the besieged Parisians 
as the heads of the government. 

Because of the relatively few pigeons able to make the 
trip successfully some means had to be found to increase the 
number of dispatches each bird could carry. The obvious solu- 
tion was the abbreviation of the dispatches, with subsequent 
transcription to a form easily read by the recipients in Paris. 

The initial means of achieving this was simple: all official 
messages were collected in Tours from all parts of free France; 
here expert penmen reduced the texts to a numerical code writ- 
ten in minute characters on light-weight paper. As might be 
expected, these manuscript texts were often lacking in legibility 
because of the penman’s desire to achieve the ultimate in 

Discontent with the shortcomings of the coded manu- 


script dispatches was evident right from the start and a num- 
ber of persons, apparently simultaneously, thought of reducing 
the original uncoded messages by photographic means; at 
any rate, there were many who received credit for the sug- 
gestions, among them a M. Lacoin who had been involved in the 
River Seine floating dispatch schemes, Professor d’Almeida of 
the Scientific Committee of the Ministry of Public Instruction, 
and Charles Barreswil, a celebrated chemist who was in Tours 
supervising the evacuation of school children from cities threat- 
ened with siege. 

Regardless of who might receive credit for the idea of 
making photographically reduced reproductions of the dis- 
patches, there is no doubt that Professor d’Almeida and his 
colleague, Professor Albert Fernique, secured the cooperation 
of the Scientific Committee of the Ministry of Public Instruc- 
tion in instituting research on the photographic problems in- 

M. Fernique started this research at the Lycée Corneille, 
but soon was transferred to the Ministry of Finance, where 
the minister, Ernest Picard, outfitted him with a special labora- 
tory. The apparatus used by M. Fernique had been invented 
and was furnished by René Dagron, who enjoyed a reputation 
as the outstanding microphotographer in Paris. 

After Fernique had tried making his microcopies of dis- 
patches on thin paper, and then on excessively thin sheets of 
mica, Dagron came forward to offer him the use of the Dagron 
process, which was based on the use of a stripping film of collo- 
dion, a very light, very tough material, flexible, transparent 
without blemishes, and impervious to water. 

Afer experimental use of the Dagron process had overcome 
the technical problems of the photographic post M. Picard 
suggested to Fernique that he travel by balloon to the provinces 
and there set up a dispatch service. Fernique, however, pointed 


out that M. Dagron was far better fitted to handle the photo- 
graphic work, and suggested that the post be offered to him. 
This was done; Dagron accepted, and Fernique was allowed 
to go along to assist Dagron, as well as to handle other assign- 
ments for the government, of which the floating dispach service 
was one. 

Meanwhile, after some talks which were repeatedly broken 
off by false but persistent rumors of an armistice, a contract 
was drawn up by Dagron, Fernique, Picard (representing the 
Treasury), and Rampont (representing the Post Office). On 
November 12 Dagron, Fernique, and their assistants left Paris 
in the balloon trip described in Chapter 5. 



“Microscopic copies of despatches and valuable papers and plans 
might be transmitted by post and secrets might be placed in spaces not 
larger than a full stop or a small blot of ink”. 

Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eighth Edition, 1857 

No sooner had Dagron and Fernique arrived in Tours and 
presented their agreement with the Postal and Treasury Depart- 
ments than they found themselves the subjects of hot denuncia- 
tions by the members of the government’s Delegation in Unoc- 
cupied France. As mentioned before, Léon Gambetta, whose 
guests the travelers now were, had proclaimed the birth of the 
Third Republic early in September. Useful as he was as a cata- 
lyst for the hitherto unorganized republican fervor, Gambetta 
proved to be somewhat less than perfect as an administrator 
in the new government. It was not long before the clique of 
more experienced helmsmen of the French ship of state found 
it desirable to give their vociferous and colorful colleague a cap- 
tain’s gig of his own to steer. Accordingly, Gambetta, as Min- 
ister of War and the Interior, left Paris on October 7 to head 
the French Delegation, which was seated at Tours. In charac- 
teristis style, he named the balloon which took him over the 



lines of siege the Armand Barbes, drawing an obvious compari- 

son between himself and the famed revolutionist of the Second 

Before leaving the capital Gambetta had secured the 
appointment of his protege, Francois Frédéric Steenackers, to 
the post of Director of Telegraphic Lines. Steenackers, a forty- 
year old Belgian who had been a member of the Chamber of 
Deputies, turned over the Paris headquarters to his assistant, 
a well-known physicist named Mercadier, and left for Tours 
shortly before Paris was surrounded. 

Soon after Gambetta had arrived in Tours Steenackers pre- 
vailed upon him to combine all government communications 
in the Provinces under himself, and on October 12 Steenackers 
became Director General of Postal and Telegraphic Services for 
the Delegation. Inflated with his new importance Steenackers 
began to assume more and more authority until he reached the 
point of ignoring completely the orders and recommendations 
emanating from his superiors in Paris. Feelings reached such 
a state of tension that months later Steenackers was accused 
of insubordination by a Commission of Inquiry into the Acts 
of the Government of National Defense. Thus were planted 
the seeds of a controversy which was to recur until the end of 
the century in the memoirs of persons even remotely connected 
with one side or the other. 

At the time that Fernique was experimenting with micro- 
photographic reproduction of dispatches in Paris the Delega- 
tion, too, was rushing forward with its plans for a more effi- 
cient pigeon-borne postal service. Steenackers ordered an ama- 
teur photographer named de Lafollye, who also was serving 
as Inspector of Telegraph Lines for the Department of Indre- 
et-Loire, to organize a photographic message service. This ser- 
vice was established under a Delegation decree of November 
4, 1870, eight days before the Niepce left Paris. De Lafollye 


lost no time in hiring a portrait photographer named Blaise to 
do the actual photography. Speed was essential, for the Dele- 
gation well knew of the central government’s plans and they 
wished to beat the Dagron party to the punch. 

Under the initial program set up by de Lafollye, dispatches 
addressed to Paris from all parts of Unoccupied France were 
collected at Tours. Here clerks were employed to copy by 
hand all messages in large clear letters, arranging them in such 
a way as to leave no waste space. The sheets so produced were 
pasted to large cardboard sheets which, in turn, were fastened 
to wooden panels some thirty-nine inches high by twenty-five 
inches wide. The panels then were turned over to Blaise, who 
photographed them (apparently with a standard portrait cam- 
era) ona 40 x 50 mm. (1% x 2 inch) wet plate; his developer 
was a formula commonly used by portrait photographers of 
the time: pyro and iron sulfate. 

From these negatives a paper contact print was pulled and 
turned over to de Lafollye. This gentleman proofread each 
dispatch to Steenackers, reading the reduced text by means of 
a hand lens. After approval, the photographic prints were 
turned over to a cousin of Steenackers, Georges Blay, who was 
in charge of attachment of the dispatches to the messenger 
pigeons and then releasing the couriers as near Paris as the front 
lines permitted. In Paris the birds, of course, went directly to 
their home lofts. Here their owners removed the goose quill 
containers from the messengers and delivered them to the mili- 
tary governor of Paris, General Trochu. When the messages 
had been transcribed on regular telegraph forms marked “‘Recu 
par pigeon” by copyists using magnifying lenses the copies 
were delivered to the addressees by regular telegraph messengers. 

It was soon apparent that the large number of messages 
pouring into Tours from other parts of France would rapidly 
overwhelm the facilities of the pigeon post, and Blaise increased 


the size of his negatives and prints to 40 x 75 mm. (114 x 3 
inches) , which was about the limit in size a pigeon could carry. 
Then, on November 9, Blaise began sensitizing his printing 
paper on both sides, thus doubling the number of messages 
printed on each sheet. 

Scattered on the sheets and mixed in with the manuscript 
dispatches were occasional clippings from the newspaper, Moni- 
teur universel. The clarity of reproduction in reduced form of 
these clippings, as compared with that of the manuscript por- 
tions of the sheet, suggested the setting of all messages in type 
before photographing. As a result, the Mame printshop in 
Tours, publisher of the Moniteur and several other refugee 
papers, was called upon to print the dispatches. Long Primer 
typeface was chosen, and the format was three closely printed 
columns on vertical sheets measuring about nine inches wide 
and thirty-five inches high. Blaise copied two of these sheets on 
each negative, so that each sheet of duplitized printing paper 
carried the contents of four of the printed sheets. The first 
pigeon carrying a load of these prints arrived in Paris on Nov- 
ember 14, bringing 22 dispatches, totalling over a thousand 
words. Blaise worked for the Delegation until December 11; 
in a little over a month’s time he was able to supply 59 duplex 
prints, holding a total of 9,800 private messages, to de Lafollye 
for transmittal to Paris. 

It was on November 18, while Blaise and de Lafollye were 
struggling to keep up with the flood of dispatches being turned 
over to them, that Fernique arrived in Tours to investigate 
the report of a pigeon post conducted by the photographers 
of the Delegation. He talked with both Steenackers and Gam- 
betta, and informed them that he and Dagron had been com- 
missioned by the central government to establish an inde- 
pendent venture in Clermont-Ferrand. 

At this Gambetta and Steenackers became incensed, and 


declared that they considered this an attack on the authority 
of the Delegation. They forbade Fernique to go to Clermont or 
even to send off a pigeon reporting the crisis to Paris, threaten- 
ing him with court-martial and a traitor’s death if he dis- 
obeyed. And they sent a telegram to Dagron, who that day had 
reached Auxerre, ordering him to report immediately at Tours 
instead of Clermont-Ferrand. 

Once he had arrived at Tours Dagron, together with 
Fernique, set about pressing the advantages of the Dagron pro- 
cess before Steenackers. Again and again they argued that the 
ratio of reduction (much greater than in the Blaise process), 
the much lighter weight of the collodion, the greatly lessened 
exposure time (two seconds, as against two hours), and the 
transparency of the Dagron films would be the only practicable 
solutions of the photographic bottleneck which was growing 
worse day by day. 

Steenackers and de Lafollye were, as might be expected, 
not a bit enthusiastic about turning their project over to the 
newcomers. They attacked through the contract signed be- 
tween the photographers and the Ministries of Communications 
and Finance. In this document, Articles 7 and 10 allowed 
Dagron 25,000 francs and Fernique 15,000 to cover the risks 
of the voyage. In case of death an annual life pension of 3,000 
francs was to be paid to each of the widows. For the actual 
work, Articles 5 and 9 provided that the partners were to 
receive 15 francs for each thousand letters or characters repro- 
duced: at the agreed daily minimum production of 10,000 dis- 
patches, each containing from fifteen to twenty words, this 
amounted to at least 15,750 francs per day for the enterprise. 

De Lafollye denounced the contract as a blatant example 
of war profiteering and pointed to the patriotism of Blaise, 
who had been working at a flat rate of 50 centimes per word. 
What deLafollye did not point out was that, had Blaise been 


able to reach Dagron’s output of 10,000 dispatches per day his 
gross receipts would have been greater than those of Dagron. 
Furthermore, under the Dagron system one pigeon could carry 
a number of messages equivalent to the load of thirty pigeons 
burdened with the Blaise prints. 

The constant bickering over money, authority, and poli- 
tical ethics was so wearing that Fernique, for one, began to 
regret ever having agreed to undertake the considerable risks 
and inconveniences of the project. Dagron stood to lose even 
more, for while Fernique had been paid his 15,000 francs in 
Paris, Dagron was to receive his 25,000 francs in Tours; fur- 
thermore, in addition to having left a lucrative business behind 
in Paris, Dagron had lost between eight and ten thousand francs 
worth of equipment to the Prussians. 

The Delegation could not, however, escape the fact that 
a steadily growing backlog of dispatches awaiting photography 
was piling up on Blaise. So, after more than a week of procras- 
tination, Steenackers on November 29 brusquely ordered 
Dagron and Fernique to take over. By December 5, the part- 
ners already were in operation, despite their having to work 
with uncalibrated lenses borrowed from amateur photographers 
to replace those lost with the Niepce. In view of the staggering 
size of the job confronting M. Dagron it is of interest at this 
point to note the basic principles of his process: 

Mame, the printer (later supplemented by Juliot’s print- 
shop), delivered the messages printed on transparent sheets 
divided into twelve rectangles 80 x 110 mm. (34% x 4% 
inches) , each rectangle containing at least a thousand charac- 
ters. The photographer cut the sheet in two, so that each half, 
placed in a printing frame in contact with a collodion dry 
plate, made a contact negative of six rectangles of print simul- 
taneously. As pointed out above, the exposure time (even 
under the weak December sun) averaged about two seconds. 


Thirty-three such printing operations were sufficient to copy 
the two hundred blocks of type supplied each day. 

After the glass plate negatives had been developed, fixed, 
washed, and dried, they were cut with a glass cutter so that 
each block of type was on a plate by itself, not much larger 
than a modern 314 x 4 inch professional lantern slide plate. 
Dagron reports that a single semi-skilled worker could easily 
print, process, and cut apart the two hundred such negatives 
in a day’s time and still have time left over to sensitize the 
next day’s batch of dry plates. 

As each small plate was made available it was placed on 
the reproduction frame in the copying camera. This camera 
had twenty short-focus lenses so arranged that, at a single 
exposure, they produced twenty separate positive prints of the 
negative, each print no larger than a twenty-fifth of an inch. 
By use of a device resembling a modern repeating camera back, 
a second series of the miniscule prints was made on the same 
plate, thus producing forty separate prints from a given nega- 
tive in two exposures. The camera was a modification of one 
used by Dagron some years before. 

After the plate bearing the forty microfilm prints had 
been processed, the collodion was stripped from the glass with 
the assistance of a castor oil bath, a modification of the process 
in use by American photographers nearly two decades before. 
The tiny prints then were cut apart and assembled with similar 
prints of other type blocks on a small, clear piece of collodion 
film for transmission to Paris. 

This process had been successful — if painstaking — when 
applied in the well-organized Dagron laboratory in Paris. In 
the crude workshops of Tours, impure chemicals, unskilled 
operators, and the strain of working with inspectors openly 
hostile to the enterprise made it a difficult matter. De Lafollye, 
who still reserved to himself the right to inspect all results, 


reported with easily discernible pleasure that he rejected a con- 
siderable number of films after Dagron had passed them. He 
did, however, state that the causes of rejection were, first, the 
use of loaned lenses replacing Dagron’s precisely calibrated 
lenses; and second, occasional uneven shrinkage of the film 
due to faulty chemicals used in coating the plates with collo- 
dion. For this and other reasons apparent below, Dagron 
adopted the recommendation of the Inspector to modify his 
process. This entailed the direct copying of the sheets supplied 
by the printer (each of which now contained nine, twelve, or 
sixteen rectangular blocks of type) on a dry plate 36 or 38 
mm. wide by 60 mm. long (roughly equivalent to triple-frame 
35 mm. film today). Thus was obviated the necessity of cut- 
ting similar prints apart and assembling them with others on a 
separate base. 

Since the reduced photographs now were negatives instead 
of positives they were contact-printed on another plate, whose 
collodion layer bearing the image then was stripped from the 
glass. The reduction ratio was so great, even under this pro- 
cedure, that every film thus produced bore from three to four 
thousand messages of twenty words each. The films weighed 
but one twentieth of a gram each; so light and compact were 
they that a pigeon released on January 21, 1871 actually carried 
twenty-one such films, or a total of between sixty and eighty 
thousand messages. Just as in the case of later applications in thie 
V-Mail and Airgraph systems of World War I, delivery was 
guaranteed. From each negative held at Tours a print was 
made and sent out by each pigeon leaving for Paris until 
acknowledgment of receipt came from the capital by balloon 
post. Before the end of the siege Dagron had, in less than eight 
weeks of work, copied 470 printers’ sheets and had furnished 
the Delegation with more than two and a half million dis- 
patches representing 115,000 separate messages. 


As it worked out de Lafollye would hand over all official 
dispatches printed by Mame, arriving not later than noon each 
day; by 5 P.M. Dagron would have returned to him ten copies 
of each sheet. The mornings apparently were devoted to the 
reproduction of private messages and also the large quantity 
of money orders which poured in for payment in Paris. 
Dagron often copied and sent complete editions of the Journal 
officiel; occasionally a copy of The Times of London, repro- 
duced by the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company, 
was consigned to the Paris-bound birds. 

The quality of Dagron’s work, exalted in the most glow- 
ing terms on one side, yet condemned as of the poorest quality 
by writers on the opposite side of the political fence, would 
seem to be questionable on the basis of contemporary written 
evidence. Fortunately, however, a few original Dagron films 
have come down to us, some of which went through the siege, 
others dating from right after the end of the siege. One of 
the latter is reproduced in this monograph. In 1936, tables 
published by Robert C. Binkley of the Joint Committee on 
Materials for Research of the Social Science Research Council 
and the American Council of Learned Societies showed that 
another film which survived showed a far superior degree of 
legibility than was obtained on films made with modern mate- 
rials in the best of modern microfilm cameras when operated 
by experts at similar ratios of reduction. The weight of 
modern evidence would, therefore, indicate that Dagron’s use 
of collodion, plus his careful workmanship, produced micro- 
film which not only was most amazing in the days of our 
grandfathers but is worthy of our utmost respect today. 

Several additional specimens of original Dagron microfilms of this 

period turned up in England as this book was in press. A paper by Dr. G. 
W. W. Stevens, of Kodak, Ltd., Research Laboratory, Harrow, England, on 


an editorial and microscopical interpretation of these and other existing 
specimens, appears in the Proceedings of the Eighth Annual Convention 
of the National Microfilm Association, 1959. 

As an example of the efficiency of the pigeon post itself 
we have the case of the same René Dagron. 

To overcome the difficulties caused by impure chemicals 
Dagron ordered a consignment of pyroxylin (nitrocellulose) 
from the supply house of Poulenc and Wittman in Paris. The 
order was sent off by a pigeon released on January 18 near the 
front lines at Sainte-Marie, near Poitiers; twelve hours later the 
order was in Paris, 185 miles away. 

The order was filled and left the capital aboard the balloon 
General Bourbaki on the night of January 20. The balloon 
landed near Rheims in enemy-held territory at 5:00 A.M. and 
was burned to prevent its falling into Prussian hands. The 
aeronaut, Theodore Magnin, set off with his cargo of chemi- 
cals and on January 24 delivered the consignment to Dagron’s 
studio. Enthusiasts proudly noted that peacetime telegraph 
and railroad service would have provided no speedier delivery. 

As the microfilm dispatches were delivered to de Lafollye 
they were tightly rolled and placed in a goosequill which pre- 
viously had been drilled at each end; silk thread, passing 
through the drillholes, attached the quill to one of the bird’s 
tail feathers. The pigeon’s wing was stamped with waterproof 
ink giving the destination and other information. 

Once the films had arrived in Paris they were turned over 
to M. Mercadier, whom Steenackers had left in charge of the 
telegraphic authority in the capital. Mercadier, and his col- 
league Cornu, carefully soaked the fragile films in a weak solu- 
tion of ammonia until they unrolled and became limp. Next 
the films were dried and mounted between glass. This glass 
sandwich was placed in the slide carrier of one of several en- 
largers designed and constructed by the famous optician and 


photographer, Duboscq-Soleil. Because this was more than 
eight years before Edison perfected the incandescent lamp, 
illumination necessarily was furnished by a carbon arc, which 
derived its power from storage batteries. The films were pro- 
jected on a screen in a darkened room. Before the screen sat 
four scribes, (later, under the veritable barrage of Dagron 
films, increased to ten and finally to sixty-seven), who per- 
formed by hand the laborious job of copying each dispatch on a 
telegraph blank. 

Toward the end of the siege Cornu and Mercadier were 
able to improve upon this method by substituting a sheet of 
sensitized paper for the screen, producing direct photographic 
enlargements. Even so, the quantity of incoming messages 
necessitated the full-time employment of seven photographic 
technicians for making the enlargements, despite the fact that 
only five of the last hundred pigeons released in the provinces 
got through with their messages. 

Despite this amazing record of production of microfilms 
by Dagron and his staff, all was not smooth sailing. Trouble 
with impure chemicals has been mentioned, as has the lack ot 
properly calibrated lenses (the two lenses loaned him differed 
in their focal lengths by a full two inches). Then, just as his 
staff had begun to get the feel of the job, the Delegation 
abruptly informed him on December 11 that it was moving to 
Bordeaux. At midnight, December 12, he and Fernique arrived 
in the latter city and three days later the reproduction of dis- 
patches recommenced, not to be interrupted again until the 

Dagron and Fernique left Tours so precipitately that they 
had to leave behind the staff they had so painstakingly formed 
and trained. Alarmed now by the backlog of dispatches inhe- 
rited from Blaise, and by the four days of lost production 
during the move from Tours, unable to form a new staff of 


comparable size without further sacrifice of time, the partnexs 
made at this point the change from the original Dagron process 
to the modification urged by de Lafollye; within a few days 
they had eliminated the entire backlog of messages and were 
never henceforth behind in their commitments. So rapidly 
did they overcome the stack of dispatches accumulated by the 
printers that de Lafollye was moved to import extra printers 
“in brigades” from Tours, Toulouse, and the Midi; eventually 
a corps of lithographers was brought in to help out the type- 

Although M. Dagron had offered to reproduce gratis ail 
official dispatches in each day’s batch before he started on the 
lucrative private messages, Steenackers and de Lafollye conti- 
nued to attack his agreement with Ministers Rampont and Pic- 
ard. Finally, on December 31, Dagron signed what today we 
would call a renegotiation contract with the Delegation. Under 
the terms of the new agreement all work done in the past would 
be paid for at the rate of 150 francs per block of messages (as 
compared with 180 francs under his original franchise) ; work 
done from January 1 to 15 was to bring the photographers 90 
francs per block, and all subsequent work 60 francs, or one- 
third the figure promised in the contract signed in Paris. 

There seems to be some disagreement on how Dagron fared 
under this new contract. According to his family he barely 
broke even considering the sums of money he had spent since 
leaving Paris; according to de Lafollye he was able to make 
§2,000 francs gross profit, ten percent of which he paid to 
Fernique. The friends of Dagron advanced his cause in the 
government at home, however, and the Minister of Public 
Instruction was ordered to award a high school scholarship to 
each of the photographer’s two sons. 

After the siege was lifted through the capitulation of 
Paris on January 28, 1871, both Dagron and Fernique found 


themselves so exhausted by the fatigue of their labors and the 
unpleasant controversy with the Delegation, that they were 
prevented by illness from returning home at once. Fernique 
finally arrived in the capital in the middle of February, but 
Dagron did not see his laboratory again until the middle of 
April; even then he had to undergo a further convalescence. 



“Simpson, in England, has called attention to the fact that... the 
substance of books filling entire halls, when reduced by microscopic photo- 
graphy, can be brought within the compass of a single drawer”. 

—Vogel, H: “Chemistry of Light’, 1874 

THE Paris to which Fernique and Dagron returned in the 
Spring of 1871 was far different from the Paris of a year earlier. 
Gone were the elaborate salons and the fashionable soirees of 
Napoleon and the Empress Eugénie. No longer did the super- 
cilious officers from Saint-Cyr promenade in the Champs 
Elysées and maneuver their troops of cavalry and battalions of 
infantry — personified as charging bottles of red wine and long 
rows of biscottes on the tablecloths of the sidewalk cafes. And 
for good reason. 

For the battle of Paris had been fought by the little people. 
While the rich had been able to buy elephant, camel and yak 
meat from the Jardin des Plantes (“15 francs a pound, 40 
francs for the elephant’s trunk’’), it was the sans-culottes who 
went out to the market day after day to buy “a well-fattened 
rat for 50 centimes, a scrawny one for 40”, and lived to recall 
that “thanks to strong seasoning this Parisian game animal is 
not absolutely disagreeable”. It was the little people who had 



manned the barricades, the tatterdemalion, ragamuffin canaille 
who had seen their country imperiled and betrayed by “the 
educated, the intelligent, the wealthy, the refined”. And now 
it was these same little people who manned the new barricades, 
in the Spring of 1871, to forestall the return of the politicians 
from Bordeaux and Versailles. 

This popular uprising, sparked by non-Marxist Socialists, 
but called by the name of Communard, lasted from March 18 
to the end of May and resulted in the death of 6500 Com- 
munards with the imprisonment of nearly forty thousand more. 
Smashed by the forces of the new government, the prolé¢taire 
of Paris was bitterly antagonistic to the institutions of the rich 
and the bourgeoisie. 

Having had a taste of the fury of the mob, the guardians 
of vested interests took immediate steps to protect these inte- 
rests from the further ravages of civil unrest. It was at this 
moment that René Dagron returned to the capital. 

There were few in Paris who had not heard of the marve- 
lous work done by Dagron in the provinces. Thus, when he 
proposed to the Government that he be allowed to safeguard 
the records of the budget bureau by microfilming the Register 
of the National Debt, he at least could command an audience. 

Nevertheless, there is no indication that this proposal — or a 
similar one made later by the optician Fleury-Hermagis to 
microfilm the manuscripts of the National Library — was 

adopted during the emergency. If the Government would not 
heed his advice, however, there were others who would. An 
insurance company fell in with his plan, and shortly after- 
wards Dagron made a microfilm copy of their policies, rate 
cards, and other records. This project, in 1871, surely is the 
first application of microfilm in securing the records of com- 
merce, an application which today has assumed staggering 


Meanwhile, Dagron was not neglecting his publicity pro- 
gram. Mindful of the way the pigeon post had captured the 
imagination of the populace he published, within the first eight 
months of his return from Bordeaux, no less than seven maga- 
zine articles and two booklets on his role in re-establishing com- 
munications during the siege. Copies of the microfilm dis- 
patches (both originals and simulations of originals) were 
placed on sale and distributed far and wide; a few are extant 
in the United States today. As a tour de force, Dagron experi- 
mented with very high reduction ratios and in August 1871 he 
reproduced 130,400 printed letters and characters (equal to 65 
pages of a book of this size) in a microfilm image one-fiftieth 
of an inch square; contemporary accounts reported perfect 
legibility of the image under high magnification. Fame, how- 
ever, notoriously is fickle, and Dagron no less than Dancer soon 
found the novelty of microfilm wearing thin. 

During the Seventies Dancer’s health and financial condi- 
tion had been steadily deteriorating. He contracted glaucoma 
in both eyes, and his business began a decline which continued 
until he and his wife were destitute. Having put one son 
through college and raised seven other children, Dancer and 
his wife Elizabeth lived quietly in their modest home at 11 
Greenhill Street, Greenheys, Manchester. Always a lively and 
impulsive man, fond of reading and yet popular for his parlor 
tricks when at a social gathering, Dancer found it difficult to 
adjust himself to the inactivity and the encroaching darkness 
imposed by his condition. The older members of the Literary 
and Philosophical Society had not forgotten their colleague, 
however, and they raised a few hundred pounds to help tide 
the aged couple over their declining years. 

In 1884 Dancer, aware of the interest which might one 
day be shown in his work, dictated a part of his autobiography 


to a granddaughter. The work was never published — nor even 
finished, for that matter — and remained in manuscript form 
in the family. 

Finally, on the twenty-fourth of November, 1887, the 
tall, sparsely built old Victorian died, and was buried two days 
later at Brooklands in Cheshire. His loyal friends in the Society 
once more came forward and attempted — in vain — to secure 
a small civil pension for Mrs. Dancer. She, however, survived 
her husband by less than sixteen months and died March 5, 
1889, at the age of seventy. 

As for Dagron, he disappeared from the public eye for 
years at a time, and was forced to continue to operate his studio 
up to and into his eightieth year. It was not in the nature of 
either man to give up his normal habits and convictions during 
times of trouble, and in 1873 Dagron, in company with 
two other photographers, was granted a French patent on a 
microfilm viewer especially designed for the use of Army staff 
officers. This viewer, as well as a modification patented in 
1875, was offered as a solution to the problems of all officers 
in the field: the weight and bulk of a map portfolio; the 
difficulty of keeping a map flat in a high wind; the stickiness 
of contemporary lithographic inks; the reading of microcopies 
of secret orders and reports. 

The viewer was constructed to hold a large number of 
map microphotos for viewing by means of a microscope or for 
projection by lamplight on the wall of a tent or command post. 
Later a device for making enlarged paper prints from the mi- 
crocopies was added, and still later a camera lucida for sketch- 
ing those military detail drawings known as map overlays. The 
microcopies used were about 5 mm. in length, and had super- 
imposed on them a grid calibrated to the scale of the map, thus 
making it easy for an officer to estimate any distance with a 
high degree of accuracy. Later on, an entirely separate scale, 


in the form of concentric circles ruled on a ground glass plate 
which was placed behind the microfilm holder, was introduced; 
this could be used in conjunction with maps of varying scales, 
and eliminated the necessity of carrying a supply of grids 
calibrated to different scales. The viewing microscope was 
mounted on a hinge, and could be swung away from the micro- 
maps. In this position, through the substitution of an eyepiece 
for the objective lens, it readily became a telescope. Finally, 
in keeping with the Nineteenth Century love of gewgaws and 
gimcracks, the device was so laden with accessories that its 
inventors could and did claim: 

“Our case furthermore contains a compass, a wind rose, a sundial, a 
level, and consequently in its entirety forms a regular cabinet, so that 
it might properly be called ‘the staff-officer’s topographic cabinet’ ”’. 

Leaving no adjective unturned, the patent claims sug- 
gested that, in addition to its use in military service, the viewer 
could be applied to the reading of microfilm copies of ‘scholars’ 
charts, to instruction in general, and to commerce”. 

The work of Dancer and Dagron after 1852 was, as we 
have seen, predicated on the use of transparent bases for micro- 
film. There are a number of reasons for the use of transparen- 
cies, among which may be noted the greater range of contrast 
possible in the reproduction of light and shade, and the higher 
degree of resolution possible between closely spaced microscopic 

Microcopying with opaque-base materials did not, how- 
ever, die with the obsolescence of the daguerreotype. Micro- 
photographs on paper, on metal, and on other materials are 
preferred by a number of technicians at the present time, and 
the processes are recurrently the subject for enthusiastic books 
of “‘discovery”. The terms “microprint” or micro-opaque”’ are 
usually applied to these products, as distinguished from the 
transparent microfilms. 


