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Rodinal, its true story and formula.

Posted: Thu May 23, 2013 7:29 am
by KennyE
The Road to Rodinal

Rodinal was patented January 27, 1891 by Dr. Momme Andresen. It was the first product sold by Agfa and is the oldest photographic product still available (2012). After the patent expired, Rodinal has been supplied under different names by other companies. Rodinal is a concentrated liquid developer with very long storage life; the working developer is used once. wikipedia

Suppose that what you have always read about “Rodinal” was not true. What would you think? What would you do?

Hello, I am KennyE, a researcher and amateur photographer. I have been doing research all my adult life and photography for me; started at age 16 in 1959.

I became a member of the Eastpoint Camera Club of Eastpoint, Michigan, in 1964. We were following in the footsteps of the Detroit Lantern Club, formerly the Detroit Camera Club, founded by the wonderful Mr. Charles C. Hinchman, in 1886 and 1891.

My encounters with Rodinal, started in 1962, when I use to shop at the Detroit Camera Shop in downtown Detroit on Michigan Avenue. It was a beautiful shop, and I could spend hours there just looking over all the items that I wanted, and could not afford. And on the income of a 19 year old, working at Woolworth’s Department Store, at $000.89 cent an hour in 1962, that was a big deal back then.

Rodinal was $3.95 for a 250ml bottle, which is not a large sum today, but in 1962, with the US on a “gold standard”, that was a lot of money to spend when D-76 was $000.75 cent per quart package and Microdol was $1.10 per 8oz. bottle.

Mixing/home brewing my own formulas; would come much later in my life. But I still remember the salesmen at Detroit Camera Shop, showing me all the great photos made by those using Rodinal. I wanted it, but never used it until 2002.

I never wanted to get deeply entangled with Rodinal, but the mystery of its origins haunted me for years. I could never imagine that the formula was never revealed to the public. Never?

There are hundreds of old photography masters still in the Detroit area, but most are retired. I began to question them and at one point; I began to question my own actions. Then out of no where came a phone call, from a former member of the Gross Point Camera Club. And he told me that the information that I was seeking was in the old Amateur Photographers Magazines, we once had at our camera club. But that camera club had closed in 1971. Gone!

But Oakland University, Michigan State, Ferris State, and University of Michigan have them and they were also online. So, off I went to Oakland University, which is only 5 miles from my home.

And here are my findings:

Dr. Momme Andresen was not the person that we all grew up to believe in. He was an independent Jewish chemist, who discovered “eikonogen” and sold it to Agfa. It was their first developer, discovered by Dr. Momme Andresen in 1888 and patented in the United States via the Swiss in 1889. Why the Swiss you might ask. Because Germany (by order of the Kasier) refuse to sign the international patent treaty with the United States, and chose to remain uncovered by international law. His reasons were simple. United States was a country that has only been ruled by peasants. We are a nation with "no" royal blood lines.

Dr. Momme Andresen's fame would grow in the photography and chemistry circles because of ““eikonogen”. Eikonogen , was a welcome site, and it only expanded the limited number of available developers.

Afterwards, Andresen was summoned to work with and for Ernst Schering, the owner of Schering Chemicals in Germany, and on Schering’s new chemical discoveries made from coal tar, para-aminophenol or 4-aminophenol. Its main purpose was for the use in dyes, where tons of it; was being sold to the UK for the dying of cloth, in their huge clothing and garment industries.

Ernst Schering was also a Jewish chemist, who had left his Jewish faith and became a Protestant, in order to save his business and fit into German societies. Because Germany had moving towards a more nationalist and military state at the turn of the century, in the early 1900's.

Dr. Momme Andresen, for reasons not clear, ran off with the formula, and sold it to Agfa, as well as the formula known today as “Rodinal”. Ernst Schering, quickly employed the Swiss to save his para-aminophenol discoveries and investments, and had the Swiss patented it as “Duratol” with automatic filing in the United States.

Dr. Momme Andresen ill deeds would remain safe among his Jewish friends, but Dr. Andresen did something that became un-forgivable, even for them. He tried to steal a formula from some of his other associates.

Those associates were “J. Hauff and Bogish" the two men who discovered “Amindol and then Metol”.

J. Hauff and Bogish would take out ads informing the public of Dr. Andresen’s actions, plus informing the public that the true “Amindol and Metol” was their discovery.

