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Frederick W. von Egloffstein

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Born at Aldorf, near Nuremberg, Bavaria, 18 May, 1824; died in New York, 1885. He served in the Prussian army in his early manhood and then emigrated to the United States. Von Egloffstein has been called "The Father of Half-tone Engraving" in the United States for the reason that he was the first one to employ ruled glass screens, together with photography, to produce engravings. In 1861 he engaged Samuel Sartain, a steel engraver, to rule with wavy lines numbering 250 to the inch glass plates covered with an opaque varnish, and he was engaged in perfecting his experiments in this direction when the Civil War broke out. Abandoning his business, he joined the Union army as a volunteer from New York and was commissioned a colonel. While leading a skirmish in North Carolina , 17 April, 1862, he was severely wounded and retired from the service with the brevet rank of brigadier general. Under the patronage of Archbishop McCloskey he then took up his new system of engraving again, and one of Murillo's madonnas and a picture of the façade of St. Francis Xavier's College, New York, were produced by his patented process. Von Egloffstein thought to circumvent counterfeiting, so prevalent at that period, by having bank-notes engraved by his method. Through Baron Gerolt, Prussian Minister at Washington, he was introduced to a number of officials and prominent men, who organized The Heliographic Engraving and Printing Company, with a plant in New York City. There the von Egloffstein process of engraving was carried on in a secret manner. Each group of workmen was taught a part of the work, but no one was permitted to see the whole process. The United States Government refused to adopt von Egloffstein's method of engraving, and the company abandoned the project. The common method of engraving now is by means of ruled glass screens and photography. Glass screens ruled with wavy lines, such as von Egloffstein adopted in 1861, are also being used (1909). Von Egloffstein, as a member of the United States engineering department, later performed valuable services for the Government in the submarine work at Rock Island, Illinois, and in the blasting operations at Hell Gate in New York Harbour.

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