One of the first published accounts of a workable method 
of making microprints was that of Georges Scamoni, photo- 
grapher for the Russian Imperial Office in St. Petersburg. His 
process was described in his “Handbuch der Heliographie”, 
which appeared in 1872, and consisted of building from a posi- 
tive collodion print a silver matrix in exaggerated relief. Cop- 
per-coating this matrix by electrolysis, he obtained a relief 
printing plate in metal. By adapting this method to small-size 
photocopies Scamoni was able to produce a reproduction of a 
page from the German illustrated magazine Uber Land und 
Meer which was but an inch in width. Once he had produced 
his metal printing plate it was but a further application of com- 
mercial printing technique to make a large edition, and the in- 
ventor envisaged his process as being applied to large scale pro- 
duction of microscopic books and (what was closer to his 
immediate interests) maps which could be concealed with the 
greatest of ease. Microprint, however, had not yet come to 
stay and, except for some secretive work done by Duncan 
Dallas, an engraver in London who experimented in producing 
lilliputian libraries by microprint, the process was largely 
ignored for several decades. 

In the meantime, Dancer and Dagron both had emerged 
briefly from obscurity. The former became locally famous 
for the invention of ““Dancer’s top”, a plaything painted with 
sectors of complementary colors which merged and blended as 
the top was spun; such tops have been commonplace now for 
generations of children. In 1876 Dancer read a paper before 
the Literary and Philosophical Society describing his 1838 expe- 
riments in the production of ozone. During the following year, 
when sixty-five years of age, he made an important contribu- 
tion to knowledge in a treatise on his observations of the transfer 
and rejuvenation of soil through the agency of earthworms. 
This paper laid the groundwork for Charles Darwin’s later 

Fic. 2. — René Prudent Patrice 
Dagron (1819-1900), French 
pioneer in microphotography. 
Granted first microfilm patent 
in 1859. Made practicable the 
Pigeon Post of 1870-1871. First 
to apply microfilm to large- 
scale reproduction of business 
records, 1871. 

Fic. 1—John Benjamin Dancer 
(1812-1887), English pioneer 
in microphotography. Made the 
firsts known microcopy of a 
document in 1839. 




a: [luminant. 

b, c: Condensers. 

d: Copy holder for full size negative. 

e, f, g: Camera and focusing mechanism. 

e: Lens and shutter mounted on stage 
of microscope. 

f: Microscope used for critical focus- 
ing of Lens E on focal plane G. 

g: Sensitive plate mounted on stage 
of microscope in focal plane of 

(From Photographic Journal, 1857) 


Of all the ships upon the blae, 

No ship emtained a better crew 

Than that of worthy Captaris Reec, 
Commanding of The Mante! peece. 

He was adored by all his men, 

For worthy Cartaix Krrce, BN, 
Thid all that lay within him to 
Promote the comfort of his crew. 

If ever they were dull or sad. { 
Their Captaia danced to them like mad, | 
Ow told, to make the time pass by, 
Droll legeads of his infancy. 

A feather bed had every maa, 

Warm slippers and bt-water can, 
Brown windser frow the captain's store, 
A valst, tea, to every four. 

Lid they with thirst ia sammer bara? 
Le, Reger, tura, 

And on all very sultry days | 
Cream ices handed roand oa trays | 

Then currast wine and ginger pops 
Peced hasdily oa all the * tops; ° 
And, sles, with ame-ement rife, 
A * Lostropa, or Wheel of Life.” 

Kew volecnes come acrons the eco 
Frew Moria Ncnie's |ibraree; 
The Tres and Saturdsy [Reci-w 
Bagwiled the letzare of crew. 

Kied bearted Cartais Rew e, KM, | 
Was quite devited tu bis men; ‘ 

Ie peat of fect. geod Cartais Resce, 
Beatifed The Mamtr lprece. 


| ‘ne sammer ere, at half-past ten, 

He «aid ‘addressing all his men): 
* Come. tell me, please, what I can do 
To please and yratuty my crew. 

“ By any reasonable plan 

11) make you happy if I can; 

My own convenience count as il; 
It is my duty, and [ will.” 

| Then up snd answered Witriaw Ler, 

‘The kindly captain's coxwain he, 
A nervoas, shy, low-spoken man) 
He cleared his throat and thas began: 

“Youhavea daughter, Cartats Reece, 

' Ten female cousins ard a niece, 

A ma, if what I'm told is true, 
Six sisters, and an aunt or two, 

“ Now, somehow, sir, it seems to me, 
More friendly-like we all should be, 
If you united of ‘em to 

Unmarried members of the crew. 

“Tf you'd ameliorate our life, 
Let each sclect from them a wife: 
And 38 for nervous ine, old pal, 

Give me your own enchanting gal!” 

Good Carcaur Rewer, that worthy nea 
Debated on his coxwain’s plant 

* 1 quite agree,” be said, °O Bann; 

Ut is my duty, and | will. 

My daughter. that enchanting gurl, 
Has jart been promiand tu an earl, 
And all my other familee, 

To peers of various degree. 

| 4 Tat what are dukes and vircoumts te 
¢ happiness of all mv erew ” 
The worl I gave you [11 full; 
It is my duty, and [ will. 

“ As you desire it shall befall, 
111 settle thousands on you all, 

| And I shall be, deapite my hoard, 
The only bachelor oa board.” 

The boatswain of The Waste! piece, 
He blashedand spoke toCarraix Keece 

"= L beg your honours leave,” he «aid, 

“If you woald wish to go and wed, 

“T have a widowed mother whe 
Would be the very thing for yoa— 
Mhe long has loved you from afar, 
She washes for you, Carta 

‘The captain saw the dame that day— 
Addressed her in his playful way— 
* And did it want a wedding ring ? 
It was a tempting ickle sing ! 

“ Well. well; the chapleia [ will arek, 
Well all be married this day week— 
At yonder charch apoo the ill; 

It bs my duty, and { will!” 

The sisters, cousins, acnte, and nices, 
And widowed ma of Cartais Kere , 
Attended there as they were bid ; 

It was their duty and they did 

Fic. 4. — ONE OF DANCER’S MICROFILMS, c. 1860. 

Enlargement made in 1950 by Dr. G. W. W. Stevens from an original 
Dancer microfilm dating from about 1860. The inset at the bottom right 
corner shows the actual size of the original film. 

(Courtesy of the Photographic Museum, Kodak, Ltd., Harrow, England) 

Fic. 5. — AMERICAN MICROFILM, c. 1855. 

Enlargement at about 90 diameters from early microphotograph on a glass 
microscope slide; 200 portraits of the Kings and Queens of England in a 
space roughly 1 x 1.5 mm. in size. The mother and child in the center are 
Queen Victoria and probably her last son, Prince Leopold, born in 1853. 
Microphotographer unknown; possibly the Langenheims of Philadelphia. 

(Courtesy of the American Museum of Photography) 

» Marecocopiquan 

anierefempigua—- 9 I De Mss bo 

Ab. Ree Gioia Rew) 

I aie RATE A? $e 
a Ceud. 


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ore prac ated Pace Fe 
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fee ere Dow a theed rishi mn Os etary 2 
é fe f pies ne? a? 

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hast “Gen aver shoul farnlle” 
eevescat Lod Yemen? , hn _F cnasarianeet ie av? § 
teceration Bhan matt Gil “Civader Pt 
oe Corcdlela tee Fo Gam Ave thier 006 HOF 

A ost Acree: Put trtue ge Gott s 
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rtenbee. Ge Leah Bea » Aelins mur Sono nm 
weatug, stentacta Ob be haw, Beymer 
fx to “Bek BOO heal nelera_- 

“ame Lee yy : 

Fic. 6 — THE WortLp’s First MICROFILM PATENT. 

¢ ‘ - a 
yiaes = * 
Froserts es 
i ee 4 # 
\ « 
‘ Z 
:: j 
~ Pp 
“ Sted a: ae ee ‘ 4 
il pe. ee Me agter~ 

a = 24 
pee Maes 

Fic. 6. — THE WorLp’s First MICROFILM PATENT. 

Manuscript copy of Dagron’s patent (France, No. 23,115), dated June 21, 
1859, on the application of microfilm to novelty items. 

(Courtesy of M. René Dagron If) 


November 12-18, 1870. 

Flight of NIEPCE from Paris to Vitry-le-Francois 
_——> —— 

Aube River 

Seing River 

Seine River 
10 miles 

oe ok XS Florenun 



Joigny \% Mont-St -Sulpice 


= aha 

() Auxerre 
55 4 Miles 
tof Nevers 


BRics 7, 


Marne River 


Bussy-Lettree %7 ¥ Fontaine 
\ ee 
' % Vesigneul 


Vitry Le Frangois 

, z 
x Sompuis 

Arcis ; 
Xa x Dampicrre 
i Nes N (Wine Cask Transport) 
1 Na \ 
1 ‘ ‘ 
‘ \ \ 
ie K \ 
' NaN 
' ant 
{ Na 
Hl \! 
' \% 
i rz 


[) Troyes 

X Vendeuvre 

Pariso» » oO Vitry-le 
Beauvoir o ne Frangois 
---~--G Auxerre 

Tours 977 


135 miles 


Fic. 8. — MICROFILM VIEWERS, 1864. 

Novelty items of ivory embodying Dagron microfilms. The letter opener 
carries a viewer with a perpetual calendar on microfilm. 

(Courtesy of M. René Dagron IT) 

‘stI@q 0} 
UOISsIUUsURI] JOJ Sura JO [rei suoasid v oi pan pur payor ApyYys supryorsw gy ay3 Surureiuod ‘[IMb asooy — °6 ‘OI 

sie Sa =a a 

Fe TT 
rs Q 

CrZgI aly dvaboyoyd IP SI[PI2AITY,, 
24) ‘doupupss1 fT, ulosf Suolvajsn]]i YIOg ) 

‘AJIATAP JOF sasessour ay1 Surqriosuvsy ore s[qvi 1 
SyIaID “plajos-osoqnq Aq pausisap sowoalosd duryy-ore oy JO suvout Aq suayrty ysaedsrp vorseq ay2 jo vordeloig — “OT “OI 

= Tehese doo IDEN PS Pk 
Pd k 4 NEHER cor ee Covert 

SEEM sd 

oth phwrsin NP ix 

reyes Peeenemarcto 

seen comma senate 

Fic. 11. — Contact print from an original Dagron plate. 

Because the film has not been stripped from the glass, the 

panel of printed dispatches can be seen attached to the side 
of a building. 

(Collection of the author) 


inca aheiented ed Wiese acanar escorted Mok ane Tans Sects hevcereee diana casa Min atic ete 2 A s “¢ . r . ‘ r 1 Sd] 
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* pavii he as 4s * pansy | pakng oe EM 32 | ene oT HIER oe Ke ° 
“ on wet ax hs: | Sa Ne Ha HME paging nd | Ae ahow ty halt ew Ty Wey oy 
‘ se ap a te St 3s Gk ate el if “eet PRIS ebay — 
tal om " ¥ Lesscish Mieiinnsccouesd Rocen Renpelllanal nenttoeebeuoteoedee 
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m yn! ene HERRERO Me HT mee “me | ae me Kk ACER, a Lk aR es 
5 eh Sqm 1 “1 S68 LN NN 5 “ON Se awe 
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SHED USGU Guest San auc we a0Vd — SMS S — STMVIVARUSRG XOV Maas ¥ Samgapa 


IN S3IHAVUDOLONd “3OIAUAS 40 13 S33AINd $3H03430 



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Fic. 13 — Dagron patent of 1873, showing his application of microfilm 
to military purposes. Films were mounted in the small windows on the 
periphery of the disc shown in Figs. 3 and 5. Hand viewing was accom- 
plished with the telescope-microscope shown in B, Fig. 2. Projection on a 
screen resulted when the disc was mounted in front of a magic lantern. 

(Brevet dinvention No. 100,735) 

Fic. 14. — Military map of the area around Sens, France. 
Made by Dagron for use in his Staff-Officers viewer. The 
small image at the bottom is the actual size of the original. 

(Courtesy, M. René Dagron II and 
AM. Lows Saint-Rat.) 






any i" te Qa we PHOTOGRAPHIEES 
pe " 

inuw Par DAGRON 

Seul photographe du Gouvernement pour toutes les dépéches 
officielles et privées sur pellicule 


emportant M. DAGRON ev ses CoLLABORATEURS 

Details sur la mission qu'ils avaient a remplir 

AO Saal 

RAS On OS CC 2; 
oe ony hin ee \ 

Fic. 15. — Title page of Dagron’s book on the Pigeon Post. (1871) 













Fic, 16. — Title page of the first book on microfilm techniques. Describes 
the Dagron process in detail. 


B. Chassis dans lequel se placent le 
micrometre servant 4a mettre le 
fover et ensuite Ja lame de verre 
préparce pour recevoir les epreuves 

C. Plaque de cuivre mobile sur l’axe 
D, et qui étant miseen placeretient 
la lame de verre. 

FE. Microscope régulateur servant a 

- mettre ie micrométre au foyer. 

Dans l'intéricur, et occupant une po- 
sition contraire 4 ce microscope, se 
trouve l’obyectif qui se meut entre 
deux coulisses. Cet objectif et le 
mnicroscope E avancent et reculent 
en tournant sur leur pas de vis. 

F. fessort dont la pression engage ia 
pointe de la vis G dans Jes huit i 

crans pratiqués surgl’épaisseur de 
la partie supérieure du chassis B. 

Hl. Bane en bois supportant I’en- 
semble des pieces ci-dessus. 

I. Vis fixant Je tube sur Je banc. 

JJ’. Diaphragme concenirant toute la 
Jumiére sur l’objectif. 

KL NM. Ouverture Jatérale pratiquée 
sur le tube, afin de pouvoir intro- 
duire la main dans Vintérieur pour 
recler l’objectif. 

O. Giissiére mouvant dans des 
coulisses et fermant louverture ci- 
dessus quand image est au fover. 

P. Arrét de la clissiére. 

QRS. Extremité opposée du tube sur 
Jaquelle on place 
verve dépoli, 


le cliché et le 

Placed on sale in 1864. 
(Parts described in text). 

"(punjpbug ‘o20o4avyT “pry ‘yppoy ‘umosnypy sydvahojoy ay} fo XKsozino7) 



rome ee as wa 
SR ee mente, 

a AcTwango awivaswogs WL eNO EMO 


LCR) auquiasoy 84 ‘STH Rad 


Ss SS 
Cu98 . 
2 Se 

ote x 


i ce 



Ballons tombs on pays cccupes, asrenauter et = 

Signes couventionnels. (SS EE ra 
= Sx : 
Ballons complivement chaps «Vemma: 
= vouléme © 
dipeoher conver, ji 


ou sont tombes 



' Etienne 

Ballons tambes an pags ocoupes, mars déipéches pardues = 
on partic on on tetalile. = 


— Ballons, acronautes et dépeches captures 
wee Fallons perdi an mer 

ainsi que les 



4 Celte croux indigue quien mu plarieurs les veyageure = 
ured ote Hessen plas on moins yrsévcmert = 

Grave par E Moriea,R Vame 37 Par 

indrywent Usretre de sdepare. 

Le chiffive 

Fic. 19.—Map showing the landing places of all balloons leaving Paris during the Siege. 


1871, p. 

1480, July 8, 




classic study, ‘““The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the 
Action of Earth Worms,” and was so acknowledged by the 
great biologist in a message to Dancer dated October 25, 1881 

The International Exposition in Paris in 1878 found 
Dagron, as might be expected, an exhibitor. Here, after having 
received so many “Honorable Mentions” at previous exposi- 
tions, he was awarded a silver medal. During August of the 
same year he took advantage of the offer by Henry Giffard to 
use the inventor’s monster captive balloon installed at the fair- 
grounds in an attempt to make a successful aerial photograph. 
That he did succeed is indicated by the presence of a print from 
his negative in the collections of the Conservatoire des Arts 
et Meétiers. 

Aerial photography long had been a goal in many coun- 
tries. Nadar had made several attempts between 1858 and 
1860, including an effort to produce militarily useful plates at 
Solferino during the Austro-Italian War. Across the Atlantic 
William Black had taken a successful view of the city of Boston 
in 1860, and had presented a print of the scene at the Court of 
St. James; this print now is in the American Museum of 
Photography. Two years after his Boston photography Black 
had succeeded in taking the first wartime aerial photographs, 
working from a captive balloon in the front ranks of the 
Union Army before Richmond. In 1863 an Italian named 
Negretti was unsuccessfully experimenting for King Victor 
Emmanuel II, and in 1868 Nadar was making trips aloft in 
equally unsuccessful attempts. 

In order to overcome the one great handicap to aerial 
photography (i.e., the low sensitivity of available photographic 
materials, requiring long exposure with consequent blurring 
of the picture through the movement of the balloon) , Dagron 
abandoned his old standby, the Taupenot dry plate for the 
more sensitive wet collodion plate. In the huge basket of the 


balloon (which had a capacity of thirty people) he set up a 
dark tent for sensitizing and developing his plates. A similar 
tent had been used by Nadar some years earlier. The balloon 
itself, larger than any other balloon at that time, was handled 
by the Tissandier brothers, successful aeronauts of long stand- 
ing. Gaston Tissandier, one of the brothers, was also a facile 
writer, and we have his description of the Dagron trials: 

“Unfortunately, M. Dagron was unable to complete a sufficiently large 
number of experiments for complete success; several times the movement 
of the balloon precluded good results. 

“However, in the month of August, during a period of calm weather 
and under a faultless sky, he was able to make a negative showing a view 
of Paris that was good enough to produce a print not entirely lacking in 

“M. Dagron installed in the nacelle of the captive balloon a very large 
camera, with plates 28 x 22 cm. (8% x 11”) in size. He worked with 

“The photographic print obtained, a copy of which we possess, shows 
the Pont Neuf in the foreground, the Saint-Michel bridge on the left 
and the Odéon on the right; in the middle distance we see the Panthéon and 
all the houses of the Latin Quarter. The background is indistinct, but still 
permits identifying a large part of Paris. 

“The photograph obtained by M. Dagron is interesting for its large 
size and for the view it represents.” 

Having completed his experiment in aerial photography 
Dagron devoted himself to the more prosaic aspects of his regu- 
lar business, and for nine years appeared in the public prints 
only through the advertisements he so constantly ran. One of 
these advertisements, appearing in 1879, shows that in addition 
to his microfilm specialties Dagron was devoting more atten- 
tion to other branches of commercial photography. For exam- 
ple, after listing his “penholders, needle cases, desk specialties, 
and fancy articles in bone, wood, ivory, shell, silver, etc.’’, 
he mentions his “portraits (life size) on cloth, hand colored 
in oils or in black and white’. 


For the ladies he recommends his cartes de visite (calling 
cards bearing the caller’s photograph; these were popular not 
only in France but in England and the United States during 
the Nineteenth Century), his miniatures, and his portraits on 
shell. For the gentlemen he pronounces himself equipped for 
the commercial copying of letters, designs, and objects d’art. 
For the collectors of souvenirs and the curious he placed on 
sale “authentic pigeon post dispatches from the siege of Paris’’. 
The same advertisement shows that the Dagron studios have 
moved from the rue Neuve des Petits Champs to the corner of 
boulevard Bonne-Nouvelle and rue Hauteville, several blocks 
to the east. 

In 1887, Dagron published an article on the use of collo- 
dio-albumen dry plates (the Taupenot process) in micropho- 
tography. Although Maddox had introduced the gelatin- 
bromide emulsion some years previous it was not ideally suited 
to the purposes of microfilm. The Dagron article was, there- 
fore, still timely, and was published in America in the Philadel- 
phia Photographer, and again in London in The Camera. 

During that same year (1887) the scientific and photo- 
graphic world was set a-twitter over a press release announcing 
that the Century Publishing Company had instituted an exten- 
sive photographic program to preserve copy “against loss or 
injury by fire or other wise, with the greatest convenience in 
storage and handling”. Putting its plan into operation the 
Century Company microfilmed over 25,000 sheets of galley 
proofs, complete with pencilled corrections and additions and 
deletions. The proofs, measuring roughly ten by twelve 
inches, were reduced to 134 x 2 inches in the microfilm- 
ing process. The press agent of the company was constrained 
to announce that the microfilm copies occupied less than a 
thirtieth of the space filled by the originals. This protection 
copy was stored in a special building, apart from the originals. 


The cost of this program to the publishing company 
turned out to be approximately $320. Impressed by the inex- 
pensiveness of the process, the company enthusiastically pro- 
claimed that it was for the first time thoroughly protected 
against loss, and for an insignificant sum. Looking back they 
shuddered at the risks they had experienced, when no insur- 
ance policy, large though the coverage might be, could be 
more than a token settlement in case of disaster. 

The tone of this statement, read through the eyes of a 
French nationalistic sentiment, seemed to imply that the Cen- 
tury Company laid claim to being the first to apply the tech- 
niques of microfilm to the normal channels of commerce. The 
Société francaise, while acknowledging the importance of the 
company’s venture into a new field, took pains to remind the 
world that René Dagron had microfilmed the records of a 
French insurance company over fifteen years before. 

The year 1889 came, and with it another World’s Fair 
in Paris. Dagron, as usual, exhibited, and again was awarded 
a silver medal. It is of passing interest to note that one of the 
other exhibitors was a Mme. Dagron, a widow; this lady 
photographer, who received a bronze award, is as yet uniden- 
tified. She was probably the wife of René Dagron, who was 
active in the management of his company. 

On March 7, 1893, the Dagron clan was augmented by 
the birth of a son to Dr. Georges Dagron; this boy, René 
(named, of course, after his grandfather) became in due time 
a well-known chemist and business man. He is the subject 
of a biography is Nath Imbert’s Dictionaire nationale des con- 
temporains, published in 1939. 

The last listing of the elder René Dagron as an active 
photographer appears in 1898, when he was in his eightieth 
year. At this time his studio still was at 34 boulevard Bonne- — 
Nouvelle, on the corner of rue Hauteville. Two years later, 


after a lingering and confining illness, death finally came to 
René Dagron during an attack of paralysis. Paris had been 
unbearably hot for several days, the temperature reaching 
ninety-five degrees on the twelfth of June; the discomfort 
to the old man was acute, and he visibly sank under its impact. 
On the following day, June 13, 1900, his heart gave out, and, 
while a chill, persistent rain beat against the south windows, 
he drew his last breath. 

In accordance with his last request the funeral was pri- 
vate, with only the family attending. It is only by a most 
exhaustive search that one today can find a dozen obituaries 
printed at the time of his death; most of these (including that 
in the Times of London) persisted in carrying forward certain 
misleading facts about his life. 

But the life work of René Dagron had not been spent in 
vain. His single-minded devotion to the popularization of 
microfilm already had borne fruit in commercial exploitation. 
In the years to come this modern method for the multiplica- 
tion of records was to find new fields of application far beyond 
the wildest dreams of the visionary Frenchman. 



“(We offer) one of the wonders of the age we live in, being a 
photograph of an entire page of the London Times, and measuring only 
14g x 1% inches. The words, THE TIMES are visible to the naked eye. 
The contents are made up of a variety of communications to friends in 
Parts. Price, 35 cents.” 

Anthony's Photographic Bulletin, April, 1871 

“It is well within the bounds of possibility that the scientific student 
of the future will do his book work with the aid of a small projection 
lantern and a library of small positives. 

Electrical World, 1896 

COMMERCIAL and governmental applications of microfilm be- 
gan to suggest themselves to a number of other people in the 
last years of the century. As early as 1873 a microfilm holding 
six million words in a square inch was to be seen in the U. S. 
Army Medical Museum. This was the same year the French 
army cooperated with Dagron in developing the micro-map 
system of the military staff-officer. 

By 1874, Vogel was complaining of indecent microfilms 
offered for sale. Yet, at the same time, Thomas Arthur Dillon 
of Dublin received a British patent for microfilming of public 


THE CLOSE.OP THE CENTURY: 1870 - 1900 95 

records. Under the Dillon system, all deeds would be recorded 
photographically, and ‘‘a microscopic copy of such memorial 
may also be then taken for the purpose of subsequent enlarge- 
ment whenever a facsimile of the original document may be 
required.” Dillon secured a second patent on his process in 
1879. Under the later patent, he described the pinning of the 
original records to a continuous fabric belt, and the placing 
of a series of dry plates in a repeating back behind the lens. 
A clockwork motor was set in operation, and the document 
and plates advanced together, stopped, the exposure was made, 
and the next document and plate advanced until a cycle of 
twenty documents had been recorded. 

In 1800, two inventors from San Francisco, Eusebius J. 
Molera and John C. Cebrian, disclosed the methods by which 
their camera and reader worked. The camera worked on much 
the same principle as Dillon’s, but the documents were arranged 
in several columns on the belt, so that the processed film bore 
a grid pattern of frames, much as in the case of the micro- 
sheet or microfiche film common in Europe today. The reader 
was much like a modern jacket or sheet microfilm reader with 
mechanical stage and translucent screen. Molera and Cebrian 
foresaw the possibility of re-designing or adapting the reader 
for use with microprint. Looking forward to the day of uni- 
versal acceptance of microfilm, the Californians claimed that 
their equipment and process provided the means of “collecting, 
keeping, using, and transmitting in a condensed and imperish- 
able manner all kinds of copies or records. . . (which) may 
be rendered universally accessible by reason of their cheap- 
ness, their small size and light weight, their imperishable 
character, and the facility with which they may be multi- 

In 1890, a resident of Sleepy Eye Lake, Minnesota, applied 
for a patent on a multiplying-back dry plate camera which 


was used for producing frames the size of a postage stamp. 
The inventor, Soren C. Madsen, claimed its use primarily for 
the copying of photographs. 

In 1896, Reginald A. Fessenden, an early American radio 
engineer, designed a camera for his own use in collating the 
many references from scientific journals. His reduction ratio 
was in the order of 10 diameters and the microfilms (still 
attached to glass plates) were filed in envelopes glued to the 
back of his 3x5” reference cards bearing title, contents, and 
annotations. Reading was done with a small magnifying glass. 

During the closing years of the century, four Chicagoans 
were working on automatic cameras for the recording of 
checks: their work was completed between 1899 and 1901, 
and filed in two separate applications with the U. S. Patent 
Office. These men (Thomas Jansen, William H. Gardiner, 
Edmund Kandler, and Achilles de Khotinsky), used cellulose 
film passing over a friction roller pulldown activated by a 
solenoid. Khotinsky added the novel feature of having a sec- 
ond soleniod rotate the copyholder to present first the face 
of the check, then the endorsment, to the lens. 

Many other individuals were undoubtedly using the pro- 
cess for commercial and research projects. The introduction 
in June 1888 of the Number 1 Kodak, with its internationally 
famous slogan, ‘““You push the button — we do the rest”, 
brought photography into the hands of the amateurs. As 
soon as the first successful celluloid films coated with gelatin- 
bromide emulsions were placed on sale in 1889, the advanced 
amateurs finally had an easily handled material which could 
be processed in their own darkrooms. The standardization in 
1889 by Thomas Edison on film 35 mm. (one and three-eighths 
inches) wide in long ribbon form for motion picture use 
set the pattern for the development of compact, high quality 
cameras for microfilming. 


To paraphrase the remarks of Shadbolt in the 1850’s, it 
was only natural that a man tired of laborious copying of data 
— with all the possibilities of error in that copying — would 
turn to his camera to do the job rapidly, inexpensively, and 
accurately. From the experiments of an individual would arise 
commercial application. In 1900, for example, George Biedler, 
a clerk in an Oklahoma City abstract office, invented the pho- 
tocopy machine for use in his own office; in 1904 he formed 
the Rectigraph Company (now The Haloid Company) to 
market his camera, which became the first ‘“‘stat-type” 

All of the developments in microfilm trace their ancestry 
directly back to the efforts of two men: John Benjamin Dancer, 
who pioneered the field in experimentation and tentative moves 
toward commercialization; and René Prudent Patrice Dagron, 
who placed the medium on a firm commercial basis. 

Dancer was born as news arrived that the armies of Napo- 
leon Bonaparte had captured Moscow; Dagron died the very 
day the city fathers of Newport, Rhode Island, voted to curb 
the speed-mad Vanderbilts and Belmonts by setting a speed 
limit of 6 miles per hour on that new plaything of the rich, 
the automobile. Both men lived through the golden age of 
photography. Theirs was the thrill of hearing the birth of the 
infant science, of seeing it develop into one of the most influ- 
ential of all media of communication. 

In the 88-year span of their overlapping lifetimes they 
saw novel applications by the score open up for the new tech- 
nology; they, who laid the foundations for one of the most 
widespread of these applications, microfilm, saw photography 
extended into the highly specialized branches of mankind’s 
varied sciences and arts. They saw the Photographic Society 
of London founded in 1853, the Société francaise de pho- 
tographie in 1854. They saw the beginnings of military pho- 


tography in the Crimean photographs of the Englishman 
Fenton in 1855, and in the Union Army’s pictures by the 
American Brady in the Sixties. They were active photographers 
when Black photographed Boston from a balloon in 1860 and 
when Buchanan signed the first U. S. photographic copyright 
law in 1861. Dancer was 52 and Dagron 45 when Alfred 
Stieglitz was born in Hoboken; and it was just five years later 
that Ducos du Hauron published his classic “Les couleurs en 
photographie” in 1869. 

In 1871 William Henry Jackson was photographing the 
unbelievable Yellowstone for a skeptical Congress; in 1876 
Jules Janssen designed and built the first motion picture 
camera; and in 1880 photography was first successfully applied 
to newspaper reproduction through the invention of the hali- 
tone screen. 

