Clatonia Joaquin Dorticus

Innovations in Photographic Print Processing

Clatonia Joaquin Dorticus was born in Cuba in 1863 but made his home in  Newton, New Jersey. Little is known of his personal life, but he left an enduring legacy in innovations in developing photographic prints. He may or may not have been of Afro-Cuban descent.

Photographic Print Inventions by Clatonia Joaquin Dorticus

Dorticus invented an improved photographic print and negative wash machine. During the process of developing a photographic print or negative, the product is soaked in several chemical baths. The print wash neutralizes the chemicals in each bath process, so that the time the chemicals effect a print can be exactly controlled.

Dorticus believed his method would eliminate over washing that could soften the photograph too much. The design would prevent the prints sticking to the side of the tank. His design saved water with an automatic register and automatic water shutoff. Using a removable false bottom on the washer and protected the prints and negatives from leftover chemicals and sediments in the tank. He filed for this patent on June 7, 1893. It is cited by examiners in five more patents for photographic film and print washers filed over the next 100 years.

Dorticus also invented an improved machine for embossing photographs. His machine was designed to both/either mount or emboss a photographic print. Embossing is a method or raising parts of a photograph for a relief or 3D look. His machine had a bed plate, a die, and a pressure bar and bearings. He filed for this patent on July 12, 1894. It was referenced by two other patents in the 1950's.

The patents for these two inventions were published only days apart in the spring of 1895, although they were filed about a year apart.

List of Patents Issued to Clatonia Joaquin Dorticus

Clatonia Joaquin Dorticus's other inventions included an applicator for applying color liquid dyes to the soles and heels of shoes, and a hose leak stop.

  • #535,820, 3/19/1895, Device for applying coloring liquids to sides of soles or heels of shoes
  • #537,442, 4/16/1895, Machine for embossing photographs
  • #537,968, 4/23/1895, Photographic print washer
  • #629,315, 7/18/1899, Hose leak stop

Life of Clatonia Joaquin Dorticus

Clatonia Joaquin Dorticus was born in Cuba in 1863. Sources say his father was from Spain and his mother was born in Cuba. The date at which he came to the United States is not known, but he was residing in Newton, New Jersey when he made several patent applications. He may also have gone by the first name of Charles rather than the uncommon Clatonia.

He was married to Mary Fredenburgh and they had two children together. He is often noted on lists of  Black American inventors although he was listed in the 1895 New Jersey census as a white male. He may have been of Afro-Cuban descent with a light complexion. He died in 1903 at only 39 years of age. Not much else is known, and many short biographies note this.

Learn more about the invention of photography and photo developing.

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Bellis, Mary. "Clatonia Joaquin Dorticus." ThoughtCo, Jan. 3, 2021, Bellis, Mary. (2021, January 3). Clatonia Joaquin Dorticus. Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "Clatonia Joaquin Dorticus." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).