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The Telegraph And Photography

( Originally Published 1898 )



EVEN while one writes, the tale of achievement in which photography plays its part takes a new if not a surprising departure; for in these days of rapid developments in science nothing greatly surprises. The new thing is quite in the line of research wherein many recent triumphs have been won, and to which much expectant thought and investigation has been turned. The transmission of drawings, and especially of photographs, by means of the telegraph, so that a person telegraphing or telephoning to a friend could at the same time transmit his "counterfeit presentment," in order, as it were, to stamp and verify his communication, has long been an end aimed at by inventors, and we have from time to time heard of partial success obtained. It is to an inventor of Cleveland, U. S. A., however, that we are indebted for the accomplishment of the task ; and, if we may credit the report of the Cleveland World, the invention is a very remarkable one. Mr. Amstutz, the patentee, calls it the artograph, and according to the published accounts the instrument is exceedingly simple, and can be supplied, both the sending and the receiving apparatus, at a cost of something like seventy-five dollars a set, that is, under sixteen pounds.

Mr. Amstutz claims for his invention that it will transmit photographs as rapidly as the telegraph sends messages, and that it permits of the use of an ordinary telegraph for the purpose. The secret of the artograph lies in the discovery —not a new one to anyone who knows aught of engraving—" that a picture, perfect in detail, may consist of absolutely nothing but parallel lines." On this principle he based his contrivance "for sending pictures by wire, the details of the picture depending on the breadth of the lines, which make the lights and shades, and in that way work out the features of the portrait or other picture." The lines are extremely fine, running from forty to eighty an inch. The instrument works automatically, and may be regulated either by clock-work or by electricity.

The photograph to be transmitted may either be enamelled on a copper sheet, which is a rapid process, not taking more than five minutes, or prepared on the inventor's acrograph, or engraving machine, an invention which relates to the art of reproducing photographs, sketches, etc.," for printing or other purposes. "It consists in first forming the subject to be reproduced with an uneven surface, and then causing a graver or cutter to automatically interpret, in contiguous paths of cutting, which vary in depth in proportion to the lights and shades of such relief surface, the subject upon another surface that is super-imposed upon the first subject.

By this process, which is speedier than the use of the copper sheet, the recording material is made of a sheet of celluloid, or other yielding substance. Upon this a photo-gelatine sketch, or other relief surface of the subject to be reproduced, is impressed. The film-picture "is then wound on a drum and the clock-work put in motion. The feeding is automatic and as the needle passes over the variable photo surface, it will vary, break and complete the electric current. At the other end of the line, the receiving material, placed upon a cylinder like that at the sending end, interprets the variations, turning them from vertical into horizontal ones, and bringing out the lights and shades of the picture or photograph. When the lines are sufficiently coarse, the picture at the transmitting end has the appearance of being cut by vertical lines, while at the receiving end the picture appears to be composed of tiny squares, the perfection of whose detail depends on the lights and shades which go to make up the picture.

" The substance at the receiving end may be celluloid or chemically prepared paper. In case of celluloid a graver must be used in order to cut into the receiving substance. In case of chemically prepared paper the lines will be brought out by its development. Mr. Amstutz believes that it is possible to receive on a thin copper sheet, covered with prepared chalk, known by artists as a ` chalk plate,' in which case a metal cast of the picture can be taken directly from the chalk plate, thus greatly facilitating the preparation of the photograph for the use of newspapers. Owing to the fact that celluloid will not stand the heat of stereotyping, the picture must be transferred by pressure if used for newspaper work."

Such is a brief account of the invention as it comes to us. Possibly it may not prove to be equal to all the patentee claims for it ; but it is not improbable that it may do even more. It will be seen from the above that the inventor regards the artograph as chiefly useful for news-paper portrait work, although he has his eye on the wrong-doer as well. "Suppose," says the account above drawn from, "a noted criminal escapes from the New York police. Almost as swiftly as the message recording his escape can be transmitted, a photograph of the criminal can be sent, and the police in any city in the country can be on the look-out for the criminal." Mr. Amstutz is doubtful whether his apparatus for telegraphic photography will be available for other than portrait work until further developed, owing to the sharper outline and closer detail required. But surely this alone is an achievement.

While, however, the inventor is proud of his photograph transmitter, which was invented two years ago, although, only recently patented, he looks for the greatest profit from his engraving machine, or acrograph. The engravings produced by it on celluloid do not tarnish and are unaffected by moisture. Fire alone destroys them; hence a photograph reproduced by means of the acrograph will enjoy a sort of triple warranty of permanence.



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