Between the deaths of Dancer and Dagron, Edward 
Anthony, America’s first government photographer, passed 
from the scene; Bertillon published his famous theory on 
photographic identification and classification, long and widely 
used in criminology; and Réntgen discovered the X-rays 
through photography. 

This, then, was the world of Dancer and Dagron. 

THE CLOSE OF THE CENTURY: 1870 - 1900 99 


IN WRITING a history such as this, the author must decide 
where to place supporting and supplementary material im- 
portant to a full understanding of the personalities, means ot 
achievement, and technical background of the men who made 
important contributions to the development of the industry. 
Several courses are open: the use of extensive parenthetical 
digressions within the body of the text; the incorporation of 
such data in footnotes at the bottom of each page; the gather- 
ing of such footnotes at the end of each chapter; the incor- 
poration of all material in appendices or chapter groupings at 

the end of the book. 

I have chosen the latter course for several obvious rea- 
sons. First, the incorporation of extensive descriptions of 
technical processes in the story would have seriously broken 
into the flow of narrative. Second, the use of footnotes would 
have converted what should be a book of introduction to the 
heritage of modern microfilming practice into a textbook, and 
also interrupted the smooth continuity of reading. Third, the 
use of full chapters would permit the full use of available space 
to reproduce supplementary matter in its complete form, to be 
read in full or scanned quickly at the reader’s choice; any 
later reference to the documents would also be far easier and 
involve less searching time. 

Therefore, the following chapters were written with this 
purpose in mind. A tabular chronology of events is presented 
in Chapter 10. A note on the original sources from which the 
chronology and the text were drawn appears as Chapter 11. Be- 
cause the art of ballooning no longer forms a part of the 
experience of visitors to the county fairs as it did a generation 


or two ago, a rather detailed account of how balloons were 
made and used before man invented the airplane is given in 
Chapter 15; this account also presents the first details in 
English of the thrilling and dangerous experiences of those 159 
intrepid men who travelled over enemy lines on the capricious 
winter winds some 88 years ago. Chapter 16 gives a clearer 
understanding of the role the pigeons played in carrying the 
V-mail messages of 1870-71; such information undoubtedly 
will be considered elementary and old-hat by those who 
engage in modern pigeon racing, but I doubt that many of the 
readers of this history engage in such sport. Finally, I believe 
that the contents of Chapter 17 will be of considerable interest 
insofar as their backgrounds outside the direct connection with 
microfilm will help show why several of the minor characters 
of our story exerted the influences they did on a specific phase 
of that story. 

The translations in full of the two pamphlets published 
in Chapters 13 and 14 are the first to tell in modern English 
the story of the world’s first commercial microfilm practices 
and his experiences during the Siege of Paris in Dagron’s own 
story. My goal has not been a scholarly or literary transla- 
tion, but rather one which preserves the flavor and modern 
meaning of Dagron’s exposition and expression. As the eminent 
English translator of Chinese poetry, Arthur Waley, put it so 
aptly in an article in the Atlantic Monthly for November 1958, 
“What matters is that a translator should be excited by the 
work he translates, should be haunted day and night by the feel- 
ing he mast put it into his own language... You may question 
at this point whether it is right to call him (Lin Shu) a trans- 
lator at all. But .. it would be misleading, I think, to use such 
terms as ‘paraphrase’ or ‘adaptation’. In any case, he was the 
transmitter, .. . of European fiction to China”. 

This, then, has been my own purpose: to make available 

THE CLOSE OF THE CENTURY: 1870 - 1900 101 

to those interested the story of these exciting events, where 
practicable in the flavor of the pioneers themselves or their 
contemporaries, bolstered by supplemental notes of my own 
to help the reader enter into the very atmosphere of the Nine- 
teenh Century. 





1800 - 1900 

June 22: Wedgwood and Davy publish the results of their expe- 
riments, which succeeded in producing (impermanent) 

October 8: John Benjamin Dancer born in London. 

January 8: Herschel announces photographic fixing agent (so- 
dium thiosulphate, or “hypo”. ) 

March 17: René Prudent Patrice Dagron born in Beauvoir, Sarthe, 

1826-1827: Niepce produces the world’s first camera photograph from 




December 14: Niepce and Daguerre sign contract of partnership. 

July 5: Niepce dies. 

February: Fox-Talbot makes first permanent paper contact prints 
from negatives. 

January 7: Arago announces to French Academy of Sciences that 
Daguerre has perfected a practicable method of photo- 

March 14: Herschel announces that hypo will fix out silver 
images and coins the word “Photography”. 

August 4: Breyer shows the first reflex-copied photographs. 

August 19: Arago gives details of the Daguerre process (now 
named the daguerreotype) before an excited Academy 
of Sciences, after the French Government has granted 










Daguerre and the son of Niepce lifetime pensions for 
making the process available to all persons without 

August 31: Publication of the first edition of the Manual of the 
daguerreotype process. 

Autumn: Dancer makes first microphotograph on a daguerreo- 
type plate at 160x reduction. 

April 19: Dancer elected a member of Manchester Literary and 
Philosophical Society. 

——: World’s first photographic salon opens in Paris. 

——: Whipple of Boston makes microphotographs on daguerreo- 

March: Scott-Archer publishes “On the Use of Collodion in 
Photography” in The Chemist. 

July 12: Daguerre dies in Paris. 

February: Dancer makes collodion microfilms. 

March 3: Rosling shows microfilm of a newspaper before the 
Photographic Society of London. 

April 21: Dancer publishes his “On a Portable Camera . . . for 
the Collodion Process” in Journal of the Photographic 
Society, Vol. I, No. 3. 

May: Dancer makes microfilms of Sturgeon inscription. 

May 21 et seq. Notes and Queries publishes numerous suggestions 
for library microfilming. 

July 9: Athenaeum publishes letter on Herchel’s “old idea” for 
microfilming reference materials. 

Autumn: Sidebotham produces microfilms by Dancer's instruc- 

January 28: Notes and Queries describes Diamond’s microfilm of 
Fifteenth Century manuscript. 

Early March: Shadbolt makes microfilms 7g mm. in size. 

March 29: Shadbolt puts first consignment of 24 microfilms out 
for sale. 

July 12: George Eastman born in Waterville, N.Y. 

—: Jackson makes microfilms according to Shadbolt’s instruc- 


August 24: Scott-Archer patents the method of stripping collo- 
dion pellicles from glass plate support after the image 
is processed. 

September: Taupenot publishes details of the collodio-albumen 
process, the first practical dry collodion plate. This is 
the process Dagron used. 

1856: Spring: Dancer shows his novelty microfilms to Sir David 
September 5: Dancer receives British Patent No. 2064 on twin 
lens stereo camera. 
April 20: Dancer receives French Patent No. 18,400 for a quick- 
change plate magazine for his stereo camera. 

1856-57: Winter: Brewster shows Dancer’s microfilms in Italy and 
France. Suggests their use in jewelry and trinkets, and 
for espionage purposes. 

1857: September: Microfilms by Dancer and Bertsch exhibited before 
the British Association for the Advancement of 
October: Brewster described at length Dancer’s microfilms in the 
8th Edition, Encyclopaedia Britannica. 
November 5: Shadbolt publishes his claim to invention of micro- 
filming, based on his 1854 work. 
1858: ——: First edition of Sutton’s “Dictionary of Photography” depre- 
cates microfilming “as somewhat trifling and childish”. 
(Second edition, in 1867, carries a lengthy description 
of how to do it, however). 
1859: April 6: Sidebotham starts Dancer-Shadbolt controversy over 
priority of microfilm experiments. 
May 15: Shadbolt publicly acknowledges Dancer’s priority. 
May 25: Microfilm exhibited in Terre Haute, Indiana. 
June 21: Dagron receives world’s first microfilm patent (French 
Patent No. 23,115) for “a novelty microscope giving 
an illusion of depth”. 
——: Microfilms exhibited at the Paris Photographic Salon were 
“the marvels of the Exposition”. 
London experimenters were using mica as a film base. 
March 8: Dagron receives additional coverage for his French 
Patent No. 23,115). 





March 28: Dagron receives British Patent No. 801 (same as 
French Patent No. 23,115). 

June 26: Dagron receives second addition to his French Patent 
No. 23,115. 

—: Disderi establishes first Photographic Section in the 

French Army. 

March 3: President Buchanan signs the first U. S. photographic 

copyright law. 

There are 10,000 photographers in the British Isles. 

April 4: Martinache receives French Patent No. 49,123 on hand 

May 7: Martinache receives Addition to French Patent No. 49,123. 

Summer: Dagron sues Martinache for infringement on his patent. 

May 8: Héricé receives French Patent No. 49,624 on hand 

June 8: Heéricé receives addition to French Patent No. 49,524. 

July 18: Berthier (Dagron’s employee) receives French Patent 
No. 50,469 on hand viewers. 

July 23: Dagron buys Martinache’s French Patent No. 49,123. 

July 29: Cuvillier receives French Patent No. 50,625 on hand 

August 13: Dagron receives U. S. Patent No. 33,031 (Same as 
French Patent No. 23,115). 

Summer: Dagron files suit for infringement against 15 opti- 
cians of Paris. 

September 2: Cuvillier receives French Patent No. 51,017 on 
hand viewer. 

September 19: Dagron receives British Patent No. 2347 on im- 
proved hand viewers. 

October 18: Dagron’s business described in detail in Bulletin, 
Société francaise de photographie. 

January 28: Dagron loses lawsuit to Paris opticians. 

February 20: Héricé receives Second Addition to French Patent 
No. 49,264. 

Summer: Dagron exhibits microfilms at the London World's 
Fair; receives Honorable Mention; presents a set to 
Queen Victoria. 

——: Dagron publishes his “Cylindres photo-microscopiques 









montés et non-montés sur bijoux, brevetés en France 
et a l’étranger”. Paris, octavo, 36. 

October 12: Col. Pike publishes his experiments with the Dagron 
process in America. 

January: Brewster addresses the Photographic Society of Scotland 
on the Dagron process. 

——: Dagron publishes his “Traité de Photographie Microsco- 
pique”. Paris, 18-Mo., 36p. illustrated. Gives details 
of his process and price list of his equipment and sup- 
plies. This is the world’s first book on microfilming 

— John H. Morrow opens first American commercial micro- 
film laboratory. 

January: Emperor Napoleon III authorizes Dagron to advertise 
himself as Supplier of Photographs to the Emperor. 

——: German publication, Photographisches Archiv, complains of 
obscene microfilms flooding the market. 

——: Simpson proposes publication of books on microfilm. 

——: Dallas publishes a microprint (?) bible in England. 

——: Sutton’s “Dictionary of Photography” (Second edition) car- 
ries a lengthy description of microfilm processes. 

March 13: Anguier and Langlois receive French Patent No. 77,132 
for animated microfilms. 

Summer: Dagron wins Honorable Mention at Paris World’s Fair. 

June 5: Anguier announces his animated microfilms. 

June 15: John W. Hyatt receives U. S. Patent No. 88,634 for pro- 
duction of nitrocellulose (celluloid), not necessarily in 
the form of film. 

July 19: Emperor Napoleon III declares war on Prussia. 

September 1: Napoleon surrenders at Sedan with 100,000 men 
of the French Army. 

September 4: Léon Gambetta proclaims the end of the Empire 
and birth of the Third French Republic. 

September 7: New government decides to defend Paris against 
the Prussians. 

September 12: Steenackers arrives in Tours by land with first 
group of pigeons. Sets up communication systems. 

September 18: Gates in city wall of Paris closed. 



September 19: Prussians surround Paris and cut last communica- 
tion with Unoccupied France. 

September 23: First mail balloon leaves Paris. 

September 25: First pigeons return to Paris (carried out by sec- 
ond balloon). 

October 7: Léon Gambetta, Minister of War and Interior, leaves 
Paris on the fifth balloon. Arrived in Tours to estab- 
lish the provincial Delegation of National Defense. 

November 10: Central government in Paris signs contract with 
Dagron and Fernique. 

November 12: Dagron and Fernique leave Paris by Balloon No. 
27, the Niepce. 

November 21: Dagron arrives in Tours. 

November 29: Delegation finally authorizes Dagron to replace 
the microprint service of Blaise with his own microfilm 

December 5: Dagron makes first official microfilm dispatches. 

December 11-12: Delegation, with Dagron and Fernique (but not 
their staff) hurriedly move from Tours to Bordeaux. 

December 24: Goose for Christmas dinner was selling for $25.00 
in Paris, chicken for $7.00. 

December 31: Dagron and Fernique sign renegotiated contract 
with the Delegation. 

January 28: Paris and Free France capitulate: Dagron has deli- 
vered 115,000 messages to Paris by pigeon. 

March 1: First of 30,000 Prussian occupation troops enter Paris. 

March 2: Treaty between Prussians and French signed at Bordeaux. 

March 3: Prussians leave Paris in accord with terms of the treaty. 
Communards again try to take over. 

March 18: French Army troops refuse to fire on rebels, and gov- 
ernment flees to Versailles. 

March 26: Election of Communal Assembly of 106 members. 

April: Dagron proposes microfilming records in the Finance Min- 

April: Pigeon post microfilms offered for sale in U.S.A. 

May 21-29: Government re-enters Paris. Fighting in streets. Fin- 
ance Ministry burned, with loss of “every record and 
scrap of paper”. 


May 29: Communards surrender to the Government. 
Spring: Dagron microfilms records of an insurance company. 
Spring: Fleury-Hermagis proposes microfilming all manuscripts 
in the Bibliothéque Nationale. 
Summer: Dagron reproduces 130,400 letters on a microfilm 
frame 0.5 mm. square. 
Summer: Dagron publishes his “La Poste par pigeons voyageurs”. 
December 12: A paper, “On the Preparation of Micro-Photo- 
graphic Despatches on Film by M. Dagron’s Process” 
read before the Royal Photographic Society in London. 
——: Maddox introduces the gelatin-bromide dry plate. 
1872: ——: Publication of Scamoni’s “Handbuch der Heliographie” 
(microprint ). 
1873: July 16: Dallemagne, Triboulet and Dagron file for U. S. Patent 
No. 146,052 on hand viewers. 
July 26: Dallemagne, Triboulet and Dagron receive French Patent 
No. 100,735 on military microfilm map reader. 
December 30: Dallemagne, Triboulet and Dagron receive U. S. 
Patent No. 146,052 on hand viewers. 
—: Vogel discovers dye sensitization of film, leading to ortho- 
chromatic and panchromatic emulsions. 
1874: June 4: Dillon receives British Patent No. 1935 on a microfilming 
process for the recording of deeds. 
—: Liverpool Dry Plate Company introduces the first successful 
dry plates. 
1875: February 11: Dallemagne, Triboulet and Dagron receive French 
Patent No. 106,767 on an improved version of their 
1873 map reader. 
July 27: Dallemagne, Triboulet and Dagron receive an Addition 
to their French Patent No. 106,767. 
1876: Summer: Many microfilms in trinkets shown at Centennial Expo- 
sition in Philadelphia. 
1878: Summer: Dagron receives Silver Medal at Paris World’s Fair. 
1879: March 18: Dillon receives British Patent No. 1073 on method 
for microfilming deeds. 

1880: January 27: Molera and Cebrian file for U. S. Patents No. 230,322 
and 230,324 on camera and reader. 






July 20: Molera and Cebrian receive U. S. Patents No. 230,322 
and 230,334. 

March 20: Molera and Cebrian receive British Patents Nos. 
1216 and 1217 on camera and reader. 

——: New York Daily Graphic publishes first photographic half- 

November: George Eastman establishes The Eastman Dry Plate 

—: George Eastman applies for and receives U. S. Patent No. 
306,594 on coating rolls of paper with a stripping film 

—: Dancer dictates part of his autobiography to a grand- 

March 26: Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company begins pro- 
duction of roll paper carrying a stripping film emulsion. 

——: Anthony's Photographic Bulletin carries first description of 
the photographic properties of diazo compounds. 

—— Abbé and Schott produce first modern optical glass. 

March 4: Bulletin, Société francaise de photographie announces 
the plan of Cosmos Publishers to microfilm all manu- 
scripts in their custody for fire protection. 

March: Journal of the Franklin Society in Philadelphia announces 
that The Century Company, publishers of encyclopae- 
dias, has microfilmed over 25,000 page proofs on frames 
134 x 2” in size for protection against loss and “the 
greatest convenience in storage and handling”. 

May 2: Rev. Hannibal Goodwin applies for patent on nitrocellu- 
lose film as a base for photographic emulsions, subject 
of extended litigation between the Eastman and Ansco 

Summer: Dagron publishes a lengthy description of his method of 
processing microfilm in The Philadelphia Photographer 
and The Camera. 

November 24: John Benjamin Dancer dies in Manchester at 
age of 75. 

June: Eastman announces the Number 1 Kodak, using factory- 
loaded and processed paper stripping film, and establishes 










the history-making slogan “You press the button — we 
do the rest”. 
September 4: Eastman registers the coined word “Kodak” as a 
Dagron receives Silver Medal at Paris World’s Fair. 
August 19: The daguerreotype process is fifty years old. 
Summer: Eastman begins manufacture of nitrocellulose film. 
September 2: Thomas Edison establishes 35 mm. as the first 
standard film gauge for nitrocellulose-film, and buys his 
first motion picture film from the Eastman Company. 
December 10: Harry Reichenbach of the Eastman Company 
receives U. S. Patent No. 417,202 on nitrocellulose film 
base coated with an emulsion. 
——: Arthur Green patents the first direct positive diazo process. 
Madsen applies for U. S. Patent No. 448,447 on a microfilm 
——: Eastman announces daylight-loading roll film for amateur 
March 17: Madsen receives U. S. Patent No. 448,447 on a micro- 
film camera. 
August 22: Fessenden describes his microfilming of research ma- 
terials in Electrical World. 
September 13: Rev. Hannibal Goodwin receives (posthumously ) 
U. S. Patent No. 610,861 on nitrocellulose film base. 
June 12: Thomas Jansen, William H. Gardiner, and Edmund 
Kandler apply for U. S. Patent No. 655,977 on a check 
microfilming camera. 

George C. Biedler invents Rectigraph Photocopy Machine. 
August 14: Jansen, Gardiner and Kandler receive U. S. Patent 
No. 655,977 on a check microfilming camera. 

June 13. René Prudent Patrice Dagron dies in Paris at age of 81. 



EXHAUSTIVE research in several dozen libraries (but prim- 
arily in the New York Public Library and the Library of Con- 
gress), plus extensive correspondence with persons (including 
Dagron’s grandson) both here and abroad during the years 
1934-1959, during which the author garnered some 400 refer- 
ences to the work of Nineteenth Century microfilm personali- 
ties by scanning an estimated 30,000 volumes, produced the 
facts set forth in this book. For example, he examined each 
issue still existing of the many photographic and scientific 
journals published in France, England, Germany and the 
United States between 1850 and 1900. In consulting over 96 
different encyclopaedias and biographical dictionaries pub- 
lished over the years, from Norway to Portugal, from Greece 
to Philadelphia, he found but a few pertinent items. 

Little by little, the story of the early days of microfilming 
techniques and application took form. Dancer was the subject 
of a few short British memorials of appreciation published 
while his son was still alive at 81; these articles provided the 
necessary background material on his family, his personality, 
his activities outside the realm of microphotography. The 
British journals of 1857-1859 provided the story of his work 



in microphotography, due largely to the vigorous championing 
of his cause by his friend, Joseph Sidebotham. A thorough 
evaluation of the work of Dancer and others during the period 
1839-1869 was published in my article “Earliest Experiments 
in Microphotography” in 1950, and documented there with 43 
references to the journals of that period. 

The story of Dagron and the pigeon postal service of 
1870-71 was and is better known, although most modern ref- 
erences to it show major errors of fact. To my knowledge, no 
English translation of Dagron’s own booklet on that service has 
ever before been made in a form easily understood by modern 
microfilm practitioners. Such a translation appears in Chapter 
14. Material from the published works of Fernique and Steen- 
ackers, two of the other principals in the pigeon service and 
the associated political troubles, appears in Chapter 7. An 
analysis of the use of microfilm during this period was pub- 
lished in my article “René Dagron and the Siege of Paris” in 
1950, and documented there with 52 references to the journals, 
newspapers, and books of the 1870’s. Even the French cata- 
logs for airmail stamp collectors were productive of new data. 

Getting the full story of the work of the Dagron labora- 
tory and other microfilm workers in the period 1859-1900 
meant searching the patent files of France, England, and the 
United States; examining almost page by page such rich lodes as 
fifty years’ issues of the Bulletin of the French Photographic 
Society; ferretting out the remains of long extinct technical 
journals such as Humphrey's Journal Devoted to the Daguer- 
reian and Photogenic Arts, checking file after crumbling file 
of newspapers and news magazines dating from 50 to 120 years 
back. The description of Dagron’s birthplace and the every 
day life of his boyhood community is largely taken from a 
statistical gazetteer of the Department of Sarthe published in 
1829, when Dagron was 10 years old. 


Thus, to include a complete bibliography in the letter- 
press edition of this book would be voluminous and devoid of 
any value to the casual reader. A full list of sources used to 
produce this book is given in the microformat editions, how- 
ever, for the use of later research workers; such editions in film 
and paper will be found in major research libraries of the coun- 

The following fourteen selected references may be used for 
those who may wish to examine the primary source records for 
the stories of Dancer’s experiments leading to the firm estab- 
lishment of the microphotographic process, and the story of 
Dagron’s work during the Siege of Paris: 


1. Luther, Frederic: “The Earliest Experiments in Microphotography”. 
ISIS: Journal of the History of Science Society, XLI, Parts 3-4, 
Numbers 125-126 (December, 1950), pp. 277-281. 

This article was reprinted in American Documentation, Il, 3 (August 
1951) pp. 167-170. In both journals, the full bibliography of 48 
entries is given. 

2. Shadbolt, George: “On the Mode of Producing Extremely Minute 
Photographs for Miscroscopic Examination”. 
Liverpool and Manchester Photographic Journal, NS. No. 22 
(15 Nov. 1857) pp. 244-246. 

3. Sidebotham, Joseph: “On Micro-Photography”. 
The Photographic Journal, V1, 92 (15 April 1859), p. 91. 

4. (Editorial by Shadbolt, editor): “Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat”. 
The Photographic Journal, VI, 93 (1 May 1859), pp. 104-105. 

5. (Editorial by Shadbolt, editor): “Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat”. 
The Photographic Journal, V1, 94 (15 May 1859), p. 118. 

These five articles established the priority of Dancer’s 
claim to being the first microphotographer. 
6. Garnett, Henry: “John Benjamin Dancer — a Pioneer Microscopist 

and Inventor”. 
English and Amateur Mechanics, 1, 25 and 26 (April 1927) pp. 
430, 446. 


7. Stirling, J. F.: “A Forgotten Genius: John Benjamin Dancer, Micro- 
scopist, Optician and Instrument Maker”. 
Watson and Sons, Ltd. Microscope Record, 
No. 44 (May, 1938), pp. 3-6 
No. 45 (Oct. 1938), pp. 12-16 
No. 46 (Jan. 1939), pp. 8-10 
No. 47 (May, 1939) pp. 12-14 
8. Garnett, Henry: “John Benjamin Dancer; Instrument Maker and 
Inventor”. Manchester Literary and Philosophical Memoirs and Pro- 
ceedings. LXII (1928-1929). Memoir No. 2 , pp. 7-20. 
These three articles provide an excellent summary of Dancer’s life and 


1. Luther, Frederic: “René Dagron and the Siege of Paris.” 
American Documentation, \, 4 (October 1950), pp. 196-206. 
Carries the full bibliography of 52 entries. 

2. Dagron, M.: “Cylindres montés et non montés sur bijoux brevetés 
en France at 4 l’étranger”. Paris, 1862, 36 p. 

3. Dagron, M.: “Traité de photographie microscopique”. Paris, 1864 
36 p. 
Item 3 gives the details of Dagron’s commercial process and ap- 
pears in this book as Chapter 13. No copy of Item 2 is known to 
exist in the United States. 

4. Dagron, M: “La Poste par pigeons voyageurs”. Paris, n.d. 24 p. 
This booklet gives Dagron’s own account of the trip by balloon 
and his work during the Siege of Paris. Several printings are 
extant, each showing minor variations in the text. A translation 
of one of the versions appears in this book as Chapter 14. 

5. Fernique, Albert: “Un Voyage en ballon pendant le siége de 
Paris”. Saint Quentin, 1871, 18 p. 

An account, supplementing Dagron’s “La Poste”, by Dagron’s 
associate in his troubles with the Delegation. 

6. Steenackers, Francois Frédéric: “Les Télégraphes et les postes 
pendant la guerre de 1870-1871; fragments de memoires histo- 
riques”. Paris, 1883, 600 p. The account of the pigeon postal 
service from the viewpoint of the Director General of Tele- 
graphic and Postal Services for the Delegation. 



1. The daguerreotype: Dancer’s first process (1839-1852). 

a. A metal plate, of silver-coated copper of the size of the desired 
photograph, is sensitized to light by fuming with the vapors of 

b. The exposure, of a half-hour duration under strong sunlight at first, 
later was reduced to a matter of a few minutes. 

c. The exposed plate is then developed to a visible, direct positive 
image by subjecting the surface of the plate to the vapors given off 
by a pool of mercury. 

d. The image is fixed out by immersion in a bath of potassium cya- 
nide or of hypo, and the image toned in a gold thiosulfate bath. 

e. The daguerreotype is a positive-image opaque image on metal, 
viewed by reflected light. It is a fine-grained image, but of weak 

2. The Scott-Archer Process: Wet Collodion: Dancer’s later 
medium (1852). 

a. Collodion-nitrate (guncotton), dissolved in ether (or alcohol) and 

a solution of bromide and potassium iodide is flow-coated on a 

glass plate, and allowed to dry to “just the right degree of sticki- 

b. The plate is next sensitized by immersing it for 3 to 5 minutes in: 
Silver nitrate 24 grams 
Potassium Iodide 0.1 gram 
Water to make 5301. 


c. It next is drained, placed in the plate holder, exposed in the camera, 
and developed while still wet from the sensitizing bath. “The 
time between flowing the collodion and developing should not 
exceed eight or ten minutes”. 

d. The developer used may be one of several variants. For contrast, 
the following formula may be used: 

Iron Sulfate 23 grams 
Acetic acid, glacial 201G.c 
Lump sugar 11.5 grams 
Methyl Alcohol Ji DCs 
Water to make S00 -C ce: 
Develop in tray by inspection, with constant agitation. 
Fic in: 
Potassium cyanide 13.5 grams 
Water to make 500 c.c. 

3. The Taupenot-Dagron Process (1855-1871). 

a. A modification of the Scott-Archer process. Glass plates are coated 
with collodion, dried, and stored before sensitization. 

b. “J. M. Taupenot, however, seems to have been the first to use a 
dry-plate process that was really workable. His original plan was 
to coat a plate with collodion, sensitize it in the ordinary manner, 
wash it, cause a solution of albumen to flow over the surface, dry 
it, dip it in a bath of silver nitrate acidified with acetic acid, 
and wash and dry it again. The plate was then in a condition to 
be exposed, and was to be developed with pyrogallic acid and silver. 
In this method we have a double manipulation, which is long in 
execution, though perfectly effective”. 

c. It is sensitized in a silver nitrate solution, washed, and dried and can 
be kept for several weeks before exposure. For fineness of detail, 
the Taupenot process is superior to the gelatin-emulsion films in 
commercial microfilm use today. Exposure, however, is about six 
times Jonger than with wet collodion. 

d. Dagron exposed his microfilms in the camera as conventional glass 
plates. Several methods were used, of which two are given here: 

1. (1864: Production of microfilm novelties): A glass plate 
negative of conventional size was made and placed in a copy- 
holder of the microfilm camera. At the other end of the 
camera a multiplying back held a sensitive plate roughly one 


by three inches in size behind a one-inch lens producing an 
image covering one-eighth of the tiny plate. The Jens was 
moved to a new position on the plate for each one- to three- 
second exposure to sky light. The exposed plate was deve- 
loped in pyrogallol, and the eight images cut apart and 
cemented to Stanhope magnifiers. Dagron priced this camera 
to the trade at 110 francs, the Stanhopes at 8 francs per gross, 
and a cup of Canada balsam for cementing the glass micrc- 
positives to the Stanhopes at 5 francs. For production in his 
own laboratory, Dagron used a similar camera, equipped with 
a battery of twenty lenses of very short focal length, thus 
producing twenty identical copies each one millimeter square 
at a single exposure. 

. (1870-71: The Pigeon Post): At the outset, Dagron was 
supplied with large printed sheets holding twelve pages of 
telegraphic type dispatches. Each sheet was then cut in two, 
and the resulting sheet of six pages contact-printed on a 
dry collodion plate. The negative plate was then placed in 
the copyholder of Dagron’s 20-lens camera, the sensitive plate 
shifted, and a second set of 20 exposures placed beside the 
first set. This produced 40 identical positive images of the 
same page, so that copies could be sent again and again by 
separate pigeons to insure arrival in Paris. By soaking the 
plates in a castor oil solution the image-bearing collodion could 
be stripped from the glass, resulting in a tough, featherweight 
film. Individual pages cut from the film were assembled on a 
clear pellicle with other pages produced in the same way. The 
pellicle then was tightly rolled together with as many as 17 
other pellicles to form a single pigeon’s cargo. The assembly 
was placed in a quill which was sealed and attached to a 
selected feather in the tail of the pigeon. On arrival in Paris 
the rolled pellicles were soaked in alcohol or ammonia and 
carefully flattened for transcription or enlargement. Exam- 
ination of a pellicle in the possession of the author, however, 
shows that it was produced by direct microfilming of a panel 
holding 16 pages of letterpress messages. The pellicle has 
never been stripped from its glass support, and shows the 
panel mounted on the outside wall of a stone building, 



illuminated by the weak sunlight. Although Charles Fabre 
wrote in 1890 that the panels were about 614 x 814 feet in 
size, Lodewyck Bendikson in 1935 estimated the size to pe 
about 314 x 514 feet, and the specimen at hand seems to 
bear out the smaller size. Even so, the resulting pellicle 
image, measuring 114 x 2” (about the size of a modern fuil 
aperture 35 mm. frame), represents a reduction ratio of 32 
diameters. Each of the 16 pages carries upwards of 200 sepa- 
rate messages, so each pellicle carried nearly 3,000: a single 
pigeon load of 18 pellicles would represent over 50,000 mes- 
sages of from five to twenty words each. 