Dr. Andresen had indeed discovered a better “Amindol” agent. But his actions were similar to what Richard Prince would do to Cariou’s work, a form of reverse engineering; and the Swiss, nor the United States; would patent his work. But his reverse engineered chemicals were manufactured by Agfa as “ Agfa Amindol and Agfa Metol" to avoid paying royalties to Hauff and Bogish. Even thou Agfa’s “Amindol” was in many cases…, better, this action of Dr. Andresen and Agfa of reverse engineering would include other discoveries by Bogish and Hauff, such as " Glycin".

Dr. Andresen’s associates wanted him to lose the fame and respect he had earned thru out the photographic circles that they all traveled. So from 1891 to 1893, they went on a crusade to usurp Dr. Andresen’s position and placement in the photographic community, by publishing the formulas that they and he had discovered together. They wanted him to publicly protest their actions against him, which he never did. They even posted his formulas in the Chicago World Fair of 1893, and in 1891, at private showing and viewings.

I looked in to every patent office available to Germany at the time; January 1891. If Dr. Momme Andresen or Agfa patented Rodinal on January 27th 1891, it was not with the Swiss or the United States.., in 1891; that I have come across. If some one do have that information please share it with me. Because United States records show that Germany was not a member of the treaty on July 1st 1891. Only the UK, Swiss, France, and Belgium were members. And if the patent was filed in a non member nation, the United States was not honor bonded to enforce it.

Two of Dr. Andresen dearest friends, Dr Ehrmann, of the “Photographic Times”, who was close friends with Herr Ernst Schering; and Dr. Stolze of “Photographic Nachrichter” delivered to the president and staff of the American Amateur Photographer Magazine the “Rodinal” formula as we know it today, plus numerous other formulas.

On September 8, 1891, the president of American Amateur Photography, James H. Stebbins Jr., with the assistance from F.C. Beach, gave lectures on Dr. Andresen’s “Rodinal” formula, and published the entire affair in their magazine. On October 13, 1891, Mr. Stebbins Jr. completed his lecture, following it up with additional information given to him by Dr. Ehrmann, on their work with Dr. Andresen and other associates.

“Rodinal” was not on the market in 1891 from what I can find. It had not arrived in America, and those against Dr. Andresen was doing all they could to make him a small player in the history of photography.

In 1915, Agfa would make a completely new "Rodinal" for the German Imperial Army, contained Sodium Bisulfite and lye of Sodium Bisulfite. The French would discover it when they came upon photos made by it. The French Army would first believe that the German Army had developed a new aerial camera, only to learn from their French spies, that it was a new form of "Rodinal".

During the first world war, the French Army gave the formula to the French Photographic Society, as "spoils of war". The French Army discovered it when they over ran German trenches. The Society would publish the formula in 1916 and again in 1920. And it has been carried in the BJP from 1921 to 1968.

In 1940, Agfa changed the “Rodinal” to use potash and not soda. The switch was one that I never would have thought of.

Germany was in World War II, and its armies were everywhere. And to keep the troops happy, they needed wine and beer. Sodium Metabisulphite, Sodium Hydroxide, and Sodium Sulphite is needed in that industry. So with Germany’s limited supplies, changes were needed. This is what I was told by those who lived in Germany during that period. It sounds logical. But is it true? I do not know.

I have the source material to back up my claims. Anyone who desire a copy or links can PM me. Anyone. Yet I must state this, all the sources and information that I obtained from those persons who hold information from estate of the decease Alfred Stieglitz's writings and property, will not be released. I gave my word. Their request will be fulfilled.

This is my information, and I want to share it. Check out my other posts before you form your opinion. Good or bad


Re: Rodinal, its true story and formula.

Posted: Thu May 23, 2013 7:38 am
by KennyE
The support to my claim can be found here. ... &q&f=false

Read pages 384 to 387

Read page 431

Read page 507-509

Look through the magazine and you will see that no US patent filing by Agfa or Andresen happen in 1891.


Re: Rodinal, its true story and formula.

Posted: Thu May 23, 2013 3:40 pm
by Ornello
I can believe that the formula may have been changed because of war-time shortages. But it remains true that Rodinal is about the worst developer out there for most films.

It's true that it does well with very slow films, but so do most developers.

Re: Rodinal, its true story and formula.

