Chemical Treatments of Film: The Notebook of a Production Manager at the Joinville Pathé Plant

< Program < PANEL NO. 1: Film Chemistry, Lab Technique, and Archival Traces


Download PDF

At Pathé’s Joinville plant, the end of the 1900s represented a teeming technological turnaround during which the industrialization of manufacturing processes and the exploitation of technical expertise was gradually normalized. It was during this period that a discreet and intriguing character, Charles Thomas Robinson, took on a significant role as the link between Pathé’s researchers’ and the production departments’ activities.

The existence of Robinson’s notebook for the period 1908-1911, discovered by chance during my doctoral research in the English archive of Kodak Limited, provides a picture of Robinson’s professional activities which resemble those of a production manager. This employee of Charles Pathé, who does not turn up in the Pathé archives of the CECIL association, was born in England and once worked for the French firm at the Blair plant in Foots-Cray (Kent), which Pathé bought in 1906. By joining the Joinville teams around 1907, Robinson was involved in a judicious transfer of technological knowledge for the young film processing plant. My talk will clarify Robinson’s activities and job, based on his personal notebook, which contains notes on the gelatinization and film remelting processes, but also and mainly on the Pathé film bend baths and their chemical formulas.

Nicolas Le Guern (independent)

Nicolas Le Guern is a graduate of the E.N.S. Louis Lumière in photography and of the E.H.E.S.S. in History of techniques. His early research focused on the invention of photography in the nineteenth century and the technological innovation that resulted from it. His PhD, obtained in 2017 at the PHRC at De Montfort University in Leicester, focuses on the nature of industrial research at Kodak Research Laboratories in Europe from 1927 to 1950. His doctoral research focused on the organization of research at Kodak between 1888 and 1950, the strong links between film and photographic research, the creation and circulation of knowledge within the laboratories, and the relationship between independent inventors and major film companies. Nicolas Le Guern is also a technical manager for a manufacturer and distributor in the photographic industry.