Treatise on Microscopic Photography 
PARIS, 1864 


THE MOST recent and most complete treatises on photo- 
graphy hardly mention the name of microscopic photography. 
This branch has become in five years, however, a real industry, 
tributary to some thirty types of manufacture, notably that of 
the jewelry trade. 

One may search in vain in all manuals of photography to 
find the data needed for the making and mounting of those tiny 
images which can be magnified to infinity. 

We have not been able to secure these data without diffi- 
culty. It required laborious effort before we could obtain con- 
sistently those minuscule images, which were necessarily created 
perfect since retouching is impossible. But, since we have suc- 
ceeded far beyond our hopes, since this work has become today 
the easiest and fastest of the arts associated with the admirable 
discovery of Niepce and Daguerre, we believe we can be of ser- 



vice in revealing here our entire process, just as it is used in our 
laboratory. No one has produced in such quantities as we this 
product we invented; we can find no one with experience 
greater than ours. Other people will perhaps wish to place this 
charming invention within reach of everyone; we offer to all, 
at most reasonable prices, the means of easily and economically 
producing those little cylinders called Stanhopes, as well as 
those gem stones of all shapes and colors, mysterious objects 
wherein each may enclose that which in all the world is most 
precious to us. 

PAR Tal 

We manufacture in our laboratories, under careful in- 
spection, equipment for microscopic photography. We deliver 
such items only after having tested them in our studio. 

The most important piece of equipment is the copying 
camera; here is how it looks, its parts, and how it works: 

B. Manipulator stage. In the stage we place a finely ruled 
micrometric scale, or focusing plate, used for bringing Micro- 
scope E into sharp focus on the focal plane. 

C: Brass frame, opening on Axis D, which holds the glass 
photographic plates. 

E: Microscope viewer for determining critical focus for 
the lens. 

Within the cabinet, occupying a position opposite the 
miscroscope, is the objective lens, which slides in two grooves. 
The lens and Microscope E are racked in and out for focus on 
their own screw drives. 

F: Spring, whose pressure engages the point of Screw G 
in the eight notches found in the upper part of Stage B. 

H: Wooden support for Assembly A-G. 


I: Hold-down screw maintaining Assembly A-H in place 
within the camera. 

J: Partition excluding all stray light from the objective 

KLMN: Side opening in camera permitting the operator 
to insert his hand to focus the objective. 

O: Sliding panel used to close Opening K-N when the 
image is in focus. 

P: Stop block for Panel O. 

QRS: Opposite end of camera. Here are placed the nega- 
tive to be copied and the ground glass. 

For ease in shipment, the wooden case is not over 22 
inches long. 

Film prints are made from a negative, which may be full 
plate (614x8Y%”), half-plate (434x6™%’’), or carte de visite 
(21%4 x 4’) in size. The negative is placed at the far end of the 
camera, at QRS, set up in front of a window and facing full 
daylight. The parallel light rays which pass through the 
negative are brought to focus on the photographic plate by the 
objective of short focal length, and produce an exceedingly 
minute image. 

We use the Taupenot Process of photography, as we shail 
see in Part 2. 

By following our instructions carefully, you will find no 
difficulty in focusing. 

Be careful, while looking through Microscope E, to focus 
the microscope in such manner that will clearly separate the 
lines scribed on the micrometer scale placed in the focal plane. 
When you see the scribe lines are as sharp as possible, you are 
ready to focus the image by racking the objective lens in or out 
as you did the microscope. By turning the focusing screw one 
way or the other you will soon see the image form on the little 
glass plate; if you have had any experience at all with conven- 


tional photography, it will be easy to recognize the degree of 
sharpness of focus. You then remove the micrometer scale 
and put in its place the photographic plate. 

Exposure varies from 1 to 3 seconds, depending on whe- 
ther the light from the sky is strong or weak. 

When you feel the exposure is complete, advance the mul- 
tiple-back plate holder one notch, then a second, and so on up 
to 8. Next, take the plate from the holder and develop it 
according to the instructions given in Part 2. 

We also make cameras having 3, 6, 9 or 15 lenses; pro- 
cedure is identical, but we suggest that photographers who 
have only single portraits to copy should not use cameras other 
than the single lens model because in between 8 and 15 seconds 
you can make 8 portraits on a 2 by 7.5 centimeter plate 
(roughly 1 x 3 inches, or the size of a microscope slide). 

A low magnification hand lens, is necessary to follow and 
judge the development of the image by inspection. 

This magnifier is used only during development; a micro- 
scope of higher power is needed for inspection after processing 
to determine that the image is perfect and worthy of being 
affixed to the little Stanhope cylinder or gem. 

The photographs, once selected, are cut apart in little 
squares with an ordinary diamond cutter. Be careful that no 
dust is permitted to remain on the image side of the little 
square. Next place the Stanhope or the gem for a short while 
on the lid of a stove which is just slightly warm. Coat the flat 
surface of the Stanhope or gem with a little Canada balsam; 
take the little square of glass with tweezers, and press it 
(lightly at first, then more firmly) against the coat of Canada 
balsam and let it stand. 

To insure that the operation is successful, that the contact 
is perfect and bubble-free, inspect the rounded end of the 
cylinder or gem under the microscope, to see that the image, 


when enlarged and sharply focused, is fixed to the base. If 
bubbles are still present, you have not pressed the glass firmly 
enough against the Stanhope’s base. Place the assembly on the 
stove lid for a moment to melt the Canada balsam a little, and 
start the mounting operation over again, being more careful 
this time. 

Because making Stanhopes and gems (real or artificial) 
is outside the realm of photography, we sell all these objects cut 
and finished at one end with a rounded or spherical surface, 
at the other with a flat surface in the exact focal plane of the 
microscope formed by the spherical end. 

To finish the job there remains only the trimming or 
rounding off the Stanhope and the plate, where they do not 
match evenly; an inexpensive optician’s grinding wheel is 
excellent for this purpose. 

Another tool, more expensive, the optician’s lathe, can be 
used to advantage, but it will be useful only to those who 
intend to do this in great quantity. 

Pak ee 

Operating Instructions 

The glass plates, as we said in Part 1, are the size of thie 
opening in the camera, 7.5 centimeters by 2 centimeters high. 
To avoid preparing each little plate separately, we have stand- 
ardized on a plate height of 18 centimeters (about 7 inches). 
Once the 18 cm. plate is sensitized it is cut into 2 cm. strips, 
thus providing 9 plates all ready to be placed in the camera, 
one after another. You will find this means, together with 
a large time-saving factor, greater ease in cleaning and pre- 
paring the plate. 


I. Cleaning the Plate. 

We never use tripoli (diatomaceous earth) ; chalk solution 
has the double advantage of being very inexpensive and of 
never scratching the glass. 

We use it in the following formula: 

Water LO00Fce 
French Chalk 50 grams 
Alcohol (40 Baumé) 200 cc. 
Mix well. 

You can use the mixture immediately. 

Pour several drops on the glass plate and spread it with a 
cotton pad; repeat on the back surface. When both sides have 
been well rubbed and well cleaned, wipe them dry, first with 
a second pad of dry cotton, then with a soft chamois. If you 
use wet collodion, this preliminary cleaning will perhaps 
suffice, but the subsequent use of albumen requires the greatest 
precautions. You will, therefore, do well to clean the plate a 
second time, but now only on the surface which will hold the 
sensitive layer. Wein our laboratory use for this last operation 
a little leftover collodion. 

II. Preparation of the Collodion. (Taupenot Process) 

In this process, the collodion must be a little more fluid 
than normal. To achieve this, we use: 

Ether (62 Baume) 100 grams 
Alcohol (40 Baumé) 25 grams 
Ammonium iodide 1 gram 
Ammonium bromide 25 grams 

Stir well and let stand 24 hours. Then pour off and let stand another 
12 hours. The collodion now will be perfectly clear. 

III: Preparation of the Albumen. 

6 egg whites, making albumen f0rCc 
distilled water LDS 3Ce. 
Potassium iodide 3 grams 


Ammonia Src 
White sugar 2 grams 
Iodine a trifle 

Beat with a wooden fork or a little whisk for about 10 minutes, or 
until the egg white is thick enough for the fork to stand in the bowl. Let 
the albumen stand for 12 hours after which it is ready for use. 

Note: In breaking the eggs, take care to separate well the yolks from the 
whites so that the bowl contains only the perfectly pure whites. 
When you have a quantity of albumen to prepare, it is better to 
break the eggs so that the whites are collected in a glass, sepa- 
rate from the bowl. Then, if you accidentally drop a little yolk in 
with the whites, you will have lost only the whites held in the glass. 

IV: Coating the Plate with Collodion and Albumen. 

We mentioned in Part 1 that our plates measured 7.5 x 18 
centimeters. Now clean one of these plates well. Pass again, 
as a measure of precaution, a badger skin over the surface 
which will carry the preparation, then spread the collodion 
over it. 

Next, sensitize the plate thus collodionized by dipping it 
for 12 to 15 seconds in a bath of: 

Silver nitrate, 7 or 8% solution. 

After taking it from this bath, wash the plate well in a 
tank or under a stream of distilled water, so as to get rid of all 
free silver salts. Next, let it drain for the time required to 
collodionize, sensitize, and wash a second plate. When the first 
plate is sufficiently drained, and while it still is wet, spread the 
albumen over its surface on top of the collodion and in the 
same manner as you did before. It is well to have handy a jar 
with filter funnel to catch the excess of albumen. 

The plate being thus well prepared and dried, sensitize it a 
second time, but this time for 15 seconds in a bath containing: 

Silver nitrate 10%, solution 
Acetic acid 10%, solution 

On taking the plate from this bath, wash it again carefully 


under a stream of filtered water and finally in distilled water 
as you did the first time. Stand the plate in the drain rack, 
and when it is dry it is ready to use. Unless you are going to 
be working indoors, place the plate in a dark-slide holder to 
protect it from all light. 

Under these conditions it will hold its sensitivity, not just 
for several months but even for a year or two. 

We should mention that the second sensitizing bath needs 
to be replenished and filtered often, because the acetic acid 
which it contains causes it to blacken and at the same time 
makes it muddy. 

Here is how I restore its original clarity: I add to each 
100 cc. of working solution: 

Kaolin 25 grams 
Stir and filter. 

The kaolin inevitably weakens the strength of the bath 
a little. We must now test with a hydrometer the salt content 
to make sure it is not too low, and add enough nitrate and 
acetic acid to compensate for the loss we have measured. 

Exposure varies with the weather: under strong light one 
second will suffice, but bad weather may require exposures ot 
the order of 50 to 60 seconds. 

Since we make 8 copies on the same little plate, we should 
be prepared to make these 8 copies at different exposures, thus 
allowing ourselves to expose the plates one right after another. 

V: Developing the Image. 

In order to achieve the fine detail we want, it is important 
that we not make the image come up too rapjdly. The devel- 
oper bath is compounded as follows: 

Water 1,000 cc. 
Gallic acid 3 grams 
Pyrogallic acid 1 gram 

Alcohol 2oneCC: 


If you have just a few films to develop, you can place 
in the tray about one quarter the amount of solution given 

Place the plates in the solution for 10 to 20 seconds, then 
add to the bath: 

Silver nitrate, 2% solution 3, 4 or more drops 

This will quickly make the image visible. After it appears, 
lift the plate from the developer and inspect it with the low 
power hand magnifier. If the blacks and whites are of proper 
density, and if the images are clear and distinct, do not return 
the plate to the developer; if, however, the image is weak, re- 
immerse it in the developer. Check in this manner with the 
magnifier each plate and each image, up to the point that all 
have been developed perfectly. When that point has been 
reached, dip them in a second tray of filtered water to rinse 
them well, and pass them on to the fixing bath. 

VI: Fixing the Film Print. 

The fixing bath is composed of: 
Filtered water 1,000 cc. 
Hypo 200 grams 
This 20% solution of hypo is what we have standardized 
on. But, in fixing as in developing, we must carefully watch 
the image. It is normally fixed out after 10 or 15 seconds; in 
examining it for transparency, holding it between you and the 
light, you can watch without too much trouble the progressive 
de-iodizing of the silver; afterwards, you must wash the plate 
well in a tray of filtered water. 

After this last operation the photographic work is com- 
pletely over. Only inspection under the high power micro- 
scope remains to check on the work done. If one film image 
leaves something to be desired, we are always quick to destroy 


Now place the inspected and passed plates in a tightly 
covered box and take them as needed for mounting on Stan- 
hope or gem as described in Part 1. 

For those photographers who do not wish to undertake 
the inconvenience of the work, our charges for making the 

microscopic reproductions from their negatives are as follows: 
On Semi-Precious Gems 
On Stanhopes or Gilded Jewelry 

Single film print 5 francs 10 francs 
Half-dozen 8 francs 30 francs 
Dozen 12 francs 50 francs 

We also try to carry in stock at all times an endless variety 
of mountings, in jewels of gold, silver, and gold plate; in fancy 
shell, ivory and other novelties. 

We undertake to create gracious and novel specialties in 
jewelry. Our watch-keys are designed in multiple parts so that 
you can bring together in a single piece of jewelry all the mem- 
bers of your family, your friends, and all those you hold dear, 
without increasing the size of the jewel in the least. 

VII: Price of Equipment and Accessories for Microscopic 

Complete set of equipment, comprising: 
One brass film unit 
Wooden camera 
Focusing microscope 
Micrometric scale 
Objective lens 
Manipulator stage 

Ground Glass 110 francs 
Multiple lens cameras, each lens additional 10 francs 
Low-power hand lens to watch development 12 francs 
High-power microscope for inspection 30 francs 
Optician’s grinding wheel 15 francs 
Optician’s lathe 105 francs 

Small sheet-iron warming stove 4 francs 


Small cup of Canada balsam 5 francs 
Diamond plate-cutter 12 francs 
Pair of tweezers to handle small images 75 centimes 
Box of extra thin glass plates 7.5 x 18 cm. 12 francs 
Empty 25-channel box to hold plates after 

sensitization and cutting to 2 x 7.5 cm. size 1 franc 
Drainrack for plates 3, francs 
Stanhopes, per gross 8 francs 

Total initial investment required: 212 francs, 75 centimes (about 
$38.72 in American money in 1864). 


Sole Government Photographer for all 
Official and Private Messages on Film 

Short Account of the Voyage of the Balloon Nie pce, 
carrying Monsieur Dagron and his associates, and details of the 
mission they accomplished. 

1870 - 1871 

The Balloon Niepce left Paris on November 12, 1870, at 
9:00 A.M., carrying Messrs: 

Dagron, photographer; 

Fernique, Professor of Engineering at the Central School 
of Arts and Manufactures; 

Poisot, artist-painter and son-in-law of Monsieur Dagron; 

Gnocchi, M. Dagron’s assistant; 

Pagano, sailor and student balloonist; 
plus about 1,320 pounds of apparatus belonging to M. Dagron. 

The Balloon Daguerre left at the same time as the Niepce, 



carrying three passengers, mail, pigeons, and the rest of M. 
Dagron’s equipment. 

Messrs. Dagron and Fernique were sent by M. Rampont, 
Director-General of Mails (with the approval of M. Picard, 
Finance Minister) to establish in the provinces a service of 
microphotographic dispatches which would be sent to Paris by 
means of carrier pigeons. This service was established by a 
decree dated November 10, 1870, and was to be set up in 
Clermont-Ferrand. M. Fernique was, in addition to helping 
with the work of M. Dagron, to assume the responsibility of 
organizing the pigeon service, and also to put into operation a 
system of communication by rivers which the Delegation 
already in the provinces had not wanted to do. 


As the two balloons took off, the wind bore due East. 
Nevertheless, we took off, accompanied by lively professions 
of sympathy from a large crowd gathered to attend our de- 
parture, the success of this postal expedition being needed to 
allay so many understandable fears in Paris. 

Arriving over the Prussian lines, the Niepce was — along 
with her fellow traveller, the Daguerre — welcomed by a lively 
fusillade. At an altitude of 2500 feet the bullets whistled 
about us. Daguerre was hit and we, with sinking hearts, saw 
it drop dizzily and fall upon a farm wall a few leagues from 
Paris; we know now that it was near Ferriéres. 

One fact, whose consequences could have been terrible 
for us — and which resulted in the loss of the Daguerre —— 
was that the bags of ballast had been made of rotten cotton, 
and were too flimsy. The sight of the Daguerre’s gas bag, 
pierced by bullets, and captured by enemy cavalry which we 
had seen galloping up, showed us the need to speed our own 
ascent to avoid the same thing befalling us. But the ballast 


bags burst. Throughout the rest of the trip we had to gather 
up the sand in a plate and throw it out of the passenger basket 
bit by bit. 

By about 1:30 P.M. we had reached an altitude of some 
4500 feet. Scarcely two bags of ballast were left and (not 
knowing whether we were over Prussian-occupied territory 
or not) we decided that our descent should be made very 
rapidly in order not to give them time to arrive. We dropped 
down at a rate of about 30 feet asecond. Thanks to the ballast 
we had left, and to the two ground crew guide ropes which we 
had with us, our landing was without serious accident, despite 
a violent wind. 

However, the balloon lay over and blew along the ground 
at considerable speed for about a mile, dragging the basket 
with us tangled in the basket ropes. The countryside had 
neither hedges nor thickets to snag the anchor and landing 
ropes: furthermore, the balloon stopped only when the gas 
bag’s. fabric and cords were in such shreds that the wind no 
longer had anything to get a grip on. The lashing and twisting 
of basket ropes in crossing gripped M. Fernique by the neck, 
and he freed himself only by a desperate effort; the same thing 
happened to M. Gnocchi, who was extricated only by a turning 
which rolled the basket over. 

M. Poisot was the first one able to get out of the basket, 
and he came to our aid. As for me, a heavy chest hung above 
my head, started to strike me when, seeing the danger, I pushed 
it away to one side; the back-swing made me fall on my back 
with my feet in the air, nearly passing out; my son-in-law 
pulled me out of this dangerous position. 

A number of peasants who had run up told us we were 
a few miles from Vitry-le-Francois. They gave us their blouses 
and caps and put at our disposal two wagons on which we 
loaded in great haste all the material I had brought. 


Hardly had the wagons been loaded than the Prussians 
arrived and seized one of them. They leveled their rifles at 
the group of peasants, among whom we were mingled; but, not 
being able to recognize us because of our prompt change of 
clothes, they did not shoot. The balloon was captured as weil, 
and it was the securing of it, keeping the enemy most busy, 
that enabled us to escape their clutches, saving with us, as we 
went across the fields, the second wagon. 

At this moment, M. Fernique set off alone for Coole, 
where we were to rejoin him, but the hazards of flight took us 
instead to Vesigneul. 

The mayor of Vesigneul, M. Songy, to whom we are for- 
ever indebted, agreed to hide us in his attic. On arriving, I had 
placed in Mme. Songy’s pocket for safekeeping the papers and 
letters in my care. The luggage was quickly hidden under 
straw in a barn. One chest only remained to be hidden when 
the Prussians, arriving, carried it off. 

Taking advantage of their departure, and knowing they 
would return soon in greater numbers, M. Songy, without 
losing any time, put us in his wagon and took us himself to 
Fontaine-sur-Coole, to the home of the curate, M. Cachier. 
The latter, having had to billet two Prussian officers the 
night before and expecting others at any moment, knowing 
also that we were being pursued, hastened our departure by 
the rear of his house and out of the area, in order that we 
might not encounter any Prussians and to avoid any indis- 
cretion on the part of the residents. 

M. Cachier recommended us in most obliging manner to 
his colleague, M. Darcy, the curate of Cernon, where we ar- 
rived, exhausted from fatigue and hunger, at 10 P.M. 

M. Darcy and his mother were eager to give us the most 
devoted care and attention. We should also give recognition 


to the mayor of that community, who placed himself entirely 
at our service in a most obliging manner. 

M. Darcy wished to have us rest. But, at midnight, we 
heard a rapping on the door. It was the peasants bringing 
part of the baggage left at Vesigneul, and warning us the 
Prussians were on our trail and drawing close. M. Darcy 
immediately put us on the road for Bussy-Lettrée, where we 
arrived at 5 A.M. Having abandoned our city clothing at the 
landing of the balloon, having only a blouse on our backs, we 
suffered considerably from the cold that frigid night. 

The schoolmaster of Bussy-Lettrée, M. Varnier, was in 
his turn eager, on the good recommendation of the curate of 
Cernon, to render service to us. He built us a good fire, at 
which we were able to warm our icy legs, and secured wagons 
to take us to Sompuis. 

We had decided that we would not all enter that littie 
settlement together, so as not to arouse curiosity. M. Poisot, 
remaining behind, was questioned by a group of residents, who 
told him that a stranger had shown up the night before at the 
home of the postmaster, M. Legrand. Believing the stranger 
might well be M. Fernique, I went to find out and had the 
pleasure of learning from M. Legrand himself that it was truly 
our colleague, escaped as ourselves up to then from the hands 
of the enemy. M. Legrand had himself conducted M. Fernique 
the evening before to Dampierre. With the greatest kindness 
he offered to leave again with us for the same destination. We 
arrived in Dampierre at 1:00 A.M. 

In that city, Dr. Mosment cordially offered his hospi- 
tality. Hoping to make our journey easier he brought to Dam- 
pierre some wagonners who had been given Prussian permits 
for the transport of wine. One of these drivers, whose name 
we recall with pleasure, is M. Gautier, esteemed and well- 
known man in that area. 


The equipment we had saved from, capture was placed in 
wine barrels and transported in this manner for some time. We 
went to Nogent-le-Long, where, on the recommendation of 
Dr. Mosment, we were amicably received by Dr. Bertrand. In 
turn, Dr. Bertrand recommended us to the chief of police of 
Aube, M. Lignier, who was at the time in Pougy. 

M. Lignier suggested we go by way of Vandeuvre. We had 
been on the road eight hours when the people of that vicinity 
warned us that the Prussians in that place would requisition 
our horses and wagons. We now had to retrace our steps and 
take the route through Arcis-aur-Aube, an occupied town. 
As we could not afford to show our wine casks at the toil 
gate, we left them in a little village and entered Arcis, where 
all the inns were full of Prussians. 

At the dinner table of the Hotel de la Poste, where we 
were obliged to eat with the enemy officers, a veterinarian 
from Hanover (who probably had some doubts about us) 
insisted on wagering 100 ¢halers with me that Paris would sur- 
render within two weeks. He gave me his card to seal his 
wager, which of course required a card from me. Needless to 
say, I didn’t accept the bet. 

During the night the luggage was repacked in chests and 
baskets and, at 4 A.M., we left Arcis for Troyes, also occu- 
pied. The security officer insisted that we leave the sailor 
Pagano in Arcis. It was fortunate that we left at night, for 
we later learned that at 7 A.M. all roads out of the city were 

Our position was not improved in Troyes: we secured 
horses and wagons only with the greatest difficulty. We are 
happy to acknowledge that the assistant of M. Joffroy, a mer- 
chant of that city, was of great help in this. 

We left Troyes for Auxerre at 3 A.M. on the seventeenth 
of November by the Saint-Florentin road. A large body of 


the troops of Prince Frederick Karl (one of the ablest of Prus- 
sian generals) was twelve hours ahead of us on the road, which 
thus bristled with obstacles for us. 

Arriving in Avrol, which the Prussians had just occu- 
pied, they wouldn’t let us leave. M. Poisot went to the quar- 
ters of the Prussian Major at the chateau of M. De La Bour- 
donnaye, and requested authorization to continue our journey. 
The Major replied that no one could leave Avrol before 8 A.M. 
the next day, following the departure of the troops. 

While I, with my assistant Gnocchi, was dickering with 
the Prussian sentries and awaiting the Major’s answer, we heard 
rifle shots in the distance. Some sentinels, taking us for Resist- 
ance snipers, got ready to give us a rough time; with difficuty 
I made them wait for the arrival of my son-in-law, who came 
at just the right moment to announce the Major’s order. They 
let us turn our wagon around, and we were able to reach a vil- 
lage farm. As it began to rain hard we went into a barn, 
intending to spend the night; but the Prussians lost no time in 
turning us out in a menacing manner. 

The wagon of equipment having been left in the court- 
yard, the Prussians wanted to search it, saying surely we had 
come from Paris. I maintained we came from Troyes, and 
demanded that an officer be brought to verify that fact. The 
soldiers insisted, while awaiting his arrival, on the chests re- 
maining open. It is to that deplorable fact that I attribute a 
new loss of several pieces of apparaus important to my mission. 

Time passed, and the officer — engaged in sumptuous 
dining — did not come. During this time the driver of the 
wagon, who had left his lantern in the barn, returned there 
to get it. The Prussians, seeing the barn door open again, 
thought we had re-entered it despite their orders. With lamps 
from the farmers to light them, they searched for us in order 
to shoot us. 


Happily, we had been able, in the darkness, to reach the 
exit gate of the farm, crossing the road and entering an inn, 
where we found still more Prussians. We seated ourselves 
before the fire. Some officers who left a table in a side room 
looked at us with distrust and passed near us with drawn 
revolvers. We stayed up all night in that inn, whose proprietors 
jumped at the beck and call of the invaders, and we lost hope 
of completing our mission. 

The morning of November 18, the Prussians left for 
Joigny, but the outriders had not gone two miles before they 
encountered in Brienon a defense composed of the French Na- 
tional Guard. The fight made the road impassable for us and 
we had to take our wagon across the fields in a torrential rain, 
painfully moving forward over plowed and broken land, push- 
ing or pulling for each turn of the wheels. We frequently 
found deep tracks of the Uhlans’ horses which had just tho- 
roughly scouted that part of the countryside before us. 

Arriving at the French lines at Mont-Saint-Sulpice, we 
encountered a difficulty which we hardly expected. The area 
commander, not wishing to believe that we had crossed with 
impunity the entire occupied zone, found nothing better than 
to give us an unkind recommendation for the rest of the trip 
remaining before we reached Auxerre, where we knew the 
police chief was aware of our mission. 

At Seignelay, this bad recommendation caused us a serious 
enforced idleness and an appreciable loss of time; our baggage 
was searched, and a badly informed crowd showed hostility. 
We left the area escorted by a detachment of the National 
Guard which conducted us to Monéteau, where a new escort 
awaited us. However, we should say to the credit of the 
captain of the Monéteau National Guard (whose name we 
have with regret forgotten), that not only did he give us pro- 
tection but he also put his wagon at our disposal, together with 


coverings to protect us from the frightful weather, and with 
his men conducted us to the home of the police chief of 
Auxerre; we arrived at 11 P.M. crushed with fatigue and emo- 
tion. We learned here that the prefect had just received ordess 
from the Government Delegation at Tours to send us there. 
At Nevers, we found a new telegram from the Government 
Minister, M. Gambetta, ordering us to come without making 
any stops and at top speed. 

November 21 we finally arrived at Tours at 8 A.M., and 
presented ourselves immediately at the house of M. Gambetta. 
M. Fernique, who had been able to reach Tours ahead of us, 
was summoned to appear immediately. We produced our con- 
tract of November 10 with M. Rampont, Postmaster Generai, 
signed by M. Picard, Finance Minister. 

The Delegation, on the advice of the eminent chemist, M. 
Barreswil, had also had the idea of reducing the messages photo- 
graphically, using ordinary processes. In view of this the Dele- 
gation had, on November 4, authorized the establishment of a 
service of this kind. 

M. Blaise, a photographer of Tours, had begun the work, 
but using sensitized paper instead of film. He reproduced two 
printed pages on each side of the sheet. The degree of reduc- 
tion was limited by the grain and texture of the paper. 

This service begun, in Tours by the Delegation, was unsat- 
isfactory, for between October 26 and November 12, the 
day of my departure, Paris had not received even one message 
by pigeon. 

Ordered by M. Steenackers, Director of Telegraphic and 
Postal Services for the Delegation, to furnish a specimen of my 
microphotography on film, I produced a sample which was 
found to be entirely satisfactory, and photocopies on paper for 
messages were discontinued. 

My microfilms, in addition to their extreme lightness of 


weight, had the great advantage of requiring an exposure of 
only two seconds on the average, while the paper process re- 
quired more than two hours because of the inclement weathec. 
Furthermore, its transparency gave excellent results in enlarge- 
ment, which was done in Paris by means of the electric light. 

With the help of my associates I organized immediately 
the reproduction of official and private messages, which was to 
be so useful to national defense and to private families. From 
that moment on I was the only one to make them, under tlie 
enlightened direction of M. de Lafollye, Inspector of Tele- 
graphic Services, charged by the Delegation with the carrier 
pigeon dispatch system. On his advice, the original process was 
modified and the result—in view of the small amount of mate- 
rial we had been able to save — was more rapid and more 
economical production. 

The newspapers having reported that the Prussians had 
seized a large part of my equipment, I am pleased to say herve 
that M. Delezenne and M. Dreux (a stock broker of Bordeaux) , 
both advanced photographic amateurs, eagerly offered appa- 
ratus similar to mine to the administration, and they were 
placed at my disposal. 

