Victor Moreau Griswold (1819-1872) American
Birthplace/Origin: Brooklyn, NY
A true Renaissance man – inventor, photographer, landscape artist and portrait photographer – Victor Moreau Griswold was born on April 4, 1819 in Worthington, Ohio. His father, editor and publisher Ezra Griswold, moved the family throughout Ohio during the 1820s and 1830s, eventually settling in Delaware, where young Victor became a law student for a short time. Defying his father, he switched his studies to art, under the instruction of William Walcutt and William Bambrough.
After marrying Caroline McElvain on September 18, 1839, he and his bride settled in Tiffin, where Mr. Griswold opened a photography studio with his brother Manfred and supplemented his income by painting portraits and landscapes. The daguerreotype was in its infancy, and intrigued by the technique, Mr. Griswold began conducting various experiments on the process. According to his brother Manfred, this led to him being perhaps the first person in the United States to attempt calotype and wet collodion processes. In 1853, he opened his own photography studio in Lancaster, Ohio, which he operated in 1861 along with continuing his well-received landscape painting. Around this time, he also began successfully manufacturing photographic supplies and plates.
Although Kenyon College Professor of Chemistry Hamilton Smith was widely credited with inventing the “tintype” in 1856, Mr. Griswold was experimenting with a similar process at the same time. Both he and Professor Smith patented their inventions, and an intense competition quickly developed between Mr. Griswold and Peter Neff, the student assistant to whom Professor Smith sold the rights. Mr. Griswold took every opportunity to publicly ridicule the name tintype, decrying it as “senseless and meaningless,” adding that “not a particle of tin, in any shape is used in making or preparing the plates, or in making the pictures… unless it be, the tin which goes into the happy operator’s pocket after…” He dubbed his identical invention “ferrotype,” and by whatever name, at one time he and Mr. Neff were its lone North American manufacturers. Their heated rivalry benefited consumers in price reductions and Mr. Griswold’s improved plate production methods by employing thinner metal sheets. Mr. Neff had to remove the usage fees for the use of his collodion process to remain competitive.
Moving to Peekskill, New York in 1861, Mr. Griswold continued juggling the many facets of his photographic, painting, and manufacturing careers. He also continued inventing, receiving a patent for opalotypes in 1866, which simplified the process at reduced cost to the consumer, and two equipment patents oin 1869. He also somehow managed to publish a small local magazine, The Camera. However, the hectic work pace caught up with Mr. Griswold, and he sold his manufacturing business and processing formulas to John Dean. After a brief illness, 53-year-old Victor M. Griswold died at his home in Peekskill on June 18, 1872.