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A Brief History of Microfiche

The Origin of Microfiche

history of microfilm

The “Father of Microphotography” John Benjamin Dancer created microproduced novelty texts in 1839 England. Dancer’s father had owned an optical goods firm, and combined his family’s chosen trade with the brand new process of photography, John tinkered. In 1853 he sold slide microphotographs which could be viewed with a microscope. Dancer sold around 500of these microphotograph slides, many of which were art gallery paintings. Popular slides were of members of the Victorian Royal Family, Emperor Napoleon, and of a banknote. Their labels contained the initials of their maker, J.B.D. for John Benjamin Dancer.

Using these techniques French optician Rene Dagron was granted the first patent for microfilm in 1859. He started the first commercial microfilming enterprise, selling microphotographic trinkets. During the Franco-Prussian War in the 1870s, Dagron demonstrated a practical use when carrier pigeons were transported microfilmed messages across German lines to Paris. Dragon created tiny microfilmed photographs of documents, then put them inside tiny tubes attached to the carrier pigeon’s wing. The images were visible only with the use of an early form of film projector.

Also in 1870, when John Benjamin Dancer was 58 years old, he started to suffer from glaucoma. Eventually, he had three eye operations and by 1878 he gave up his business. He passed away at age 75, blind, and in obscurity.

However, during the early 1900’s microphotographs became regarded as a scammy novelty. Serious minded men saw the whole thing as a waste of time. In 1928 “the fashion for microphotographs had largely died out”.

Yet during World War II (1939-1945), fine grain film had been improved to allow photographs of documents to be reduced even further (micro-dots).