The backlog of messages was quickly disposed of. I am 
happy to state that — with the effective help of my associates 
— no delays in transmission were caused by my work. But the 
removal of the Delegation, and above all the intense cold that 
paralyzed the pigeons, created serious difficulties. 

As long as nothing interfered with the flight of these inte- 
resting couriers, the speed of correspondence was truly matr- 
velous. I may cite an example from my own experience: 

Needing certain chemicals (pyroxylin-nitrocellulose in 
particular since it was not available in Bordeaux) I ordered 
them by pigeon dispatch on January 18 from the firm of 
Poullenc and Wittmann in Paris, asking that the chemicals be 


rushed to me by the next balloon leaving Paris. On January 24 
the supplies were delivered to my Bordeaux laboratory. The 
pigeon had taken only twelve hours to cover the distance from 
Poitiers to Paris. Ordering by regular telegraph and delivery 
by railroad would not have done better. 

The official dispatches were done with surprising rapidity. 
M. de Lafollye would bring them to us himself at noon, and 
the same day at 5 P.M., despite a winter weather exceptionally 
bad, ten copies were finished and sent back to the administra- 
tion. We made in this manner thirteen series without being 
late a single time. 

The private messages were made in the same manner. The 
job was a sizable one for — with the exception of a small num- 
ber of microfilms which were sent off only six times because 
they were promptly acknowledged — the majority were done 
on an average of twenty times, and a few were made thirty-five 
and thirty-eight times. We also microfilmed a large number 
of postal money orders: the purchasers were able to transmit 
their money in Paris just as in ordinary times. 

Each microfilm was the reproduction of twelve or sixteen 
folio-size pages of printing containing, on the average (de- 
pending on the size type used) 3,000 messages. The lightness 
of the films allowed the administration to entrust as many as 
eighteen films to a single pigeon, giving a total of 50,000 dis- 
patches weighing less than one-thirtieth of an ounce all to- 

The entire series of official dispatches and private mes- 
sages which we made during the isolation of Paris, numbering 
about 115,000, weighed a total of one-fourteenth of an ounce; 
a single pigeon could have carried them easily. If we wish to 
multiply the number of dispatches by the number of copies 
made, we find a total of over 2,500,000 dispatches which we 
made during the two worst months of the year. 


The microfilms were rolled up together in the quill of a 
feather, which the agents of the administration attached to the 
pigeon’s tail. The extreme flexibility and resistance to water 
of the films made them ideally adapted to this use. 

Moreover, my dry plate has a triple advantage: 

1. Being coated only once; 

2. Being free of bubbles; and 

3. Being free of the tendency to separate from the glass plate support 
at the appearance of the image. It is simple to process, and not 
subject to troubles following processing, troubles common to ordi- 
nary processes. 

I believe it will please many people for me to attach here 
a specimen microfilm, an identical reproduction of that which 
I made for the pigeon postal service during the siege of Paris. 
To give the reproduction greater authenticity, the administra- 
tion has invested it with its official stamp, to which I have 
joined my signature. In order to offend no one, the names — 
and only the names — have been changed. 

P.S. I returned in serious illness from Bordeaux. After 
being held up by the distressing happenings in Paris, my report 
was in the hands of the printer when my attention was called 
to certain news articles published by others, notably by M. 
Lévy of Paris, claiming credit for having made the Government 
dispatches for the carrier pigeon service. These gentlemen are 
greatly in error in leading the public astray. They force me to 
protest these deceitful articles and to vindicate my right by 
the voice of the press. 

I had the good fortune to succeed in my assignment, to 
the full satisfaction of the Government, as it can testify. Hav- 
ing left Paris to make microphotographs dispatched by pigeon 
and furnished with a contract from the Postal Administration 
(signed by the Minister of Finance), this contract was ex- 
changed for another by the Delegation, granting me the repro- 


duction of all dispatches without exception, official and pri- 
vate. It is now supremely unjust that others who had nothing 
to do with it should seek to claim for themselves the benefits 
of my work. 


Although several writers of the 1870’s give slightly dit- 
ferent data, between 60 and 70 free balloons were released in 
Paris during the siege, to drift with the prevailing winds over 
the encircling enemy lines. 

The first balloons used were those in existence before the 
war, tethered to the grounds in the parks of Paris, where they 
had been used by aerial acrobats in public entertainments and 
for providing a sideshow attraction for the crowds who wished 
to get a daring aerial view of the city. It was nineteen years 
before the Eiffel Tower was to provide the same function. 

The siege took place, of course, a third of a century be- 
fore the Wright brothers flew in the first airplane, yet men 
had been going up in balloons since 1783. The balloon of 1870 
was made with a cotton fabric gas bag, over which rope net- 
ting was placed in the manner of a harness. The basket car, 
or nacelle, was hung beneath the gas bag from ropes attached 
to the netting. Since much of Paris was lighted by illuminating 
gas, the city gas mains provided many locations where the 
balloons could be filled. The lifting capacity of each balloon 
was limited by the amount of gas it could hold, and therefore 
by the size of the gas bag. 



To stabilize the balloon in free flight, ballast in the form 
of sand was carried in the nacelle. As the balloon reached a 
desired altitude, a bleed valve was opened momentarily in the 
gas bag to let some of the gas escape; if the balloon dipped 
below the wanted altitude, some of the sand ballast was emptied 
over the side of the nacelle. Bursting of the ballast bags, strew- 
ing the sand all over the nacelle, was to prevent Dagron in 
balloon number 27 (The Niepce) from rising quickly out of 
the range of Prussian gunfire, and almost cost the passengers 
their lives. 

When used as captive observation points, the balloons were 
tethered to the ground with dragline ropes. When a balloon 
was released to take free flight, these drag ropes were paid out 
gradually by members of the ground crew, preventing driit 
of the balloon and its cargo until it had risen above nearby 
trees and buildings. The drag ropes, along with boat anchors 
which also were carried on free flights, served to snag bushes, 
walls and trees to bring the balloon in to a landing. 

From the moment the isolation of Paris by enemy troops 
became inevitable, a military balloon service was proposed, and 
Lieutenant Colonel Usquin was directed to create such an arm 
of the city’s defense. Three aerial observation posts overlook- 
ing the Prussian lines were established, and a captive balloon was 
stationed at each post. The balloon at La Glaciére, Boulevard 
d’Italie, was under the command of Eugéne Godard, the best 
known balloonist of his day. Twenty years before, Godard had 
taken off before a fascinated 4th of July crowd of over 20,000 
paying customers in Manchester, New Hampshire. With 
Godard in the basket of the large balloon were Mme. Godard 
and a horse; an article printed in 1856 says, “he went up like 
a kite, standing on the back of the horse amid immense cheer- 


ing”. According to Godard, the only complaint received on 


his performance was that the horse was not as beautiful «as 
shown in the advertising. The comeliness of Mme. Godard 
was not recorded. 

At Montmartre, in the northern section of Paris, a second 
balloon based in Place Saint-Pierre, was under the direction of 
MM. Cornu, Nadar, Duruof, and Dartois. Cornu was a phy- 
sicist; Nadar was a doctor, writer, inventor, photographer, and 
balloon enthusiast; Duruof was a professional balloonist, Cap- 
tain of the Balloon Corps, and later left Paris in the first free 
balloon; Dartois was a member of the balloon-making firm of 
Yon and Dartois, competitors of the Godard Brothers. The 
third balloon, overlooking the southwestern section of the old 
city wall at the Vaugirard Gasworks, was under the direction 
of the members of the Society of Amateur Balloonists. 

All three balloons were so old and leaked gas so rapidly 
that they had to be refilled almost constantly. Yet, on Septem- 
ber 23, less than a week after the Prussians surrounded the city, 
the balloon at Montmartre took off with Duruof aboard and 
landed safely 78 miles away, having crossed the entire city 
of Paris and the enemy lines. Two days later, the captive at 
Boulevard d’Italie was cut loose, carrying an aeronaut, mail 
bag, and the first three homing pigeons. Finally, on September 
30, the threadbare old captive at Vaugirard took off and 
travelled 50 miles before it took a hard landing, breaking the 
balloonist’s arm. 

Paris tied its sentimental faith to the balloon system, and 
began to call for more activity. Most of the remaining carnival 
balloons were too large, too small, or worn out. The day 
before the Vaugirard balloon took off, the Godards fastened 
two (one account says three) small balloons together for addi- 
tional lift, named the contraption “United States’’, placed their 
eldest brother aboard and sent Aim off. With the supply of old 
balloons now exhausted, several wealthy Americans who 


wanted to leave Paris ordered a new balloon from Dartois and 
Nadar. At the same time, the Government ordered balloons 
from. the Godards and the firm of Yon and Dartois. 

To insure ample space for manufacturing the balloons, 
both companies moved into the now useless railway stations: 
Godard Brothers into Gare d’Orléans, Yon & Dartois into Gare 
du Nord. Yon sewed his balloons by machine, while the God- 
ards used 120 women to sew theirs by hand. Eugéne Godard 
placed his wife in charge of the sewing women, and claimed the 
extra labor cost of hand sewing was more than offset by greater 
strength of the gas bag. 

Several materials for the gas bags were investigated. Siik 
was excellent, but too expensive. Goldbeaters’ skin was deli- 
cate and easily ruptured. Two layers of cotton duck cemented 
together with rubber proved to be too heavy to handle for 
sewing. ‘The fabric finally selected was a cotton tissue, of the 
grade called calico or percaline. Yon & Dartois used white 
cloth, the Godards used colored. To make the cloth gas-tight 
it was daubed with two or three coats of a varnish made from 
linseed oil to which a little lead oxide had been added. The rope 
netting was made of tarred hemp. Once varnished and covered 
by netting, the balloon was tested for leaks by being blown up 
by air. The shops soon were putting out a balloon a day, at a 
total cost of 5,000 francs each. Pure hydrogen was not used 
to inflate the balloons. Although illumination gas was only 
one-seventh as buoyant, its use eliminated long and costly pre- 
paration of hydrogen: a tube attached to the city mains filled 
a balloon in a few hours. 

Sailors generally were used as balloonists after the supply 
of professionals was exhausted. They were accustomed to 
climbing about in the rigging of ships, and the balloon manu- 


facturers established schools to train them further in the art 
of handling a balloon. The first takeoff for each balloonist 
was a solo, and it had to be good. 

By most accounts, 159 persons drifted out of Paris by 
balloon during the eighteen weeks of siege; these included gov- 
ernment officials (Gambetta, Minister of War, was the first), 
transportation specialists, scientists (Jules Janssen, later a 
pioneer inventor of the motion picture camera, left on Decem- 
ber for North Africa to observe an eclipse of the sum), bal- 
loonists, business men and microfilm specialists. ‘To carry these 
passengers, 65 manned balloons took off (plus one small balloon 
which carried only nine pounds of postal cards). Fifty-one 
balloons were owned or chartered by the Postal Department, 
six by the Telegraphic Service, one by the Ministry of Public 
Instruction (for Janssen’s expedition to observe the eclipse) , 
and seven by private individuals. Of the 65 balloons, two were 
lost at sea and five captured with their passengers and mail by 
the Prussians after landing in occupied territory. 

The longest flight was by Number 31, the “City of 
Orléans”, which took off twenty minutes before midnight on 
November 24, and came down the following day at 2:25 P.M. 
in Norway on Mount Lid, 220 miles north of Oslo. In less 
than fifteen hours, the balloonist, his passenger, pigeons and 
mail, travelled over a thousand miles at the unheard-of speed 
of 70 miles per hour, and set an all-time distance record for 
balloons up until then. The mail was delivered to the Dele- 
gation under the cachet “Paris to Mount Lid by balloon; by 
foot, boat, sledge, train and stagecoach to Christiana (Oslo) ; 
by submarine cable across Norway and Scotland; by telegraph 
across England, and cable across the Channel to France; and 
finally by telegraph to Tours”. Acknowledgment of receipt of 
the dispatches was sent to Paris by pigeon on December 1, just 


a week after the balloon left that city. The original letters and 
the aeronauts arrived in Tours somewhat later by steamship 
and railway. 

Fifty-two balloons carried both passengers and mail, 
twelve carried only passengers. About 3,000,000 letters weigh- 
ing nearly 10 tons in all) were sent out of Paris by balloon. 
Some 369 pigeons were sent from Paris by balloon, 73 returned; 
of these, 8 were lost in Paris, 3 captured by the Prussians and 
released with false messages and 12 merely brought word of the 
successful landing of the balloon. Thus, 50 pigeons successfully 
delivered their cargos of microfilm airmail. 

At takeoff, the passengers climbed into the nacelle and 
piled bags of sand ballast about their feet. Anchor, draglines, 
and mailbags were hung on the sides of the nacelle. The pigeons 
were placed in crates beside the mailbags. Other freight, such 
as Dagron’s crates of cameras, glass plates and chemicals, were 
used as seats or lashed to the support ropes overhead. Pay for 
the sailors piloting the balloons was 300 francs for the trip. 

The record of the Balloon Service is an exciting one. The 
courage and high adventure of more than 150 men who never 
before had been up in a balloon, yet who trusted their lives to 
the unpredictable winds to conduct them safely over enemy 
lines so they could help in the defense of their country, form a 
tale of inspired patriotism. 

Each flight was different from each other: some balloons 
were captured on landing in occupied territory, even in Ger- 
many itself; one was shot down and the aeronauts imprisoned; 
two were blown out to sea and never heard of again; one 
drifted for an entire night, first north, then west, then south, 
to land within the Prussian lines almost at the gates of Paris. 



This is the record these intrepid men left: 

. NEPTUNE: September 23. Old bal- 

loon (1200 cubic meters), owned by 


Balloonist: Claude Jules Duruof, 
(Captain, Balloon Corps). 

Passengers: None. 

Pigeons: None. 

Cargo: 275 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 78 miles West. 

Llight Time: 3 hours 15 minutes. 

Note: Fired on by ground troops. 
Duruof dropped insulting greet- 
ings to Bismarck. 

. City oF FLORENCE: September 25. 

Old balloon (1400 cubic meters). 

Balloonist: Gabriel Mangin the 
Passenger: Lutz. 

Pigeons: 4. 

Cargo: 660 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 25 miles West. 

Flight time: 3 hours 30 minutes. 

Note: All pigeons returned, bring- 
ing news that the balloon had 
landed successfully. 

September 29. 
Two small old balloons (one 500 
cubic meters; one 800) joined 
together by ropes and planks. Two 

Balloonist: Louis Godard (eldest 
of the three Godard brothers). 

Passenger: Courtin. 

Pigeons: 6. 

Cargo: 128 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 35 miles West. 

Flight time: 3 hours. 

Note: The coupled balloons made 
landing difficult, and the enemy 
cavalry followed the dragging 
nacelle until a detachment of 
French cavalry arrived and drove 
off the Uhlans. 

CELESTE: September 30. Old bal- 

loon (780 cubic meters), given to 

Government by Henry Giffard, 

renowned French inventor and 


Balloonist: Gaston Tissandier the 
Younger (Director of chemical 

Passengers: None. 

Pigeons: 3. 

Cargo: 220 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 50 miles South- 

Flight time: 2 hours 20 minutes. 

Note: Tissandier’s arm was broken 
in a rough landing. Ballast car- 
ried was a supply of 100,000 pro- 
paganda leaflets, some of which 
were tossed over the side to flut- 
ter down on German and French 
alike; the rest were sent to Eng- 
land after the landing. 

. ARMAND Barses: October 7. First 

of the new balloons (1200 cubic 

meters). Built in 10 days by 

Nadar, Yon and Dartois. 

Named for: Armand Barbes, patri- 
ot leader in the Revolution of 

Balloonist: Trichet. (“a good aero- 
matte )\s 

Passengers: 1. Gambetta, Minister 
of War). 

2. Spiller (Gambetta’s secretary). 

Pigeons: 16. 

Cargo: 220 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 61 miles North. 
Landed high in the branches of a 
great oak tree. 

Flight time: 4 hours 15 minutes. 

Note: Gambetta was grazed by a 
Prussian bullet fired at the bal- 
loon as they passed overhead. 

. GeorcE SAND: October 7. Twin 

of No. 5. Left same time. Private 


Named for: George Sand, the 
French woman novelist, then 66 
years old. 

Balloonist: Revillod (a wealthy 
French count). 

Passengers: 1. William Raymond 
(American citizen). 


2. Charles May (American citi- 

3. Cuzon the Elder. 
Pigeons: 18. 
Cargo: None. 
Distance travelled: 66 miles North. 
Flight time: 4 hours 30 minutes. 
Note: This balloon was also fired 
on. One of the pigeons returned 
October 10. 

. NATIONAL: October 8. Old balloon 

(1200 cubic meters). A private 

Balloonist: Racine. 

Passengers : 

1. Piper (owner of balloon). 
2. Unknown. 

Pigeons: None. 

Cargo: None. 

Distance travelled: 7 miles. 

Flight time: About 4 hours. 

Note: Landed in a pond situated 
between French and Prussian out- 
posts. Stayed in water up to their 
necks for three hours until dark- 
ness fell and they could risk mov- 

. WAsHINGTON: October 12. First 

of the 2,000 cubic meter balloons, 

which became standard. 

Named for: George Washington. 

Balloonist: Albert Bertaux (pro- 
fessional aeronaut). Injured in 
landing; later died. 

1. Lefevre (being sent to Vienna 

as Ambassador). 
2. Van Roosebecke 

Pigeons: 28. 

Cargo: 660 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 106 miles 

Flight time: 2 hours 30 minutes. 

Note: Balloon and passengers suf- 
fered a prolonged dragging across 
the ground by a high wind. Under 
ground fire for most of trip, their 
altitude (3,700 feet) put them 
beyond effective rifle range. One 

(expert on 






of the pigeons took over two 
months to return to its home loft 
in Paris. 

Lours Biane: October 12. Last 

of the 1200 cubic meter balloons. 

Named for: Louis Blanc, leader of 
the Laborite Party. 

Balloonist: Farcot (a watchmaker). 

Passengers: Tracelet (expert on 

Pigeons: 8. 

Cargo: 275 pounds of mail and a 
proclamation written by Louis 
Blane to the English people. 

Distance travelled: 181 miles 
Northeast. Landed in Belgium. 

Flight time: 3 hours 30 minutes. 

Note: The balloonist, Farcot, was 
sent to Lyons to set up a system 
of observation (captive) balloons 
in case the Prussians besieged 
that city. The landing of the 
Louis Blane was badly handled, 
the voyagers were bruised. 

Named for: General  Louis- 
Eugéne Cavaignac, who ran 
against Louis Napoleon (later 
Napoleon III) for presidency of 
the Second Republic. 

Balloonist : Godard the Elder 
(father of the Three Godard 


1. Keratry (Prefect of Police). 

2. (Secretary to Keratry). 

3. (Secretary to Keratry). 

Pigeons: 6. 

Cargo: 375 pounds of mail. 
Distance travelled: 156 miles East. 
Landed in occupied territory. 
Flight time: 4 hours 45 minutes. 
Keratry, the passenger, was 
slightly injured in the landing, 
but later became General of the 
French Army of the West. 
Papa Godard, over 70 years old, 
handled the balloon in a highly 
professional manner. He re- 
fused to leave his balloon to the, 



enemy, and eventually reached 
Tours with his balloon, his mail, 
and his pigeons. 

Wit1iaAM TELL: October 14. (AI- 

so known as the Christopher Col- 

umbus, and in some lists as the 

Jean Bart). 

Named for: William Tell, the 
Fourteenth Century Swiss pa- 

Balloonist: Albert Tissandier the 
Elder (an architect, father of 


1. Rane (General Superintendent 
of Police in Tours). 
2. Ferrand (Ranc’s secretary). 

Pigeons: 10. 

Cargo: 858 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 65 miles 

Flight time: 3 hours 30 minutes. 

Note: The Tissandier brothers 
had used this same balloon on 
September 9 in an attempt to hit 
Paris on a flight from Rouen. 
This flight was originally sche- 
duled to leave October 12, but a 
strong wind buffeted the inflated 
and moored balloon, ripping a 
hole in the bag. The damage 
was repaired quickly, and W1l- 
liam Tell took off two days later. 

. JuLes Favre: October 16. 

Named for: Jules Favre, Vice 
President and Minister of For- 
eign Affairs. 

Balloonist : Louis Godard the 
Younger (professional aero- 


1. Malapert. 
2. Ribot. 
3. Beote. 

Pigeons: 6. 

Cargo: 429 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 90 miles 
Northeast. Landed in Belgium. 

Flight time: 5 hours. 




. LAFAYETTE: October 16: 


the Jean Bart in some lists). 

Named for: Marquis de Lafayette, 
who played an active part in the 
American and the French Revo- 

Balloonist: Labadie (Naval quar- 
termaster ; Godard’s first student 


1. Barthélémy. 
2. Dara. 

Pigeons: 4. 

Cargo: 594 pounds of mail. 
Distance travelled: 109 miles 
Northeast. Landed in Belgium. 

Flight time: 5 hours. 

Note: There was a violent wind 
at the landing. Labadie cut the 
nacelle ropes and let the gas bag 
soar off. 

Victor Huco: October 18. 

Named for: Victor Hugo, France's 
most illustrious writer. 

Balloonist: Jean Nadal (a drafts- 
man and amateur aeronaut). 

Passengers: None. 

Pigeons: 6. 

Cargo: 968 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 158 miles East. 

Flight time: 5 hours 45 minutes. 

Note: No passengers were aboard 
because of the weight of the 
mail. During a near-disastrous 
take off, Nadal excitedly threw 
out ballast and by mistake in- 
cluded his breakfast. Nadal 
joined the Communard revolt in 
1871, and became the supply chief 
to Duruof, Captain of the Bal- 
loon Corps. Both men _ were 
tried after the Commune was 
crushed: Duruof was acquitted 
“as an aeronaut, not a_ politi- 
cian,” but Nadal was executed. 

_ Untversat Repusric: October 18. 
(Called by one writer The La- 

Balloonist: Jossec (a sailor). 





1. Antonin Dubost. 

2. Pruniéres (Secretary to Du- 

Pigeons: 6. 

Cargo: 671 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 146 miles 

Flight time: 2 hours 10 minutes. 

Note: The balloon made a hazard- 
ous landing in the treetops of the 
Ardennes Forest. “It was a 
superb balloon of imposing ap- 
pearance, checkered in red and 

GarrBaLpr: October 22. 

Named for: Giuseppe Garibaldi, 
unifier of Italy. Now at 63, he 
had come to France to assist 
her in establishing the Third 

Balloonist: Eglésia (professional 
ground crew man on captive bal- 


Pigeons: 6. 

Cargo: 990 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 28 miles East. 

Flight time: 2 hours. 

Note: Scheduled to depart on 
October 20, the take-off was 
delayed two days because of 
adverse winds. 

MontTGOoLFIER: October 25, 

Named for: The Montgolfier 
brothers, Jacques and Joseph, 
who made the first balloon 
ascension in 1783, using hot air 
from a fire burning beneath the 

Balloonist: Hervé-Sene (a sailor). 

Passengers : 

1. Colonel Lapierre (sent out to 
be General of the Army of the 

2. General Bourdec. 

Pigeons: 2. 

Cargo: 858 pounds of mail. 

Paul de Jouvencel 
to Vice President 




Distance travelled: 355 miles East. 
Landed in Germany. 

Flight time: (Unknown). 

Note: Prussians captured the mail 
and pigeons, but the travelers 
escaped to Swtizerland. 

October 27. 

Named for: Sebastian Vauban, 
Seventeenth Century Marshal of 
France. One of France’s greatest 
military men, specialist in siege 
warfare, both offensive and de- 

Balloontst: Guillaume (a sailor). 


1. Reutlinger (diplomat, on way 
to Vienna, then London). 
2. Cassier (expert on pigeons). 

Pigeons: 23. 

Cargo: 594 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 158 miles East. 
Landed at Verdun. 

Flight time: 4 hours. 

Note: Voyagers barely escaped 
being captured. Reutlinger, a 
Bavarian and naturalized French- 
man was shot, but not seriously 
wounded. He probably would 
have been executed if captured. 

BrITAIN: October 27. A privately 
owned balloon (1650 cubic me- 

Balloonist : René Cuzon (a sailor). 
1. Worth (an English gentle- 

2. Manceau (a French mer- 
chant going to England). 
3. Heidert. 

Pigeons: None. 

Cargo: 704 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 200 miles East. 

Flight time: 6 hours. 

Note: The balloon first landed 
among the Prussians, who open- 
ed fire. To save his companions, 
Mr. Worth (son of an English- 
man who was a fashionable 
dressmaker in Paris) leaped 
from the nacelle and surrendered. 


Freed of his weight, the balloon 
shot skyward. The panicky Cu- 
zon opened the gas valve and 
the balloon fell back to earth. 
Cuzon and Heidert now jumped 
out, abandoning Manceau, who 
now shot up to a great altitude. 
Suffering from the cold, Man- 
ceau finally found the vent cord 
and pulled it, dropping back to 
earth. He jumped, broke his 
leg, was turned over to the Prus- 
sians by a French collaboration- 
ist, and thrown into a dungeon 
in Mayence, Germany, for two 
days without care or food. He 
and Worth were held prisoner 
until the end of the war, despite 
strong representations by the 
British government. Prince 
Frederick Karl killed all the 
pigeons save one, which was so 
pretty he sent it to his mother, 
Queen of Prussia, who put it in 
her aviary. Four years later, 
the bird escaped and flew all the 
way home to Paris. 

20. CoLoNEL CHARRAS: October 29. 


Named for: Col. J. B. A. Charras, 
Minister of War in 1848 but de- 
ported in 1852 by Napoleon ITI. 
Died 1865. 

Balloonist: Gilles (a cabinet 

Passengers: None. 

Pigeons: 6. 

Cargo: 1,012 pounds of mail. 
Distance travelled: 81 miles East. 
Flight time: 5 hours. 

Note: Gilles was directed to go to 
Lyons to organize a free balloon 
service in case that city was be- 
sieged. The Colonel Charras 
carried as ballast 5,000 copies of 
Journal officiel. 

Futon : November 2. 

Named for: Robert Fulton, Amer- 
ican inventor. 

Balloonist: Gloennec (a sailor). 

Passengers: Cézanne (a bridge 



Pigeons: 6. 

Cargo: 500 pounds of mail, includ- 

ing news of the abortive Com- 

munard meeting of October 31. 

Distance travelled: 184 miles 

Flight time: 6 hours. 

2. FERDINAND FLocon: November 4. 

Named for: Ferdinand Flocon, 
first Secretary of the Second 
Republic, 1848. 

PBalloonist: Vidal-Loisset ( a cir- 
cus rider). 

Passenger: Lemércier de Jauvel. 

Pigeons: 6. 

Cargo: 286 pounds of mail, inciud- 
ing news of the plebiscite in 

Distance travelled: 206 miles 

Flight time: 6 hours, 45 minutes. 

November 4. 

Named for: Galileo Galilei, Sev- 
enteenth Century Italian in- 
ventor of the telescope. 
Balloonist: Husson (a sailor). 

1. Etienne Antonin (Personal 
secretary to L. A. Garnier- 
Pages, member of the 1848 
republican government, and a 
practicing engineer. 

Pigeons: 6. 

Cargo: 286 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 54 miles 

Flight time: 4 hours. 

Note: This balloon landed near 
the Cathedral of Chartres, and 
was captured. Antonin later 
escaped, however. 

ber 6. 
Named for: 


The small city of 
Chateaudun, Eure-et-Loire, 
which was almost completely 
destroyed October 18, 1870 by 
the Prussians, after a heroic de- 
fense by French guerillas and 
the citizens in standing off an 
entire Prussian division. 

Balloonist: Bose (a contractor 
and builder). 
Passengers: None. 


Pigeons: 6. 

Cargo: 1,001 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 75 miles South- 
west. Landed not far from the 
the city for which it was named. 

Flight time: (Unknown). 

. GrRoNDE: November 8. A private 


Named for: Département de la 
Gironde, of which Bordeaux is 
the principal city. 

Balloonist: Gallay (a sailor). 


1. Harbault (a sailor). 
2. Barry ( a merchant). 
3. Gambes (a merchant). 

Pigeons: None. 

Cargo: 132 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 55 miles West. 

Flight time: 7 hours 30 minutes. 

DacueErrE: November 12. A large 

yellow and blue balloon. 

Named for: Louis Jacques Mandé 
Daguerre, inventor of the da- 

Balloonist: Hubert (or Jubert, or 
Imbert, a sailor. Texts disagree). 


1. Pierron (an engineer). 
2. Nobécourt (an expert on 

Pigeons: 30. 


1. 572 pounds of mail. 

2. Part of Dagron’s equipment. 

3. One messenger dog belonging 
to Pierron. 

Distance travelled: 25 miles East. 

Flight time: 1 hour 45 minutes. 

Note: The only balloon actually 
shot down by the Prussians. The 
three men and most of the mail 
and pigeons were captured but a 
forest ranger found a mail bag 
and six pigeons, which he sent off 
to Paris bearing messages of the 
fate of the balloon. The Prus- 


sians used one of the captured 
birds to take the following mes- 
sage to Paris: “All is occupied 
by the Prussians, who march on 
Cherbourg; rural population ac- 
claims them. Orléans is retaken 
by these devils. Bourges and 
Tours in danger. Army of the 
Loire completely defeated. Re- 
sistance no longer offers any 
chance of salvation. — Signed, 
Lavertujon, in Rouen’. Since 
M. Lavertujon was in Paris 
not Rouen, the false dispatch 
was recognized as such, and 
when the second such pigeon 
arrived, bearing the message 
“Tours and Orleans occupied by 
the enemy,” no one was de- 
ceived. In 1937, the value of a 
letter cover with a cachet show- 
ing it came from the bag of mail 
recovered by the forest ranger 
was 250 francs. 

. Niepce: November 12. 

Named for:  Nicéphore Niepce, 
partner of Daguerre and invent- 
or of photography. 

Balloonist: Pagano (a sailor). 

Passengers : 

1, Dagron (owner of a micro- 
film business). 

2, Fernique (Dagron’s admin- 
istrative associate). 

3. Poisot (Dagrons_ son-in-law 
and assistant). 

4. Gnocchi (Dagron’s laboratory 

Pigeons: None. 


Cargo: 1,320 pounds of Dagron’s 
microfilm equipment and sup- 

Distance travelled: 128 miles East. 

Flight time: 4 hours 15 minutes. 

Note: The story of this flight is 
given in detail in Dagron’s ver- 
sion in Chapter 14. After the 
dangerous experience of Da- 
guerre and Niepce with new anti- 
aircraft fire, the government 


switched from morning take-offs 
to night ascents, usually timed 
for about 11 P.M. Thus, the 
balloons had eight hours of dark- 
in which to pass over enemy 
lines. The night winds, how- 
ever, were weaker, and the pas- 
sengers could not read their alti- 
tude barometers nor could they 
see where they were going. The 
Prussians were always aware of 
the tale-off schedules, and fired 
rockets at the highly inflam- 
mable balloons; fortunately, they 
failed to hit a single one. The 
market value of one of Dagron’s 
microfilms in 1937 was 300 
frances, but the purchaser was 
warned to beware of forgeries. 

28. GENERAL UnricH: November 18. 

First night departure to avoid 

Prussian ground fire. 

Named for: Gen. Alexis Uhrich, 
French commander at the Siege 
of Strasbourg, whose defense of 
the city held from August 13 to 
September 27, 1870. 

Balloonist: Lemoine the Elder (a 
professional aeronaut). 


1. Prosper Thomas (expert on 

2. St. Bienbar (guerilla fighter). 

3. Chaponil (guerilla fighter). 

Pigeons: 36. 

Cargo: 132 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 15 miles West. 
Fell near Paris after a wander- 
ing course lasting all night. 

Flight time: 8 hours 15 minutes. 

Note: Balloon was lost, but pig- 
eons and mail saved. These pig- 

eons were the most useful of 

those sent out of Paris, for 14 of 

the 36 returned to their home 

lofts bearing messages. 

. ArcHIMEDES: November 21. 

Named for: Archimedes, Greek 
mathematician of the Third Cen- 
tury B. C., whose defense of 


Syracuse held off the besieging 
Romans for three years. 
Balloonist: J. Buffet (a sailor). 
1.Saint Valéry (expert on 
2. Jaudas. 
Pigeons: 21. 
Cargo: 660 pounds of mail. 
Distance travelled: 250 miles 
Northeast. Landed in Holland. 
Flight time: 5 hours 45 minutes. 
Note: Three of these pigeons re- 
returned to Paris the following 
day, bearing between 700 and 
800 microprint dispatches made 
by Blaise. In 1937, the market 
value of one of these microprint 
dispatches was from 200 to 300 

Eguatity: November 24. Largest 
balloon (3,000 cubic meters) to 

leave Paris. Private balloon. 

Named for: The second in the 
French Revolutionary triad, 
“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. 

Balloonist: Wilfred de Fonvielle 
(professional balloonist and sci- 
ence writer). 
1. Bunelle 
2. Rouze. 
3. Villoutrey. 

4. Andrécourt. 

Pigeons: 12. 

Cargo: Private correspondence 
(only a few letters). 

Distance travelled: 131 miles 
Northwest. Landed at Louvain, 

Flight time: 3 hours 15 minutes. 

Note: Fonvielle went to London 
to produce anti-Prussian propa- 
ganda; Bunelle became director 
of the balloon corps at Lille. The 
lunch taken by the passengers 
has been recorded as ox sausage, 
roast horse, black bread, claret 
and coffee. The four cages of 

(Fonvielle’s  assist- 


pigeons plus 30 bags of ballast 
were hung on the outside of the 
nacelle, an arrangement follow- 
ed in later balloons. 

31. City oF OrLEANS: November 24. 

Named for: The city of Joan of 


Balloonist: Paul Rolier (an en- 

Passenger: Bezier (a guerilla 

Pigeons: 6. 

Cargo: 550 pounds of mail. 
Distance travelled: 1,000 miles 
Northeast. Landed on Mount 
Lid, 220 miles north of Oslo, 

Flight time: 14 hours 45 minutes. 

Note: The longest of the flights, 
at an average speed of 70 miles 
per hour, twice that of the ex- 
press trains of the day. The 
balloon quickly gained over 
6,000 feet in altitude after take- 
off, and set off northward in a 
fog. Over the North Sea, damp- 
ness forced the balloon down, 
and it was necessary to jettison 
a 275 pound bag of mail, after 
which the balloon rose to 16,000 
feet. It came down in Norway, 
and the voyagers found them- 
selves in desolate, snow-covered 
territory. They found an empty 
cabin where they spent the night, 
thinking they were in Russia. In 
the morning two men _ found 
them, and their trip to Oslo was 
a tour of triumph, the villagers 
greeting them with a display of 
French flags. Even the mail 
bag thrown into the North Sea 
was picked up by a Norwegian 
ship and the mail was forwarded 
to the addressees. 

32. JacguARD: November 28. 

Named for: Joseph Jacquard, in- 
ventor of the Jacquard knitting 
process, which the French today 
call “one of the finest inven- 


3. JuLes Favre, II: 


tions of the industrial revolu- 

Balloonist: Prince (a sailor). 

Passengers: None. 

Pigcons: None. 

Cargo: 550 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: Over 250 miles 
Southwest. No further word, 
and balloon presumed lost in the 
Atlantic off La Rochelle. An 
English boat later recovered 
from the sea and forwarded a 
bag of Jacquard’s mail. A com- 
memorative plaque to the aero- 
naut Prince and his balloon was 
erected at the gare d'Orléans in 

Flight time: (Unknown). 

November 30. 

Named for: . Jules Favre, Vice 
President and Minister of For- 
eign Affairs. 

Balloonist : 
amateur ). 

Passenger: Ducauroy. 

Pigeons: 10. 

Cargo: 110 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: About 265 
miles West. Landed on _ the 
island of Belle Ile in the Atlan- 
tic, off St. Nazaire. 

Flight time: (Unkown). 

BATTLE oF Parts: December 1. 
Named for: The Siege of Paris, 
now in its 70th day. 
Balloonist: Poirier (a gymnast). 
1. Lissajous (a French physicist 
and professor). 
2. Hidoux. 
Pigeons: None. 
Cargo: None. 
Distance travelled: 
miles West. 
of Atlantic. 
Flight time: Unknown. 

Martin (a wealthy 

About 230 
Landed on shore 

. Votta: December 2. 

Named for: Alexander Volta, 
Eighteenth Century Italian pio- 
neer in electricity. 




Balloonist: Chapelain (a sailor). 

Passenger: Jules Janssen (lead- 
ing French astronomer). 

Pigeons: None. 

Cargo: Janssen’s telescopes. 

Disiance travelled: 260 miles 
Southwest. Landed at the Atlan- 
tic seashore at the mouth of the 
River Loire. 

Flight time: 5 hours. 

Note: Professor Janssen was or- 
dered to travel to Oran in North 
Africa to observe the total 
eclipse of the sun in December, 
for the purpose of increasing the 
accuracy of geodetic maps. Bri- 
tish scientists had tried to ar- 
range a safe conduct for him 
through the Prussian zone, but 
Janssen felt it would compromise 
his patriotism and so took his 
chances by balloon. The land- 
ing was a difficult one, made 
worse by the inexperience of 
Chapelain, the balloonist. Jans- 
sen, however, pushed the aero- 
naut aside and landed the bal- 
loon without damage to the tele- 
scopes or the men. 

FRANKLIN: December 5. 

Named for: Benjamin Franklin, 
American patriot and first Am- 
bassador to France. 

Balloonist: Marcia (a sailor). 

Passenger: (Unknown). (A mili- 
tary aide to the Governor of 

Pigeons: 6. 

Cargo: 220 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: About 200 
miles West. 

Flight time: 7 hours. 

Army or Britrany: December 5. 

Balloonist: Surrel (a writer). 

Passenger: Alavoine (French 
consul at the Island of Jersey). 

Pigeons: 6. 

Cargo: None. 

Distance travelled: About 200 
miles Southwest. 
Flight time: 5 hours. 

38. Dents Paprn: December 7. 

Named for: Denis Papin, Eight- 
eenth Century French physicist 
who performed some of the early 
experiments on steam power. The 
Papin Boiler looks much like 
the globes. 

Balloonist: Domalin (a sailor). 

Passengers : 

1. Delort (co-inventor of the 
floating dispatch spheres). 
2. Robert (co-inventor of the 
floating dispatch spheres). 
3. de Montgaillard. 
Pigeons: 3. 
1. 121 pounds of mail. 
2. Zinc globes for floating postal 

Distance travelled: About 90 
miles West. 

Flight time: 6 hours. 

Note: The firm of Venoven, De- 
lort and Robert had the day be- 
fore signed a contract to pro- 
duce zinc globes 10 inches in 
diameter, fitted with small vanes 
to hold them just below the sur- 
face of the water. Carrying 
messages addressed to Paris, the 
globes were to float into Paris 
in the River Seine. The conces- 
sionaires were to receive 40 
centimes per letter placed in the 
river, and an additional 40 
centimes for each one received 
in Paris. The Prussians, know- 
ing of the scheme, stretched nets 
across the river, and no globe 
arrived in Paris until the nets 
were withdrawn at the armistice ; 
then 800 globes floated into the 

39. GENERAL RENAULT: December 11. 

Balloonist: Joignerey (a gym- 

1. Wolff (Commissary General 
of the Armies, on a tour of 
sanitation practices). 

2. Larmanjat (an engineer). 





Pigeons: 12. 
Cargo: 220 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: About 65 
miles Northwest. Landed near 
Rouen on the Lower Seine 

Flight time: 3 hours 15 minutes. 

City or Parts: December 15. 
Balloonist: Delamarne (a profes- 
sional balloonist). 
1. Morel. 
2. Billebaut. 
Pigeons: 12, 
Cargo: 143 pounds of mail. 
Distance travelled: Nearly 300 
miles Northeast. Landed near 
Wetzlar, Germany. 
Flight time: (Unknown). 
Note: Balloon and travelers cap- 
tured and interned. 
PARMENTIER: December 17. 
Named for: Jean Parmentier, Six- 
teenth Century French admiral 
and explorer. 
Balloonist: Louis Paul. 

1. Desdouet. 
2. (Unknown). A guerilla 

3. (Unknown). 
Pigeons: 4. 
Cargo: 300 pounds of mail. 
Distance travelled: About 100 
miles East. 
Flight time: 7 hours 45 minutes. 

December 17. 
Named for: Johann Gutenberg, 

Fifteenth Century German in- 

ventor of the printing press. 

Balloonist: Perruchon (a sailor). 


1. d Almeida (Physicist of the 
Ministry of Public Instruc- 

2. G. Lévy (a photographer and 
competitor of Dagron’s). 

3. Louisy. 

Pigeons: 6. 
Cargo: None. 



Distance travelled: 128 miles 
East. Landed nearly where Da- 
gron had landed in Niepce over 
a month before. 

Flight time: 7 hours 30 minutes. 

Note: Professor d’Almeida and 
M. Lévy were sent to expedite 
the pigeon postal service. 
Dagron complains in his “La 
Poste” (see Chapter 14) that 
Lévy later falsely claimed cre- 
dit for doing Dagron’s work. 

Davy: December 18. 

Named for: Sir Humphrey Davy, 
England’s foremost chemist at 
the beginning of the Nineteenth 

Balloonist: Chaumont (a sailor). 

Passenger: Deschamps. 

Pigcons: None. 

Cargo: 55 pounds of mail.. 

Distance travelled: About 170 
miles Southeast. 

Flight time: (Unknown). 


Named for: General Alfred Chan- 
zy, commanding the Second 
French Army of the Loire. 

Balloonist: Léopold  Verrecke 
(gymnast and performer on cap- 
tive balloons). 


1. Lepinay. 
2. Julliac. 

3. Berrel. 
Pigeons: 4. 

1. 55 pounds of mail. 
2. Underwater diving apparatus. 

Distance travelled: About 400 
miles Southeast. Landed in 
Bavaria. Captured and interned. 

Flight time: 8 hours. 

Note: The freight cargo included 
diving gear for an attempt to 
let men walk back into Paris 
along the bed of the river. All 
material and mail was _ confis- 
cated, of course. 





Lavotster: December 22, 

Named for: Antoine Laurent La- 
voisier, one of the founders of 
modern chemistry in the Eight- 
eenth Century. 

Balloonist: Sauveur-Ledret (a 

Passenger: Boisdeffre. 

Pigeons: 6. 

Cargo: 385 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled. About 175 

miles Southwest. 

Flight time: 6 hours 45 minutes. 

DELIVERANCE: December 23. 

Balloonist: Edward Gauchet (a 

Passenger: Reboul (inventor of 
glass globes for the floating dis- 
patch service). 

Pigeons: 4. 


1. 242 pounds of mail. 

2. Globes for floating postal 

Distance travelled: About 280 

miles West. 
Flight time: 8 hours 15 minutes. 

Note: After the 10-inch zinc 
globes of Delort and Robert 
had been intercepted by the 

Prussians (see Balloon 38, the 
Denis Papin), Reboul was sent 
to the provinces to try out his 
tiny glass globes. They passed 
through the German nets, but 
were crushed by ice cakes in 
the river. M. Lacoin proposed 
using very small rubber balls to 
avoid breakage, but the system 
was not put to the test. M. 
Duchemin proposed using old 
corks, on the theory the enemy 
would not bother to inspect an 
item so common in the Siene; 
the indiscretion of the press kill- 
ed this scheme by giving it 
A private balloon. 
Named for: Rouget de Lisle, com- 

December 24. 




poser of the French national an- 

them, La Marscillaise. 

Balloonist: Jahn (a sailor). 


1. Glachant (a merchant). 

2. Garnier (a merchant). 
Pigeons: None. 
Cargo: None. 
Distance travelled: 

miles West. 

Flight time: 6 hours 45 minutes. 

MERLIN DE Douay: December 27. 

A private balloon. 

Named for: Philippe - Auguste 
Merlin de Douay, Eighteenth 
Century French judge. 

Balloonist: Griseaut (a guerilla 

Passenger : 

Pigeons: None. 

Cargo: None. 

Distance travelled: 
miles South. 

Ilight time: 7 hours 15 minutes. 

TourRVILLE: December 27. 

Named for: Anne de Tourville, 
Seventeenth Century French 

Balloonist: Moutet (a sailor). 


1. Miége. 

2. Siméon Delaleu. 

Pigeons: 4. 

Cargo: 352 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: About 
miles South. 

Flight tune: 9 hours. 

Note: Moutet, the balloonist, was 
one of the two men (Reginensi 
of No. 50 was the other) out of 
50 making the attempt who were 
able to make their way back into 
Paris with messages from the 

Bayarp: December 29. 

Named for: Pierre de Bayard, 
Sixteenth Century French cap- 
tain who single handedly held 
the Bridge of Garigliano against 

About 130 

Eugéne Tarbe des 

About 150 






a force of 200 Spanish cavalry- 

Balloonist: Reginensi ( a sailor). 
Passenger: Ducoux (Director of 
the Paris Stagecoach Company). 

Pigeons: 4. 

Cargo: 225 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: About 240 
miles Southwest. Landed about 
5 miles from the seashore. 

Flight time: 7 hours. 

Note: Reginensi later succeeded 
in returning to Paris through 
the Prussian lines. (See note on 
No. 49). 

. ARMY OF THE Loire: December 31. 

Balloonist: Lemoine the Son 
(professional balloonist). 

Passengers: None. 

Pigeons: None. 

Cargo: 550 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: About 100 
miles Southwest. 

Flight time: 8 hours. 

. Newton: January 4, 1871. 

Named for: Isaac Newton, Eight- 
eenth Century British physicist, 
propounder of the Law of Grav- 

Balloonist: Aimé Ours (a sailor). 

Passenger: Brousseau. 

Pigeons: 4. 


1. 209 pounds of mail. 
2. 471 pounds of freight. 
Total: 680 pounds. 

Distance travelled: About 50 miles 

Flight time: (Unknown). 

. DUQUESNE: January 9. A blimp 

with hand-operated propellors. 
Named for: Abraham Duquesne, 
Seventeenth Century French 

Conumander: Richard (a naval 


1. Aymond (a sailor to turn 

2. Chemin (a sailor to turn 




3. Lallemagne (a sailor to turn 
Pigeons: 4. 
Cargo: 220 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 100 miles 
Northeast. Landed near Rheims 
Cathedral. Commander Richard 

was gravely wounded during the 
landing in occupied territory, and 
was left for dead by the sailors. 

Flight time: 7 hours. 

Note: Although great hopes were 
held that a balloon could be driv- 
en through the air as one would 
drive a ship; and although sev- 
eral members of the Academy of 
Science held high enough hopes 
for the Duquesne to be present at 
its launching; yet this was the 
only attempt at directional flight 
during the siege. The Duquesne, 
because its gas bag was round 
rather than cucumber-shaped, as 
in modern blimps, merely rotated 
when the propellors were turned. 
Admiral Labrousse was given 
credit for designing the Du- 
quesne, but it is interesting to 
note that the Journal officiel for 
October 29, 1870, reported a 
grant of 40,000 francs to the 
naval designer Stanislas Dupuy 
de Lome to design just such a 
balloon. Duquesne was built in 
the Godard shops at gare d’Or- 

GAMBETTA: January 10, 

Named for: Léon Gambetta, who 
was directing the war effort in 
Free France. 

Balloonist: Charles Duvivier (a 
guerilla fighter). 

Passenger: Fourey (a guerilla 

Pigeons: 3. 


1. 50 pounds of mail. 
2. 480 pounds of freight. 
Total: 530 pounds. 
Distance travelled: 

110 = miles 





Flight time: 11 hours. 

KEPLER: January 11. 

Named for: Johann Kepler, Sev- 
enteenth Century German astro- 

Balloonist: Roux (a sailor). 

Passenger: Dupuy. 

Pigeons: 3. 


1. 55 pounds of mail. 
2. 341 pounds of freight. 
Total 396 pounds. 

Distance travelled: 

Flight time: 5 hours 45 minutes. 

MoNnGE: January 12. A _ private 


Named for: Gaspard M ongé, 
French mathematician at time of 
Napoleon Bonaparte. One of the 
founders of the Polytechnical 

Balloonist: Raoul (a sailor). 

Passenger: Guinier (a merchant). 

Pigeons: None. 

Cargo: None. 

Distance travelled: 
miles South. 

Fligh time: 4 hours. 


Named for: General Louis Faid- 
herbe, commander of the French 
Army of the North. 

Balloonist: Van Seymoutier, 
guerilla fighter). 

Passenger: Hurel (expert on dog 

188 miles 

About 140 

Pigeons: 2. 

1. 132 pounds of mail. 
2.5 dogs trained to home on 
Distance travelled: 
Flight time: 10 hours 30 minutes. 
Note: Hurel planned to insert 
messages in the dogs’ collars and 
release them some 25 to 30 miles 
from Paris. The owners of the 
dogs were to receive 200 francs 
for each dog’s trip into Paris 

360 miles 



within 48 hours of release. 
Newspaper articles warned the 
hungry Parisians not to kill the 
dogs, so the Prussians learned 
of the scheme and not a dog got 

. VAUCANSON: January 15. 

Named for: Jacques de Vaucan- 
son, Eighteenth Century gadget- 

Balloonist: Clariot (a sailor). 


1. Valade. 
2. Delente (inventor of subma- 

Pigeons: 3. 

Cargo: 165 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: About 150 
miles Northeast. Landed in Bel- 
gium, near Flanders. 

Flight time: 6 hours 15 minutes. 

Note: Delente planned to build a 
submarine on wheels which could 
crawl along the bottom of the 
river and thus evade Prussian 
eyes. “M. Delente did not re- 
turn in his submarine boat; the 
armistice, which rendered his ef- 

forts unnecessary, is perhaps 
one of the reasons”. 
STEENACKERS. January 16. 
Named for: Frangois Frédéric 

Steenackers, Communications Di- 
rector in Free France. 
Balloonist: Vibert (professional 
Passenger: Gobron. 
Pigeons: None. 
Cargo: None. 
Distance travelled: About 
miles. Landed in Holland. 
Flight time: (Unknown). 
Paris PostaL SERVICE: 
Balloomist: Tourbiaux (a mech- 
1. Clairet. 
2. Cailhorse. 
Pigeons: 3. 
Cargo: 154 pounds of mail. 






Distance travelled: About 300 
miles. Landed in Holland. 
Flight time: (Unknown). 
GENERAL Boursaki: January 20. 
Named for: Gen. Charles Bour- 
baki, Commander of French 
Army of the East. 
Balloonist: Théodore Mangin, 
(professional aeronaut). 
Passenger: Boisanfrey. 
Pigcons: 4. 
1. 275 pounds of mail. 
2. Chemicals ordered by pigeon 
on January 18 by Dagron. 

Distance travelled: About 100 
miles Northeast. Landed near 
Rheims cathedral in occupied 


Flight tine: (Unknown). 

Note: Balloon was burned to pre- 
vent its falling into Prussian 
hands. Mangin and Boisanfrey 
delivered the chemicals to Da- 
gron in person. 


Named for: Baron Pierre Daum- 
esnil, French General at Water- 

Balloonist: Robin (a sailor). 

Passengers: None. 

Pigeons: 3. 

Cargo: 616 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: About 200 
miles Northeast. Landed in Bel- 

Flight time: 5 hours. 

TorIceLL1: January 24. 

Named for: Evangelista Toricelli, 
Seventeenth Century Italian 




physicist, inventor of the barom- 
eter which was used to determine 
altitude of the balloons. 

Balloonist: Beli (a sailor). 

Passengers: None. 

Pigeons: 3. 

Cargo: 506 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: About 50 
miles North. 

Flight time: (Unknown). 
RIcHARD WALLACE: January 27. 

Named for: Richard Wallace, an 
English philanthropist of the 
time. He probably had backed 
the Parisians financially in some 

Balloonist: Emile Lacaze (a 
Passengers: None. 

Pigeons: 2. 

Cargo: 484 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: At least 400 
miles Southwest. Supposed lost 
at sea off Arcachon and Bor- 

Flight time: (Unknown). 

Named for: Gen. Pierre Cam- 
bronne, Marshal of France at 

Balloonist: Tristan (a sailor). 

Passengers: None. 

Pigeons: None. 

Cargo: 44 pounds of mail. 

Distance travelled: 170 miles 

Flight time: 7 hours 15 minutes. 

Note: This balloon carried the 
news that Paris had surren- 



Durinc the Siege of Paris, homing pigeons to bring mes- 
sages back into the city were offered to the Central Govern- 
ment by the Pigeon Breeders’ Union and by the two major 
private societies of racing pigeon owners, L’Espérance and 
Roitelet. In all, about four hundred pigeons left Paris by bal- 
loon, and seventy-three flights returned. Some individual 
pigeons made several flights, however, and more than three- 
quarters of the trained birds furnished the Postal Service were 

Of the twenty or more varieties of domesticated pigeon, 
in the Nineteenth Century, two proved to be dependable for 
carrying messages. The so-called military messenger pigeons 
were bred by crossing the long-billed Antwerp variety with 
the short-billed Liége pigeon; their extraordinary powers of 
flight and highly developed memory for places were enhanced 
by careful training. 

All domestic pigeons are descended from the wild rock 
dove, which lived in caverns and holes in rocks, but never lived 
in woods or trees. Its food consisted of grain, nuts, and the 
tender leaves of wild plants. The soft call of the wild pigeon 
and its devoted acceptance of responsibility toward its mate 



and offspring caused it to become a symbol throughout the 
ages of gentleness, peace, and affection. During the effective 
operation of the pigeon postal service of 1870-71, the people 
of Paris looked upon the birds with an excess of anthropomor- 
phism and love. 

The dove, widespread in its wild distribution, was domes- 
ticated early: King Solomon had a collection of tame doves 
three thousand years ago, and the Book of Isaiah makes refer- 
ence to the dovecotes of the Persians of 500 B.C. As the ancient 
owners of pigeons saw their flocks breed, they noticed an 
occasional mutant with stronger wing muscles, greater devo- 
tion to its home nesting place, greater intelligence or more 
stamina. Anticipating by many centuries the controlled cross- 
breeding experiments of Gregor Mendel, the pigeon fanciers 
began isolating these superior individuals and mating them 
with each other. It seems that the ancestors of the modern 
homing pigeon were not hybrids between species, but were the 
product of careful inbreeding within the single species Columba 
livia. The great fertility of this pigeon, plus the permanent 
retention of the desired characteristics when bred in and in, 
parent with offspring, sibling with sibling, quickly produced a 
stable strain of birds capable of strong and swift flight, and 
fidelity to the homing instinct. These and other results of a 
millenium of development of the pigeon’s varietal characteris- 
tics provided Charles Darwin with data from which he drew 
heavily for his conclusions on the operation of the characteris- 
tics of natural selection. 

The pigeon fancier of early days soon progressed from 
simple cages to large houselike boxes with multiple compart- 
ments for individual and paired birds. These houses became 
and still are known as dovecotes, columbariums, or lofts. 

Sooner or later, it was inevitable that men would see in 
the homing pigeon a winged messenger to carry short notes 


back to its home loft. The practice probably started when a 
nobleman took a favorite bird with him on an extended trip, 
releasing the pigeon when a day’s ride from home on his return, 
thereby apprising his household that they might expect his 
return on the following day. Evidence points to this usage in 
ancient Asia, in Imperial Rome, and during the medieval 

From here it was a short step to using the flying couriers 
as military messengers. During the struggle for power in the 
Roman Empire after the assassination of Julius Caesar, Mare 
Antony led the forces of the Second Triumvirate against 
Brutus and bottled up the forces of Brutus in Mutina (now 
Modena, in northern Italy). Brutus, seeking assistance from 
the Consuls, used homing pigeons to carry word of his plight to 
his allies across the lines of siege. The message was delivered, 
the armies arrived, Brutus was saved. Military pigeons have 
been and still are used regularly in the United States Army 
and the exploits of individual birds became widely known. 
Cher Ami, a World War I messenger, came home with one leg 
shot away, but the message intact and hanging from a tendon. 

The homing pigeon is a bird of considerable stamina and 
strength. By the time it is one year old, a trained pigeon will 
home over a 100-mile distance. At the age of two, the same 
bird, now heavier and more experienced, can be expected to 
double its range, while a fully matured, well-trained bird will 
reliably perform over a route 500 or even 1,000 miles long. 
Altitude of flight will range from about 400 feet to 1,000 feet 
in good weather, but overcast forces the pigeon down to 
where it can see and recognize landmarks to guide it on its way. 

Flying speeds of homing pigeons depend on many factors: 
age and strength of the bird; weather and wind conditions; 
familiarity with the route; competence of the trainer. The 
average bird will cover about 35 miles per hour, while speeds at 


times may run well over 60 miles an hour. During pigeon 
racing meets some birds will arive home promptly, while an 
occasional one will straggle in days later. Weight of the message 
load a one-pound bird can carry successfully is limited to about 
a thirtieth of an ounce. 

The excitement and lavish affection bestowed on the 
homing pigeons during the Siege of Paris was best described in 
a feature in L’I/lustration in February, 1871: 

“A pigeon! A pigeon! —and the crowd rushed up, and all 
eyes followed the aerial messenger which flew to the windows, 
to the roofs. All hearts pounded at the thought of the messages 
which the flying courier brought attached to his charming 
plumage. Why shouldn’t the crowd be emotionally moved! 
Were not these messages as dear to us as the twig brought by a 
dove to the refugees on Noah’s Ark? They brought us news 
from our exiled loved ones; in a few hours they would give us 
news of the Fatherland, of our armies, of our valiant Pro- 
vinces. It was a part of ourselves which was carried on the 
wings of the bird. The crowd, trembling, seemed so numerous, 
so clamorous, that the Government deemed it necessary to step 
in; and so a note in Journal officiel warned the inhabitants 
that this tormented chasing of our messenger pigeons would 
have precisely the opposite effect to that which Paris expected, 
in frightening the poor tired bird and making him lose his way. 

“We have seen them, these winged factors of our aerial 
post, at M. Dérouard’s and at M. Goyet’s, whose dovecote 
perches picturesquely atop his house in rue de Magenta. Our 
arrival put the birds to flight, and we were tempted to say, The 
wildness of them! But at the sight of their masters the affec- 
tionate birds returned, cooing, to search for grains of food in 
their hands. Why not confess it here? It is not without a cer- 
tain fondness that we have taken, examined, and caressed these 
precious birds. The homing pigeon is of medium size, about 


half way between the turtle dove and the wood pigeon. Its 
build is short and stout. The head is wide between the eyes, 
which protrude and stare. The neck is short and filled out. The 
wing is powerful and of good spread. The tail is narrow, the 
quill feathers completely overlapping. The feet are bare, short, 
and rather primitive. The coloration is extremely variable, but 
the dominant color is blue, speckled with numerous black 

“Memory of the pigeon remains one of the most touching 
emotions of the siege. That many of us had had for years the 
caged pigeon as a house ornament bespoke our fondness for it. 
The poetic imagination of the Greeks had made the bird dear 
to Venus, and the Moslems relate that Mohammed had trained 
one of them to peck at his ear: it is through this divine bird 
that the Prophet pretended to receive word from Heaven. But 
never, I am sure, has the pigeon rendered so many services to 
any people as to us, never has it made the heart beat so lively. 

“The City of Paris, which carries a ship on its coat of 
arms, should engrave there the bird which so many times we 
acclaimed as the dove bringing good news.” 




(1822-1880 ) 

French member of the Scientific Commission for National Defense 
during the Siege of Paris; photographic experimenter. Almeida acted as 
liaison between Dagron and Fernique and the Central Government of Paris. 
He left Paris by balloon number 42 (the (Gutenberg) with his assistant 
Lévy. A founder of the French Physical Society, Almeida created the Journal 
de physique. For 25 years he was a professor of physics at Henry IV High 
School in Paris, then became Superintendent of Public Instruction. In 
1881 the French Physical Society opened a subscription to raise a monu- 
ment to Almeida for his services during the Siege of Paris. He also was 
a motion picture pioneer, designing in 1865 a stereoscopic viewer, and act- 
ing as cameraman in 1874 for Jules Janssen (q. v.) using Janssen’s “photo 
revolver” to record the transit of Venus. 


French chemist. Attached to the Commerce Ministry, he was inspector 
of child labor. Left Paris for the Provinces, in charge of evacuation of 
school children from cities threatened with siege; died Nov. 23, 1870 under 
the strain of his responsibilities. Dagron’s son, Dr. Georges Dagron, in 1901 
gave credit to Barreswil for having the first idea of using microphotography 




in the wartime communications program. He suggested the procedure in 
Tours to Steenackers, and the Blaise microprint process was begun, later 
being superseded by the Dagron microfilm method. 


Creator of the German Empire out of the separate German states. As 
minister under King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, he provoked war 
with Austria, then the leading German kingdom. At the Battle of Sadowa 
(July 3, 1866), Prussian snipers picked off the Austrian artillerymen (who, 
although they enjoyed greater numbers of guns, had nothing but muzzle- 
loading cannon). Bismarck had equipped his Prussians with the new 
breech-loading cannon, enabling his artillerymen to load without exposing 
themselves. Prussia won the battle, largely because of this technological revo- 
lution, and the muzzle-loader disappeared from warfare. Austria, Saxony, 
Bavaria, Hanover and the other German states were then united in a loose 
but powerful federation under the leadership of Prussia. Napoleon III of 
France, jealous of that power, declared war on Prussia, although there seems 
to be evidence that Bismarck was equally agressive and forged certain diplo- 
matic dispatches to draw out the French. After the fall of Paris (See 
Chapter 5), Bismarck consolidated the German alliance into the German 
Empire under the Prussian king, who became Kaiser Wilhelm I. Bismarck 
became Chancellor, and guided the Empire until shortly after the Kaiser 
died. The new emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II (grandson of Wilhelm I, and 
instigator of World War I) soon came to feel he had had enough of the 
“Iron Chancellor” tactics of Bismarck, and forced him to retire. 


Little is known of this man, who made the first microphotographic 
dispatches sent to Paris by pigeon. He was apparently a professional photo- 
grapher, with a studio in Tours in 1864-1880. His dispatches were first 
on conventional photographic paper, later on duplex-coated paper. In 1864 
he exhibited carbon prints at a meeting of the Société francaise de photo- 
graphie; after the siege he continued in Tours and was listed in 1880 as 
one of the four photoglyptologists (intaglio photoengravers) in France. 

Scottish physicist, founder of the British Association for the Advance- 
ment of Science (1831). A prolific writer and prodigious research worker, 


he invented the kaleidoscope (1816), improved the stereoscope, and — 
in his articles on “Microscopes” and “Micrometers” published in the Encyclo- 
paedia Britannica in 1857 — gave the first widespread publicity to micro- 
filming. These articles were to break the Dagron patent monopoly in 1861. 


French professor of optics, Polytechnic School of Paris. Worked with 
Mercadier (q.v.) during the Siege of Paris, in charge of reproduction of 
microfilm messages. 


French microfilm pioneer. In addition to his microfilm work, he 
received patents on a system of instantaneous reproduction of designs 
(1879); a system of color printing on silk paper (1881); a method of 
preparing and packaging writing inks (1884); a system of perfecting rubber 
stamps (1889). In 1878 he made some of the earliest aerial photographs 
on record, using the great captive balloon of Henri Giffard. He and Mme. 
Dagron had six children, of whom one son, Georges, became a renowned phy- 
sician and author. One grandson, René II, who was born in 1893, is a success- 
ful businessman and engineer in Paris today, who has followed his grand- 
father’s bent in chemical technology and printing inks. As a result of his 
work during the Siege, René Dagron the elder presented to the government 
a memoir asking that his original contract be honored, and listing the equip- 
ment and materials he had lost because the Dagwerre had been equipped with 
faulty ballast bags. The original contract had called for Dagron to be paid 
25,000 francs in Tours for the temporary closing of his business and the 
travel risks to his equipment and life, a life insurance policy of 3,000 francs 
per year if he were to die during the voyage, and 15 francs per thousand 
letters or characters reproduced; he was to pay Fernique a part of the latter. 
Steenackers claimed that Dagron lost only between 8,000 and 10,000 francs 
worth of equipment, and that in all he made some 52,000 francs off the 
job, of which he paid Fernique 10%. The post-war government refused 
Dagron’s request, and — according to the family records — he obtained 
only a high school scholarship in Paris for each of his two sons, plus a plot 
in perpetual care in Montmartre Cemetery. In later years, Mme. Dagron 
took over the management of his business, “M. Dagron being above all an 


inventor very little preoccupied with material matters”. After his death, 
the business was sold “for a very modest sum” to an employee of long stand- 
ing, M. Luzatto. 


One of the French inventors of photography. Scene painter for the 
opera. Founded the very successful Diorama in Paris (1822), a gallery 
where paintings on translucent cloth were, through manipulation of the light- 
ing, made to appear to come alive and move. Started experimenting with 
photography in 1824; formed partnership with Niepce (1829-1833); dis- 
covered principles of the daguerretoype (1832); perfected (1837) and 
introduced (1839) daguerreotype, first practicable photographic process. 


British optical manufacturer; made first microphotographs on record. 
In addition to his microfilm work, he invented the photographic lantern 
slide (c. 1850) a system of electrotyping, an electric doorbell (1838), a 
stereoscopic camera (1852) a lime-light projector, a tachometer, Dancet’s 
top (a toy), and the Fairy Fountain (colored jets of water, produced by 
ever-changing hues of light). He was a popular lecturer, supplementing his 
talks with musical showmanship and an expert exhibition of juggling and 
magic. Between 1860 and 1877 he presented some 42 contributions and 
26 demonstrations before the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, 
on such widely ranging subjects as the influence on public health of flue 
dust, microscope techniques for examining such dust, solar and lunar eclipses, 
his 1838 experiments on the production of ozone through electric discharges, 
and his observations on the relationship of a population of earthworms 
to the rejuvenation of soil. He and Mrs. Dancer had eight children. 


French optical maker and photographer. Patented (1852) the Bioscope, 
or peep-show motion picture viewer. Built arc-lamp projector-enlarger 
operating from batteries for reproducing Dagron’s 1870 pigeon post films 
to 1600 times original size. Film was placed in a slide carrier and scanned 
from section to section. The projector throw was about 15 feet. (See 
Mercadier ). 



French aeronaut, Captain of the Balloon Corps during the Siege of 
Paris at a salary of 300 francs per month. Piloted the Neptune, first balloon 
to leave Paris (September 23, 1870). Joined the Communard uprising in 
1871 and was brought to trial by the War Councils. Defended by Nadar, 
Duruof was acquitted on the ground he was politically naive. 

( - 1898) 

French professor at the School of Arts and Manufacturer, advanced 
amateur photographer. Ernest Picard, Minister of Finance, equipped his 
laboratory with a Dagron camera for conducting experiments on micro- 
tilming the messages of the Siege of Paris; he tried, successively, thin paper, 
thin mica sheets, and finally the Taupenot dry collodion process. Picard 
asked Fernique to leave Paris to establish the collodion system, but Fernique 
suggested Dagron himself should go; Fernique agreed to assist Dagron 
where possible, to manage the end of the system dealing with the pigeons 
themselves, and to supervise the plan for using message globes floating down 
the Seine. Fernique and Dagron signed (November 10, 1870) a contract for 
these services with Postmaster General Rampont and Finance Minister 
Picard. He and Dagron left Paris by balloon number 27 (the Niepce) on 
November 12. Threatened with court-martial by Gambetta and Steenackers, 
Fernique was forced to drop the floating dispatch program, and he devoted 
all his time, first to handling the explosive situation with Steenackers and, 
second to helping Dagron set up his laboratory. Fernique’s original con- 
tract called for 15,000 francs for taking the risk of the balloon voyage, a 
life insurance policy of 3,000 francs per year if he should die during the 
voyage, and 15 francs (to be shared with Dagron) for each thousand letters 
or characters reproduced. Steenackers later maintained that under the renego- 
tiated contract with the Delegation, Fernique was paid 5,200 francs in 
addition to the 15,000 francs he received in Paris. Fatigue and strain of 
working with Steenackers caused his health to break down in the last days 
of the Siege, and it was several weeks before he was able to return to Paris. 

(1800-1877 ) 
An English inventor of photography and mathematician. Discouraged 
by his attempts to sketch landscapes with a camera lucida (1833), he 
resolved to work on means for making the camera’s image permanent. 


Using silver chloride paper he succeeded (1835) in producing a paper nega- 
tive with a 30-minute exposure, and fixed it out with a strong solution of salt 
water. Since the result was a negative, he contact printed on another sheet 
of paper, thus originating the negative-positive process. In contrast to the 
daguerreotype process, which was bought by the French government and 
freely given to the world’s photographers, the Talbotype (or Calotype, as 
it was also known) was patented, and Fox-Talbot tried to exercise complete 
control of the process. Fox-Talbot was also interested in other sciences, and 
enjoys fame among archeologists for being among the first to decipher the 
cuneiform inscriptions of Nineveh. 

(1838-1882 ) 

“The one-eyed radical Dictator” lost an eye in an accident at 16. He 
proclaimed the dissolution of the Empire of Napoleon III and the birth of 
the Third Republic at the Hotel de Ville, Sept. 4, 1870. He left Paris py 
balloon October 7 for Tours, where he took supreme direction of the war 
effort as War Minister. Within a few weeks he had created an army of 
600,000 men, an army “which might possibly have effected the relief of 
Paris had the fortress at Metz held out”. Gambetta’s three great contribu- 
tions to France were: preserving her self-respect through a strong resistance 
after the Emperor had surrendered the army; tactfully persuading the 
extreme left to accept a moderate Republican form of government; and 
putting down the uprising by the advisers of MacMahon. The Illustrated 
London News of August 31, 1878, announced the engagement of Gambetta 
to Mlle. Guichard, who brought a tidy dowry of 18 million francs. Yet 
the romance of his life was Léonie Léon, with whom he fell in love in 
1871. He always begged her to marry him, but she knew it would com- 
promise his career and refused until 1882. She was, however, his intimate 
political adviser and confidante. Their marriage date had been announced 
at long last when he was accidentally shot and fatally injured in her home. 


The foremost balloonist in France in 1870, he commanded the first 
balloon observation post in Paris during the Siege. His company, Godard 
Brothers, manufactured balloons for the government under Madame Godard’s 
direction. In 1850 he appeared in Manchester, New Hampshire, before a 
crowd estimated at between 20,000 and 50,000 persons; he and Mme. 
Godard then ascended in a large balloon riding a horse. 



British astronomer, physicist, chemist. Son of Sir William Herschel, 
discoverer of the planet, Uranus, Sir John discovered hypo for making 
photographs permanent (1819), and was one of the first to propose use of 
microfilm for preserving public records (prior to 1853). Herschel’s scien- 
tific competence was so great that in January 1839, receiving only word that 
Daguerre had crowned his 15 years of experimenting with the successful 
making of a photograph, Herschel analyzed the several possible avenues of 
approach and within one week had succeeded in producing a permanent 
photograph. His process, differing from both Daguerre’s and Talbot's, 
used a paper coated with silver carbonate, printed out (instead of chemically 
developed), and fixed in his own discovery of photographic hypo. 


The foremost astronomer in France, he was sent to Hindustan to observe 
an eclipse in 1868, and sent by balloon from Paris December 2, 1870 to 
observe one on December 22 in North Africa. He later served as President 
of the International Congress of Photography, and in 1876 invented the 
“Photo-Revolver”, one of the first movie cameras, used in studying the 
transit of Venus. 


A French telegraphic specialist, who also did a great deal of important 
developmental work in acoustics and electricity. Only 34 at the time of the 
Siege of Paris, he succeeded Steenackers as Director General of Telegraphic 
Services, and supervised (with Alfred Cornu) the copying and distribution of 
the microfilm dispatches arriving in Paris by pigeon. After the Dagron 
films began to overload the capacity of the clerks transcribing from an 
enlarged image on a screen (the original four clerks were soon swamped, 
so the number rose to ten, and finally to 67), Mercadier and Cornu 
decided to make 160 diameter photographic enlargements. Accordingly, they 
substituted a series of 16 inch dry collodion plates for the screen. After 
exposure and development, the sheet of collodion was stripped from each 
glass plate and transferred to a backing sheet of varnished black paper or 
black cloth. 

(See Dubosc) 



First American to open a commercial laboratory devoted exclusively to 
microfilm production. According to Humphrey's Journal of January 15, 
1865, he received technical instruction from both Dancer and Dagron. His 
advertisement in American Journal of Photography (December 15, 1864, et. 
seq.) reads “Microscopic photographs taken from Carte de Visites, and set 
in pins and watch charms. Send for circular. J. H. Morrow, 14 John Street, 
top floor, New York”. Wilson’s editorial of September, 1866 in Philadelphia 
Photographer gives the address as J. H. Morrow, 629 Broadway, but may 
have confused the address with that of another photographer not engaged 
in microfilming: the New York City directories for 1865-1866 give John 
H. Morrow at 14 John Street, while the directory for 1866-1867 lists a 
photographer named James H. Morrow at the Broadway address. Coincident 
with the appearance of John Morrow’s 1864 advertisement appeared one by 
a “William B. Carpenter, Manufacturer of Microscopic Pictures and Lenses, 
77 Nassau Street, rear building, rooms 26 and 27”. In the light of articles 
describing Morrow’s operation in 1864-66, however, it would appear that 
Carpenter never achieved any stature or permanent status in microphoto- 


A French aeronaut, he was supply chief under Duruof for the Balloon 
Corps during the Siege of Paris and piloted balloon number 14 (the Victor 
Hugo.) He was tried and executed in 1871 for participation in the Com- 
munard coup d'etat. 


This was the professional name of Gaspar Felix Tournachon, French 
caricaturist, writer, balloonist, photographer. Subject of Daumier’s  stiil 
widely known sketch, “Nadar Raising the Art of Photography to a New 
High”, done at the time Nadar was experimenting with aerial photography, 
Nadar was the best-known portrait photographer in France, partly because 
of his wide friendship among the bohemian artists of the Third Republic, 
partly because of his deeply-ingrained sense of showmanship, but mainly 
because of his technical excellence and imaginativeness in photography. He 
not only pioneered in aerial photography (starting his experiments in 
1855), but created a sensation at the London World’s Fair in 1862 by exhi- 
biting a series of startling views taken by electric light in the famed sewers 


and catacombs of Paris. He pioneered the candid photograph, and the photo- 
graphic series known as the photographic interview. Long interested in 
ballooning, he built the Gant (1863), the largest balloon ever made until 
that time. During the Siege of Paris, he was placed in charge of the entire 
balloon operation. Nadar’s “When I Was a Student” describes his training 
as a doctor, his change to journalism, his arrest as a spy in Prussia in 1848. 
His book “When I Was a Photographer” tells of the portraits he made of 
the great and near-great, of his fashionable studios with elevators, fresh 
flowers, singing birds, artistic fountains, and special stages for photographing 
his clients on horseback; he reveled in being called (1862) “the great 
Barnum of Photography”. 


A nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, he acquired liberal ideals as a young 
man and welcomed the 1848 Revolution in France which overthrew King 
Louis Philippe. Elected to National Assembly of the Second Republic, 
subsequently elected President of the Republic (December 10, 1848), he 
immediately began to assert his absolute authority, arrested many repub- 
lican leaders, and restricted freedom of the press. He proclaimed himself 
Napoleon II and France the Second Empire (December 2, 1852), caused 
France to enter wars in Crimea, Austria and Italy, and established (1863) 
Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico. When he withdrew his support of 
Maximilian in the face of United States demands, Maximilian was executed 
by the Mexicans. Seeing the stirrings of German unification on his Eastern 
border he declared war on Prussia (July 19, 1870), and led the French 
Army for six weeks until he was forced to surrender with his entire army 
of 100,000 men at Sédan on September 1. Formally deposed as Emperor, 
the Empire abolished, and the Third Republic formed by the French 
National Assembly on March 1, 1871, he was held in Germany as a prisoner 
until the end of the war when he, with his wife (The Empress Eugénie) and 
their son (the Prince Imperial), moved to England. 

(1765-1833 ) 

One of the French inventors of photography. Inventor and patentee in 
1807 of an engine for boats, he spent the next 20 years improving and 
exploiting it commercially. Experimenting with photography and photo- 
lithography (1816), he worked first with silver chloride paper, then with 


bitumen of Judea (a form of asphalt) on glass and pewter. Finally (1826 
or 1827), he produced the world’s first photograph, taken in an 8-hour 
exposure on a bitumen-coated pewter plate. Meeting Daguerre (1826), 
who had been working on the iodine-fumes process, Niepce later (1829) 
formed a partnership with him. Niepce continued to use the asphalt process 
on a silvered copper plate, now fuming the plate with iodine; this 
produced an image in bright and darkened silver, the asphalt being removed 
in the process. Controversy over the respective contributions of Niepce and 
Daguerre to making photography a usable art has raged for over a century. 
A definitive study of the matter appears in Chapters 5 and 6 of Gernsheim 
(Helmut and Alison): “The History of Photography”, London, 1955. 

(1818-1905 ) 

One of the first to use Dagron’s microfilm process in America and 
publish (1863) details of its technique. Colonel Pike was born in New- 
buryport, Massachusetts, and was given “an excellent education”. He moved 
to New York City about 1841, where he earned a national reputation as one 
of the most accomplished and successful of amateur artists. He served for 
six years as U. S. Ambassador to Portugal. A devoted student of nature, 
he combined photography with his hobbies of ornithology and botany to 
produce nature photographs of outstanding beauty. He also wrote the first 
comprehensive American history of photography, published as a part of 
Marcus Root’s “The Camera and the Pencil”, 1864. 

(1809-1888 ) 

French Postmaster General during the Siege of Paris, he organized the 
Balloon Postal Service and the Pigeon Postal Service. Later, he played a 
prominent part in concluding reciprocal postal conventions with Russia, the 
German Empire, and the United States. Rampont was a physician before 
he went into politics. 


The French Director of Telegraphic Services during the Siege of Paris, 
he was given (on October 12, 1870) jurisdiction over the Postal Service 
as well. Steenackers ignored the orders sent by Rampont from Paris, and 
went so far as to threaten Fernique with court-martial and execution if he 


persisted in carrying out his contract with Postmaster General Rampont. 
The post-war Commission of Inquiry into the Acts of the Government of 
National Defense excoriated Steenackers, who replied vigorously in a 600- 
page book, “Les Télégraphs et les postes pendant la guerre de 1870”. Dagron 
and Fernique, together with the film system, were damned by Steenackers 
only because of the cross-fire between the Delegation and Paris, while the 
microprint system of Blaise was defended because it had been developed by 
Steenackers and his protege de Lafollye. 

French chemist who introduced (September 1855) the first practicable 
dry plate for photography, used by Dagron and many other early microfilm 

(1843-1899 ) 
French aeronaut, photographer, and author (“En ballon: souvenirs d’un 
aéronaute”; “La Photographie en ballon”; “Les Merveilles de la photo- 
graphie”, etc.). Editor of La Nature. 



Mr. L. L. Ardern, Librarian of the College of Science and 
Technology in Manchester, England, has undertaken the very 
laborious job of locating and analyzing a surprisingly large 
number of existing microphotographs made by John Benjamin 

This project is of such a magnitude that it is but well 
under way at press time for this book. However, as a com- 
panion study to that of Dr. G. W. W. Stevens on the Dagron 
originals extant (which study is presented in the Proceedings 
of the Eighth Annual Convention of the National Microfilm 
Association, 1959), it is an important addition to the story of 
Nineteenth Century microfilming. 

A letter from Manchester, dated January 14, 1959, said 
that “it is possible within another year or so we might have got 
to ‘rock bottom’ with perhaps 1/3 of the 512 slides (Dancer) 
made for sale”. The National Microfilm Association hopes to 
publish Mr. Ardern’s definitive paper at that time. 

Mr. Ardern has consented most graciously to the publish- 
ing in this book of the results of his investigations to date. The 
following list of 61 specimens represents more than a third of 
the anticipated number of extant Dancer microfilms. Three 



specimens (No. 29: The Creed; No. 262: American River 
Steamboat Mayflower; and No. 65: The Giant’s Causeway) 
are to be exhibited in the Historical Section of the National 
Microfilm Association Convention in 1959. 

The author of this book should like to take this oppor- 
tunity of extending his warm appreciation to Mr. Ardern for 
the privilege of publishing this interim report and for lending 
the Association the three Dancer originals for exhibition. My 
thanks are due also to Mr. R. S. Schultze, Research Librarian 
and Curator of the Museum, Kodak, Ltd., in Harrow, England, 
for bringing Mr. Ardern’s work to my attention. 


Manchester, England 


List of extant slides in catalogue number order. Present owners shown 
in code. 

The catalogue preamble reads: 

“Micro-photographs . All 1/- each. 

“Re — The micro-photographic business carried on during the past 40 
years at Manchester by E. E. Dancer & Co. 

“Mr. R. Suter begs to inform his numerous patrons that he has pur- 
chased the above micro-photographic business in its entirety, and has trans- 
ferred the same to his own address. 

“These minute photographs were invented by the late J. B. Dancer, 
Esq. They average in size 1/100 part of a superficial inch and some 
contain upwards of 150 portraits.” 

512 titles are listed. The two most important slides shown in the 
catalogue are, without doubt, 

No. 341 “A brief history of micro-photography” and 

No. 342 “Extracts from letters sent by the late Sir D. Brewster to J. 

B. Dancer relating to micro-photography”. 

A thorough search should be made for them. 

It would seem that some of the later slides were made by Dancet’s 
family or his assistants, for No. 455 is “Jubilee photograph of Her Majesty 


the Queen”. This could only be 1887 — the year Dancer died. No. 462 
is “The Royal Jubilee Exhibition, Manchester” again 1887. 

In the following list a (?) has been used to denote either that the 

number does not agree with the catalogue number, or that it is not quite 
certain that it is a Dancer slide. 


48 ) 


Memorial to Sturgeon. 4. 

The Empress Eugenie. By Winterhalter. 1, (2 copies); 7; 10. 
Sir David Brewster from life photographed by M. Szabo. 1; 8. 
The Arctic Council discussing the plan of search for Sir John Frank- 
isnt LS, pOrtesitsse ase). 

Riveaulx Abbey, Yorkshire. 1. 

Pagoda Fountain, Alton Towers. 8. 

The Lord’s Prayer, illuminated. 6. 

The Lords Prayer.< Yo°"325'9. 

‘Phe Creed)» 1). (2ecopies): 33 5. 

The Ten Commandments. 1; 5. 

The Ten Commandments, illuminated. 4. 

Bolton Abbey in the olden time. 9. 

The auld man’s best argument: by J. Bouvier. 7. 

Rustic felicity. 7. 

The Imperial Family of Russia, by H. Vernet. 1. 

A. V. Humboldt. 1. 

Le General Bonaparte, by Delaroche. 9. 

Wellington reading his dispatches, by Barker. 4. 

S. M. l'Imperatrice des Francais. 7. 

?A £-20 banknote. 1; 7. 

Conference of engineers at Menai Straits previous to floating one of 

the tubes of the Britannia Bridge 1; 8. 

Prince Frederick William of Prussia. 1. 

Ecce Homo, by De Rudder. 5. 

?The departure: 2nd class, by Solomon. 4; 7. 

?The return: Ist class, by Solomon. 7. 

Suffer little children to come unto me, by A. Hemings. 5. 
H.R.H. Princess Victoria. 9. 

Benjamin Franklin, by Schaeffer. 8. 

Highland shooting pony. 1. 

Lord John Russell. 1. 

Hon. George Miffin Dallas. 10. 



108 ) 
188 ) 

265 ) 
285 ) 



Cromwell and Milton. 3. 

Charles Dickens. 1. 

The straw yard. 7. 

Weighing the deer, by F. Taylor. 4. 

Notre Dame, Paris. 1; 11.? 

Cent Francs, Banque de France. 5. (See Fig. 18 for enlarged 
reproduction. ) 

?Declaration of independence of U‘S.A. 3. 

Neapolitan peasants, by T. Morris. 1. 

Les Moisonneurs dans les Marais Pontins. 8. 

97 dramatic portraits of the present era. 3. 

Sir Walter Scott and his friends at Abbotsford. 3. 
Rustic hospitality. 3. 

Lord Lyndhurst; Marquis of Lansdowne; Lord Chelmsford; Lord 
Campbell. 8. 

?The origin of species from Blackwood. 7. 
?“Pickwick v. Bardell” — Sam Weller’s evidence. 11. 
“Master Humphrey’s Clock” — death of Little Nell. 2. 
American River Steamboat Mayflower. 2. 

The Giant’s Causeway. 3; 6; 7. 

Belshazzer’s Feast, by J. Martin. 11. 

The fall of Babylon, by J. Martin. 3. 

Offering of the Wise Men, by Doyen. 2. 

Sir Isaac Newton, by Vanderbank. 4. 

Hudibras and the lawyer, by Hogarth. 2 

The Dame’s school. 5. 

?The afternoon nap. 11. 

South Sea Bubble. 2. 

Death of Nelson. 2. 

?Sculpture — Ariadne. 11; 5. 

The otter and the salmon. 2. 

List of Slide Owners 

Gernsheim Collection. 

Manchester Central Library. 

Manchester College of Science and Technology, Library. 
Dr. R. S. Schultze, Harrow. 

Kodak Museum, Harrow. 


= © OO OO ~I O 


Science Library, London, Photographic Collection. 

Mr. A. K. Bentley, 2 Spring Bridge Road, Manchester, 16. 

Mr. T. G. Warburton. 96 Homestead Crescent, Manchester, 19. 

Mr. L. W. Cornelius, Wychwood, Blacksmith’s Hill, Sanderstead, Surrey. 
Mr. H. B. Terry, 534 Brighton Rd., So. Croydon, Surrey. 

Mrs. O. M. Boyson, 110 Putnoe Street, Bedford. 



By VERNON D. TATE, Executive Secretary 

THE Nationat Microfilm Association was organized in 
1943 and subsequently incorporated under the laws of the 
State of Michigan as a non-profit Corporation. Its purposes 
are to advance the lawful interests of the microreproduction 
industry by providing a channel of communication for pro- 
ducers of equipment and supplies, service companies and users 
whether individuals or companies. It is a completely demo- 
cratic organization headed by a Board of Directors elected by 
the voting membership. There are nine directors, three of 
whom are elected each year for a term of three years. From 
their number the Directors elect a President, Vice President 
and Treasurer. The Executive Secretary is appointed by the 

The work of the Association is largely carried out by 
Committees in the several fields of interest including 
Standards, Research, Terminoloy, Publications and the like. 
Members are encouraged to serve on Committees. Through its 
educational program the Association has worked to stabilize 
and improve technical production and use of microtransparen- 
cies (microfilms, microfiche) and micro-opaques (Micro- 



cards, microprint, micro-ribbon) and to keep producers and 
users fully abreast of latest developments. The Annual Meet- 
ing and Convention, first held in Washington, D.C., in 1952 
and each year subsequently following in a principal city, (New 
York, Cleveland, Boston, Chicago, Rochester and New Orleans) 
has become an event of great importance. Featured are exhibits 
of equipment and supplies and a full program of technical and 
other papers by leading authorities. The published Proceedings 
of these meetings have become important basic sources of in- 
formation. As only a limited number of Proceedings can be 
published, several are now out of print but are permanently 
available on microfilm. 

In 1954 the Association began publication of an informa- 
tional news sheet for members, the National MICRO-NEWS 
which now appears six times per year. It contains a lead article, 
news and technical notes and other material. A consolidated 
index for the first 30 numbers has been prepared and the text 
of the numbers is available on microfilm. In 1955 the Associa- 
tion published a Glossary of Terms Used in Microreproduction 
by Hendrix TenEyck. The NMA Resolution Chart for use in 
determining resolution was drawn up and distributed to mem- 
bers. It is currently undergoing revision but will shortly be 
available in a new form. 

The 1959 Annual Meeting and Convention will again be 
held in Washington, D.C., site of the first Convention. There 
is in preparation for distribution at this meeting a Guide to 
American Microfilm Equipment for Microreproduction. It 
will contain illustrations, specifications and other comparable 
factual information about all known equipment in the field 
and is expected to contain more than 400 pages. The theme 
of the 1959 Convention is “A Century of Microfilm Progress, 
1839-1959”. It is quite fitting therefore that the present 


volume by Frederic Luther, MICROFILM: A History 1839- 
1900, the first of a projected series of monographs, will be 
published concurrently and first shown at this meeting. 

The National Microfilm Association welcomes members 
and the participation of all interested in the field. Complete 
information may be secured from the Executive Secretary, 
P.O. Box 386, Annapolis, Maryland. 

INDEX 187 

Abbe and Schott Lenses: 109, 

Abraham, 17, 18. 

Académie des sciences francaise: 63, 
102-103, 160. 

Academy of Sciences, French: See 
Académie des sciences francaise. 
Aerial Photography: 89-90, 98, 170, 

175, 178. 
Alavoine, Consul: 157. 
Albumen: See Taupenot process. 
Almeida, Joseph Charles d’: 68, 158, 

American Documentation: 113, 114. 

American Journal of Photography: 
Zoey 5: 

American Museum of Photography: 
42,89; Fig. 5. 

American Photographic Society :42. 

Andrécourt, ——: 155. 

Anguier (——) and Langlois (——) : 
45, 106. 

Anthony (E. & H. T.) Company: 39. 

Anthony, Edward: 98. 

Anthony's Photographic Bulletin: $4, 

Antonin, Etienne :153. 

Antony, Marc: 65, 165. 

Arago, Dominique Francois Jean: 

Archer, Frederick Scott: See Scott- 
Archer, Frederick. 

Archimedes (Balloon 29): 155. 

Arcis-sur-Aube (Aube), France: 54, 

Ardennes Forest: 152. 

Ardern, L. L.: 179-183. 

Aristotle: 8. 

Army of Brittany (Balloon 37): 157. 

Army of the Loire (Balloon 51): 160. 

Athenaeum: 24, 103. 

Atlantic Monthly: 100. 

Auxerre (Yonne), France: 52, 56, 
74, 135, 138. 

Avrolles (Yonne), France: 55, 136. 

Aymond, ——:160. 

Balloon Postal Service: See Dis- 
patch Services Attempted, 1870-71. 

Barbes, Armand (Balloon 5): 71, 

Barreswil, Charles: 68, 138, 168-169. 

Barry, ——: 154, 

Bart, Professor: 52. 

Bart, Jean (Balloon 11, 13): 151. 

Barthélémy, ——: 151]. 

Battle of Paris (Balloon 34): 156. 

Bayard (Balloon 50): 159-160. 

Beauvoir (Sarthe), France: 31-32, 
102, 112. 

Béchet, ——: 48. 

Beli, 162. 

Bendikson, Lodewyck: 118. 

Bennett, James Gordon: 65. 

Beote,——: 151. 

Berrel, 158. 

Bertaux, Albert: 150. 

Berthier, ——:36, 105. 

Bertillon, Alphonse: 98. 

Bertsch,——: 29, 104. 

Bezier, ——: 156. 

Bibliography: 111-114. 

Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris: 84, 

Biedler, George: 97, 110. 

Billebaut.——: 158. 

Binkley, Robert C.: 78. 

Binney, Edward William: 13, 20. 

Bismarck, Chancellor Otto von: 45, 
48, 49, 61-62, 149, 169. 

Black, William: 89, 98. 

Blaise, Gabriel: 72-73, 74-75, 107, 
138, 155, 169, 178. 

Blanc, Louis (Balloon 9): 150. 

Blay, Georges: 72. 

Blimp, attempts at use:. See Duquesne 
(Balloon 53). 

Boisanfrey,——: 162. 

Boisdeffre, ——-: 159. 

Bordeaux (Gironde), France: 80, 
107, 139, 140, 141, 154. 

Bosc,——: 154. 

Bourbaki, General (Balloon 61): 79, 

Bourdec, General: 152. 

Brady, Matthew B.: 98. 

3rewster, Sir David: 27-29, 32, 33, 
40, 104, 106, 169-170, 180, 181. 

Brewster magnifier: See Stanhope 

Breyer, ——: 102. 

Brienon (Yonne), France: 56, 137. 
sritain (Balloon 19): 152-153. 


British Association for the Advance- 
ment of Science: 27, 29, 104, 169. 
British Journal of Photography: See 
Liverpool & Manchester Photo- 
graphic Society: Journal. 

Brousseau, ——: 160. 

Brutus, Decimus: 65, 165. 

3uchanan, James: 98, 105. 

Uitte ame loos 

Bunelle, —: 155. 

Bussy-Lettrée (Marne), France: 53, 

Cailhorse, ——: 161. 

Calotype: See Talbotype. 

Cambronne, General (Balloon 65). 

Camera, The: 91, 109. 

Carpenter, William B., 175. 

Cassier, ——: 152. 

Cavaignac, General (Balloon 10): 

Cebrian, John C.: 95, 108, 109. 

Celeste (Balloon 4): 145, 149, 

Century Publishing Company: 91, 
92, 109. 

Cernon (Marne), France: 53, 133. 

Cézanne, eel o3 

Challié, Admiral: 48. 

Chalons-sur-Marne (Marne), France: 

Channing, Dr.: 29. 

Chanzy, General (Balloon 44): 158. 

Chapelain, 157, 

Chaponil, pL SS. 

Charras, Colonel (Balloon 20): 153. 
Chassina, 48, 66. 

Chateaudun, City of (Balloon 24): 

Chaumont, ——: 158. 

Chemin, ——: 160. 

Chemist, The: 103. 

Chronology of Microfilm Develop- 
ments: 99, 102-110. 

Clairet, ——: 161. 

Clariot, ——: 161. 

Clermont - Ferrand (Puy-et-Dome), 
France: 58, 73-74, 131. 

Coddington magnifier: See Stanhope 

Collodion (Dry) Process: See Taup- 
enot process. 


Collodion (Wet) Process: See Scott- 
Archer process. 

Columbus, Christopher (Balloon 11): 

Commune, Paris: 83-84, 107-108, 153, 
lize de: 

Conservatoire des arts at Meétiers, 
Paris: 89. 

Cooke, Troughton and Simms Com- 
pany: 14. 

Coole (Marne), France: 52, 133. 

Cornu, Marie Alfred: 79-80, 145, 170, 
174; Fig. 10. 

Cosinos Publishers: 109, 

Courtin, ——: 149. 

Cuvillier, ——: 38, 105. 

Cuzon, René; 152-153. 

Cuzon, (the elder): 150. 

Dagron, Georges: 38, 92, 168-169, 
Dagron, Mme.: 92, 170. 
Dagron, René Prudent Patrice: 1, 5, 
07, 170-171: Fig. 2. 
Birth and Boyhood: 6, 31-32, 102, 
Years 1819-1859: 6, 10, 31-33, 102- 
Years 1859-1870: 33-46, 104-106. 
Patents and Lawsuit: 33, 35-38, 
40, 104, 105; Fig. 6. 
Publications: 39 - 40, 105 - 106, 
119-129; Figs. 16, 17. 
Technology: 36, 40-41, 116-117, 
119-129; Fig. 17. 
Years 1870-1871: 46,-82, 107-108. 
Flight by balloon: 46-57, 130-138; 
Technology: 68-69, 74, 75-82, 
117, 139-141, 174; Figs. 9, 10, 
Pea 2e lg 
Years 1871-1900: 83-93, 108-110, 
170-171; Figs. 13-14. 
Insurance Record Filming: 84, 
92, 108. 
Non-Microfilm Work: 86, 89-91, 
Publications: 85, 91, 108, 109, 
114, 130-142; Figs. 13, 15. 
Family: 38, 92, 130, 170. 
Death: 593,597,110: 

INDEX 189 

Dagron, René II:92, 170; Figs. 6, 8, 


Daguerre (Balloon 26): 48-50, 57, 

64, 66, 130-131, 154, 170. 

Daguerre, Louis Jacques Mandé: 7, 

10, 15, 1025103, 119.0154, 171,177. 

Daguerreian Journal: See Hum- 
phrey’s Journal. 

Daguerreotype Manual: 103. 

Daguerreotype Process: 10-11, 15, 
47,215, 32, 102, 110-115, ‘171. 

Dallas, Duncan: 88, 106. 

Dallemagne, Auguste Jacques: 108; 
Fig. 13. 

Dalton, John: 18. 

Dampierre (Marne), France: 53-54, 


Dancer, John Benjamin: 1, 5, 97, 

Aten iiow: 1. 

Birth and Boyhood: 6, 14-15, 97, 

Years 1812-1859: 6, 10, 12-30, 32, 
33, 40, 102-104, 111, 171, 179-183; 
Fig. 4. 

Years 1859-1887: 44, 85-86, 104- 
109, 171; Fig. 18. 

Non- Microfilm Activities: 15-19, 
44, 88, 103, 104, 111, 171. 

Family: 14, 17, 85-86, 111, 171. 

Death: 86, 109. 

Dancer, Josiah: 14. 

Dancer, Michael: 14. 

Dartois, ——: 145. 

Daru, 151. 

Darwin, Charles: 6, 88-89, 164. 
Daumesnil, General (Balloon 62) : 162. 
Daumier, Honoré: 175. 

Davy (Balloon 43): 158. 

Davy, Sir Humphrey: 6, 102, 158. 

deLafollye, See Lafollye. 
Delaleu, Siméon: 159. 
Delamarne, welOG: 
Delente, 63, 161. 
Delezenne, ——: 139. 

Deliverance (Balloon 46): 159. 

Delort, 157. 
Dérouard, ——: 66, 166. 
Deschamps, ——: 158. 
Desdouet, 158. 

Diamond, Hugh: 25, 26, 103. 

Dillon, Thomas Arthur: 94-95, 108. 
Disdéri, André Adolph Eugéne: 105. 
Dispatch services attempted, 1870-71: 

Balloon: 61-63, 107, 139-140, 143- 
Lia dycl/iet ie. 19. 

Dog: 64-65, 154, 161. 

Human Messenger: 60, 63, 158, 
159, 160. 

Pigeon: 57, 58, 60-61, 65-80; 106- 
107, 131-142, 143-162, 163-167, 
174, 1/77 Figs. 9, 10, 11, 12. 

iivenqu oe O44 0131, 157; 158," 159, 
161, 172: 

Dog Messenger Service: See Dispatch 


Domalin, ——: 157. 

Dreux, 139, 

Dry Collodion Process: See Taupe- 
not process. 

Dubosc-Soleil, Jules: 80, 171; Fig. 


Dubost, Antonin: 152. 

Ducauroy, 156. 
Duchemin, 159. 

Ducos du Hauron, Louis: 98. 
Ducoux, ——: 160. 

Dupuy, ——: 161. 

Dupuy de Lome, Stanislas: 160. 

Duquesne (Balloon 53): 63, 160. 

Duruof, Claude Jules: 61-62, 145, 
149% 153.0472, 175; 

Duvivier, Charles: 160. 

Eastman, George: 103, 109-110. 
Ecole centrale des arts et manufac- 
tures, Paris: 172. 
Ecole, polytechnique, Paris: 38, 170. 
Edison, Thomas: 80, 96, 110. 
Eglesia, ——: 152: 
Electrical World: 94, 110. 
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 8th Edition 
1857): 28-29, 37, 40, 70, 104, 170. 
English & Amateur Mechanics: 115. 
Equality (Balloon 30): 155-156. 
Espérance Racing Pigeon Society: 65, 
Exhibitions : 
1844: World’s First Photographic 
Salon, Paris: 103. 
1851: London World’s Fair: 12, 


1859: Paris 

1862: London World’s Fair: 38, 
39, 40, 105. 

1865: Oporto World's Fair: 42. 

1867: Paris World’s Fair: 44, 

1876: Philadelphia Centennial Ex- 
position: 108. 

1878: Paris World’s 

1889: Paris World’s Fair: 92, 

Fabre, Charles: 118. 

Faidherbe, General (Balloon 57): 64, 

Fairs, Worlds: See Exhibitions. 

Farcot, ——: 150. 

Favre, Jules (Balloon 12): 151. 

Favre, II, Jules (Balloon 33): 156. 

Fenton, Roger: 98. 

Fernique, Albert: 48, 51, 52, 53, 56, 
57, 64, 68, 70, 71, 73-75, 80-82, 107, 
112, 114, 130-138, 154, 168, 170, 
172, 177-178. 

Ferrand, 151 

Ferriéres (Seine-et-Marne), France: 
50, 131, 

Fessenden, Reginald A. 96, 110. 

Fleuriot de Langle, Admiral: 48. 

Fleury-Hermagis, 84, 107. 

Floating Dispatch Service: See Dis- 
patch Services. 

Flocon, Ferdinand (Balloon 22): 153. 

Florence, City of (Balloon 2); 62, 
66, 145, 149. 

Fontaine-sur-Coole (Marne), France: 
Bo, body 

Fonvielle, Wilfred de: 61, 155. 

Fourey, ——: 160. 

Fox-Talbot, William Henry: 
102, 172-173. 

Franco-Prussian War (July 19 - Sept. 
18, 1870) : 45-46, 106, 169, 173, 176. 
See Paris: Siege of, for period 
Sept. 18, 1870 - Jan. 28, 1871). 

Franklin (Balloon 36): 157. 

Franklin Society: Journal: 109. 

French Academy of Sciences: See 
Académie des sciences frangaise. 

World’s Fair: 30, 

Fair: 89, 

LO 10, 


French Photographic Society: See 
clété francaise de physique. 

French Physical Society: See So- 
ciété francaise de physique. 

Friedrich, Karl, Prince: 51, 136, 152. 

Friedrich, Wilhelm IV, King: See 
Wilhelm I. Kaiser. 

Fulton (Balloon) 21: 153. 

Galileo (Balloon 23): 153. 

Gallay, ——: 154 

Gambes, ——: 154. 

Gambetta, Léon: 56, 58-59, 70-71, 73, 
106,107, 138,-147,. 149. 1/72) 37a: 

Gambetta (Balloon 54): 160-161. 

Garibaldi (Balloon 16): 152. 

Gardiner, William H.: 96, 110. 

Garnett, Henry: 113, 114. 

Garnier, 159. 

Garnier-Pages, L. A.: 153. 

Gauchet, Edouard: 159. 

Gernsheim, Helmut and Alison: 10, 
177, 182. 

Giffard, Henry: 89, 149, 170. 

Gilles, LOGE 

Girard, Aimé: 38. 

Gironde (Balloon 25): 154. 

Glachant, ——: 159. 

Globe Dispatch Service: See Dis- 
patch Services (River). 

Gloennec, 153. 

Gnocchi, 43 S152 al oO aloes 
136, 154. 

Gobron, 161. 

Godard, Eugéne: 48, 144-155, 146, 

Godard (Father of Eugéne): 150- 

Godard Fréres 
151, AGO R173. 

Godard, Louis, Junior: 151. 

Godard, Louis, Senior: 145, 149. 

Goodwin, Hannibal: 109, 110. 

Goyet, ——: 166. 

Green, Arthur: 110. 

Griseaut, 159. 

Guillaume, ——:152. 

Guinier, ——: 161. 

Gurney and Son Company: 43. 

Gutenberg (Balloon 42): 158, 168. 

Company: 145-147, 

INDEX 191 

Harbault. ——: 154. 

Hazard, Ebenezer: Facing copyright 

Heidert, ——: 152, 153. 

Héricé, ——: 38, 105. 

Herschel, Sir John Frederick Wil- 
liam 2 9,25, 102,. 103, 174. 

Herschel, Sir William: 174. 

Hervé-Magnon, ——: 48. 
Hervé-Sene, ——: 152. 
Hidoux, 156. 
Hubert, See Jubert. 

Hugo, Victor: 62. 

Hugo, Victor (Balloon 14): 151, 175. 

Human Messenger Service: See Dis- 
patch Services. 

Tiumphrey’s Journal: 112, 175. 

Hurel, ——: 64, 161. 

Husson, 153. 

Hyatt, John W.: 106. 

Illustrated London News: 22, 173. 
Itustration, L’ 2 Fig. 19. 

Isaiah, Book of: 164. 

Tsis ee Al Ss 

Jackson, G.; 103. 

Jackson, William Henry: 98. 

Jacquard (Balloon 32): 156. 

Jahn, 159. 

Jansen, Thomas: 96, 110. 

Janssen, Pierre Jules César: 98, 147, 
157, 168, 174. 

Jaudas, 155. 

Jauvel, Lemercier de: 153. 

Jefferson, Thomas: Facing copyright 

Joignerey, 157; 

Joigny (Yonne) France: 56, 137. 

Joissigny (Seine), France: 50. 

Jossec, 151. 

Joule, James Prescott: 17-18, 20. 

Journal du siege: 58. 

Journal officiel: 78, 153. 

Journal of the Photographic Society: 
See: Royal Photographic Society 
of Great Britain: Journal. 

Journal du physique: 168. 

Jouvencel, Paul de: 152. 

Jubert, ——: 48-50, 154. 

Juliot Printshop, Tours: 75. 

Julliac, ——: 158. 

Kandler, Edmund: 96, 110. 

Kepler (Balloon 55): 161. 

Keratry, General: 150. 

Khotinsky, Achilles de: 96. 

Knox, Samuel and Dickson Company : 

Kodak, Ltd., Photographic Museum: 
180, 182; Figs. 4, 18. 

Krupp munitions: 49-50 

Labadie, ——— 151. 

Labrousse, Admiral: 160. 
Lacaze, Emile: 162. 

Lacoin, PROG Loo! 

Lafayette (Balloon 13): 151. 

Lafollye, —— de: 71-80, 139, 140, 

Lallemagne, 160. 

Langenheim, William and Frederick: 

42; Fig. 5. 
Langlois, ——-: 45, 106. 
Lapierre, General: 152. 
Larmanjat. 157, 
Lavertujon, 154. 

Lavoisier (Balloon 45): 159, 

Lefevre, Ambassador: 150. 

Lemoine, ——: 155. 

Lemoine (the Son): 160. 

Léon, Léonie: 173. 

Lepinay, Les 

L’Espérance Racing Pigeon Society: 
Sce Espérance. 

Lévy, G.: 141, 158, 168. 

Lille (Nord), France: 155. 

Lissajoux, ——: 156. 

Liverpool (Lancashire), England: 
tA 17. 

Liverpool Literary and Philosophical 
Society: 14. 

Liverpool Mechanics Institute: 14. 

Liverpool & Manchester Photographic 
Society: Journal: 113. 

London Photographic Society: 29. 

London Stereoscopic and Photographic 
Company: 78. 
London Times: 78, 93, 94. 

Louisy, ——: 158. 

Luther, Frederic: 3, 113, 114, 186. 
Gutz, 62, 149. 

Luzatto, 170. 

Lycée Corneille, Paris: 68. 


450, 159: 

MacMahon, Marshal: 173. 
Maddox, Richard L.: 91. 
Madsen, Soren C.: 96, 110. 
Malapert, ——: 151. 
Mame Printshop, Tours: 
Manceau, elS2=tos: 
Manchester (Lancashire), 
2 lel oes 

Manchester College of Science and 
Technology: 179-183. 

Manchester Literary and Philosophical 
Society: 12, 17, 18, 19, 44, 85, 88, 
103, 171. 

Manchester Literary and Philosophical 

Lycée Henri IV, Paris: 
Lyons (Rhone), France: 



Society: Memoirs and Proceed- 
mgs: 114. 

Manchester Photographic Society: 
Wt, sith 

Mangin, Gabriel: 62, 149. 

Mangin, Théodore: 79, 162. 

Marcia, ——: 157. 

Martin, ——: 156. 

Martinache, ——: 35, 38,.105. 

Maximilian, Emperor: 176. 
May, Charles: 150. 
Mercadier, Ernest Jules Pierre: 71, 

79-80, 170, 174; Fig. 10, 12. 

Merlin de Douay (Balloon 48); 159. 

Messenger Services Attempted: See 
Disptach services. 

Mica used as a film base: 68, 104, 


Microfilm Applications: 

Archival, Library and Research: 
23-30, 83, 84, 87, 94, 96, 97, 105, 
108 110. 

Commercial: 29, 84, 87, 91-92, 95- 
96, 97, 108, 109, 110. 

Governmental : 

Civil: Facing copyright, 16, 18, 
20-21, 23, 25, 84, 94-95, 103, 107, 
108, 174. 

Military: 28, 29, 68-69, 70-82, 
86-87, 94, 106-107, 108, 114, 130- 
142, 168-169, 170, 171, 172, 174, 
17/=178 ig sae ON tree aes, 

Lens-Testing: 22, 26, 103; Fig. 3. 


Novelty Items: 17, 26, 27-28, 30, 
31, 33-45, 90, 94, 103, 104-106, 
108, 119-129, 175, 179-183; Figs. 4 
5G, ee Ome es 

Pornography: 33-34, 94, 106. 

Publication in Microformats: Co- 
pyright page, 4, 12, 25, 106, 185. 

Reticle Production: 28. 

Miege, ——: 159. 
Modena (Italy): 65, 165. 
Moigno, l’Abbé: 29. 

Molera, Eusebius J.: 95, 108, 109. 

Moneteau (Yonne), France: 56, 137. 
Mongé (Balloon 56): 161. 
Moniteur universel: 73. 
Montgaillard, de: 157. 
Montgolfier (Balloon 17): 152. 

Mont-Saint- Sulpice (Yonne), 
France: 56. 
Morel, ——: 158. 

43, 106, 175. 

Morrow, James H.: 
Morrow, John H.: 

Morse, Samuel Finley Breese: 6, 8. 
Moutet, ——: 159. 
Nadal, Jean Pierre Alfred: 151, 175. 

Nadar: 33, 89, 90, 145, 146, 149, 172, 

Napoleon III, Emperor: 
150/5.153; 0169.0173.270, 

National (Balloon 7): 150. 

National Library of France: 
Bibliothéque Nationale. 

42, 45, 106, 


National Microfilm Association: 3, 
4, 179, 184-186. 
Proceedings: 79, 179, 185. 

Nature, La: 178. 

Negretti, ——: 89. 

Neptune (Balloon 1): 61-62, 145, 
149, 172. 

Nevers (Niévre), France: 56, 138. 

Newton (Balloon 52): 160. 

New York Daily Graphic: 109. 

Niepce, Joseph Nicéphore: 10, 102, 
119, 154, 171, 176-177. 

Niepce (Balloon 27): 48-51, 107, 

130-133, 144, 154-155, 158, 172. 
Nobécourt, ——: 48-49, 66, 154. 
Nogent (Marne), France: 54, 135. 
Notes and Queries: 103. 

INDEX 193 

Oporto (Portugal) World’s Fair, 
1865: See Exhibitions. 

Orléans, City of (Balloon 31): 147- 
148, 156. 

Oslo, Norway: 147, 156. 

Ours, Aimé: 160 

Pagano, 48-50; 52, 54, 130, 

Papin, Denis (Balloon 38): 157. 

Paris, Siege of: 46, 47-48, 58-84, 

See also: Dispatch Services. 
Franco-Prussian War 

Paris, City of (Balloon 40): 158 

Paris Postal Service (Balloon 60): 

Parmentier (Balloon 41): 158. 

Paul, Louis: 158. 

Perruchon, ——: 158. 

Philadelphia Photographer: 31, 42, 
43, 91, 109, 175. 

Photographic Journai: See: Royai 
Photographic Society of Great Bri- 
tain: Journal. See also: Liverpool 
& Manchester Photographic Socie- 
ty: Journal. 

Photographic News: 23, 29. 

Photographic Society of London: See 
Royal Photographic Society of 
Great Britain. 

Photographic Society of London: 
Journal. See: Royal Photographic 
Society of Great Britain: Journal. 

Photographic Society of Scotland: 
40, 106. 

Photographisches Archiv.: 106 

Picard, Ernest: 68-69, 131, 138, 172. 

Pierron, 48, 49, 64, 66, 154. 

Pigeon, Homing: 163-167. 

Pigeon Post: See Dispatch Services 
Attempted, 1870-71. 

Pike, Nicholas: 42-43, 106, 177. 

Piper, 150. 

Poirier, ——: 156. 

Poisot, Jean: 48, 51, 52, 55, 130, 132, 
134, 136, 154. 

Poitiers (Vienne), France: 140. 

Poullenc & Wittman Company: 79, 

Prince, ——: 156. 

Pruniéres, ——: 152. 

Racine, ——: 150 

Rampont-Léchin, Germain: 48, 61, 
Renoe oY, 131, 138, 172, 177. 

Ranc Superintendent: 151. 

Raoul, 161. 
Raymond, William: 149. 
Reboul, 159. 
Reginensi, ——: 159, 160. 

Reichenbach, Harry: 110. 
Renault, General (Balloon 39): 157- 

Reutlinger, ——: 152. 
Revillod, Comte de: 149. 
Ribot, ——: 151. 

Richard, Captain: 160. 

Rider, Fremont: 24. 

River Dispatch: See Dispatch Ser- 
vices (River). 

Robert, ——: 157. 

Robin,——: 162. 

Roitelet Racing Pigeon Society: 65, 

Rolier, Paul: 156. 

Rontgen, Wilhelm Konrad: 98. 

Root, Marcus A.: 177. 

Roosevelt, Franklin D.: Facing co- 
pyright page. 

Rosling, A.: 22, 23, 26, 103. 

Rouget de Lisle (Balloon 47): 159. 

Roux, ——: 161. 

Rouze, ——: 155. 

Royal Astronomical Society: 26. 

Royal Photographic Society of Great 
Britain: 97, 103, 108, 113. 

Royal Photographic Society of Great 
Britain: Journal: 13, 21, 25, 103; 

Sadowa, Battle of: 50, 169. 

Saint-Bienbar, ——: 155. 

Saint Florentin (Yonne), France: 

Saint-Rat, Louis de: Fig. 14. 

Saint-Valeéry, = 155. 

Sand, George (Balloon 6) ; 149-150. 

Sauveur-Ledret, ——: 159. 

Scamoni, Georges: 88, 108. 

Schénbein, Christian Friederick: 15. 

Schultze, R. S.: 180, 182. 

Schulze, Johann Heinrich: 9. 

Science Library, London: 183. 


Scott-Archer, Frederick: 18, 103, 

Scott-Archer process: 18-19, 32, 89, 
103, 104, 115-116. 

Segalas, Mme. Anais: 60. 

Seignelay (Yonne), France: 56, 137. 

Sens (Yonne), France: 55; Fig. 14. 

Shadbolt, George: 13, 21-22, 26, 29, 
30," 33, 97, 103,104, 113. Figs 3. 

Sidebotham, Joseph: 12-14, 20, 25, 
26, 30, 103, 104, 112, 113. 

Simpson, George Wharton: 83, 106. 

Smith and Beck Company: 22. 

Société des aeronautes amateurs: 145. 

Société francaise de photographie: 33, 
38, 92, 97, 169. 

Bulletin: 105, 109, 112. 

Société francaise de physique: 168. 

Society of American Archivists: Fac- 
ing copyright page. 

Solomon, King: 65, 164. 

Sompuis, (Marne), France: 53, 134. 

Spuller, 149. 

Stanhope lens: 27, 36, 37, 45, 119- 

Steenackers, Francois Frédéric: 71- 
80, 114, 138, 161, 169, 170, 172, 174, 
Lf SiO es 

Steenackers, (Balloon 59): 161. 

Stevens, Guy W. W.: 78-79, 179; 
Fig. 4. 

Stewart, John: 25. 

Stieglitz, Alfred: 98. 

Stirling: jer. ser 14, 

Sturgeon, William: 20, 103, 181. 

Submarine Messenger Services: See 
Dispatch Services. 

Surrel, 157 

Suter, R.: 180. 

“Sutton’s Dictionary of Photography” 
44, 104, 106. 

Talbot, William Henry Fox: See 

Talbotype: 10, 18, 172-173. 

Tarbe des Sablons, Eugéne: 159. 

Tate, Vernon D.: 4, 184. 

Taupenot, J. M.: 178. 

Taupenot Dry Plate Process: 32, 89, 
91, 104, 116-117, 121, 172. 

Tell, William (Balloon II): 151. 


Terre Haute Wabash Gazette: 30, 

Thomas, Prosper: 155. 

Tissandier, Albert: 63, 90, 151. 

Tissandier, Gaston: 63, 90, 178; Figs. 
9, 10. 

Tissandier, Gaston, Jr. 149. 

Torricelli (Balloon 63): 162. 

Tourbiaux, 161. 

Tours (Indre-et-Loire), France: 56, 
70, 71-80, 107, 138-142, 169, 173. 

Tourville (Balloon 49): 159. 

Tracelet, ——: 150. 
Triboulet, Louis: 108; Fig. 13. 
Trichet, ——: 149. 
Tristan, 162. 

Trochu, General: 60, 66, 72, 157. 
Troyes (Aube), France: 54, 135, 136. 

Uhrich, General (Balloon 28): 155. 

United States (Balloon 3): 145, 149. 

U. S. Army Medical Museum: 94. 

Universal Republic (Balloon 15) : 

Usquin, Lt. Col.: 59, 144. 

Valade, ——: 161. 
Van Roosebecke, ——: 65-66, 150. 
Van Seymoutier, ——: 161. 

Vauban (Balloon 18): 152. 

Vaucanson (Balloon 58): 63-161. 

Vendeuvre (Aube), France: 54, 135. 

Venoven, Delort & Robert Company: 
64, 157, 159. 

Verrecke, Léopold: 158. 

Uhrich General (Balloon 28): 155. 

Vesigneul - sur- Coole (Marne), 
France: 52, 133-134. 

Vibert, mel Gu, 

Victoria, Queen: 13, 27, 39, 105, 180- 
181; Fig. 5. 

Vidal-Loiset, ——: 153. 

Villoutrey, 155. 

Vitry-le-Francgois (Marne), France: 
Bly Lae. 

Vogel, Hermann Wilhelm: 83, 94, 
Volta (Balloon 35): 156-157. 

Waley, Arthur: 100. 
Wallace, Richard (Balloon 64): 162. 
Washington (Balloon 8): 150. 

INDEX 195 

Watson & Sons Microscope Record: 

Wedgwood, Thomas: 102. 

Wet collodion process: See Collo- 

Whipple, John A.: 103. 

Wilhelm I. Kaiser: 45, 61, 169. 

Wilhelm II, Kaiser: 169. 

Wilson, Edward L., 42, 43, 175. 
Wilson, Sir Thomas: 22. 
Wolif, General: 157. 

World Fairs: See Exhibitions. 
Worth, : 152-153. 

Yale University Library: 24. 
Yon & Dartois Company: 145, 146, 

778 Luther, F. 
L973 Microfilm. 





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