Posted: Thu May 23, 2013 5:56 pm
by KennyE

I must state that you are completely correct on that issue. Most of the developers today and past were based on slow films/Plates or slides. Because they were all "hand made" gelatin base emulsions. ASA for most was 25, other fell between that and 50. But not much more.

In the 1890's to 1919, much of the photography was done by amateurs, that supported the industry and help to move it forward. So many of the formulas were published as public domain formulas. This movement was fueled by the facts that most cities and towns did not have camera and photo shops, and most people shopped by "mail order catalogs". As well, the most common size in those days was 4x5, 8x10, 12x14, before pocket cameras showed up. And even they were not that small. By the time 1900 rolled up the common size roll film 616 for pocket cameras.

But "rodinal" does do pretty good on Tri-X 400.

I am waiting for my post to be release, that provide links to the blog information stated above.

Thank You


Re: Rodinal, its true story and formula.

Posted: Fri May 24, 2013 6:33 am
by KennyE
"Rodinal", is an outstanding developer, when used within its abilities. In 1891, the formula for "Rodinal" was new and different. But it never became as popular on the Amateur Photographer circuit as it could have, because of the lack of para-aminophenol in America and other countries, for photographic use.

There are 30 or more public domain formulas calling for the use of para-aminophenol, and all of them do an outstanding job.

Today's companies that produce and sell photographic developers to amateurs, need to make their formulas known to the general public. Because if they do not, they will die and become a distant memory.

Kodak and Ansco knew that if they wanted a long life in their business. They had to service the amateur community. Kodak made hundreds of its formulas available to the general public, as did Ansco. And today Ansco and Kodak's formulas are the go to formulas for millions of amateurs around the world.

Parodinal and caffinol are becoming popular because the bulk chemicals needed are easy to obtain, in areas that are not known to have a well stock camera or photo shops.

Foma, Adox, and others; should publish their formulas for their users, because when a photographer travels to distant places, some countries will not allow you to bring in photographic chemicals for fear of drug trafficking or terrorist activities. Also, some countries just to do not like travelers to bring in name brand items from any other country period.

Thank You


Re: Rodinal, its true story and formula.

Posted: Fri May 24, 2013 7:43 am
by KennyE
The "original" formula for "Rodinal" was published in 1891, by James H. Stebbins Jr, in his magazine "American Amateur Photographer"

You will need to Goggle "American Amateur Photographer". You are looking for volume 3, 1891. When the page comes up, will you need to go to page 384, then read through the entire article. It will mention that formulas are from Dr. Andresen and others. The original formula for 'Rodinal" is posted at the end of the article.

Next, move on to page 431, then read through the entire article. There you will read about the other persons who have delivered data on the formulas and uses of "para-aminophenol".

Finally, move on to page 507 to 509, and read the remaining data about "para-aminophenol and rodinal".

Now here is something that most magazines today do not do, this magazine from 1891, list by month, any and all patents issued from around the world and the United States.

When I went through the magazine and others as well, I could not find any mention of "Rodinal" or a patent dated January 27th 1891.

"Rodinal" was produced and sold in 1892, which is what my findings show. Then "Rodinal" is a variation branded product made from a public domain formula, and its producers should publish their basic formula, as did Kodak, when they sold D-76 as a branded product, which was a variation of a public domain formula of 1907. In fact the use of borax and MQ goes back to 1894, about two years after the discovery of Metol, which was discovered in 1892.

Here is another note: Metol was used to replace the "eikonogen" developer, that was discovered by Dr. Andresen. "Eikonogen" would go bad very quickly if left exposed to air for a day or two. In solution, it would turn black, and it was hard to see your plates, slides, or film. For years "eikonogen was used with hydroquinone as a EQ developer, Metol replaced it.

People will argue with me. But history and law is on my side. Example

Aston-Tate, Borland, and Microsoft, made millions of dollars off of public domain programming formulas that they change to suite their needs. Then when others copied the formula (like Fox dBase), Aston-Tate, Borland, and Microsoft tried to sue them. Well, the law found out that Aston-Tate, Borland, and Microsoft had obtain their programming formulas from JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab) which is funded by the United States government. AKA the people of the United States. Therefore it was open domain, because it was published. And they lost their suit. Aston-Tate and Borland went out of business.

Thank You


Re: Rodinal, its true story and formula.

Posted: Fri May 24, 2013 8:57 am
by Ornello
Rodinal and other developers that were formulated in the days of plates and large-format photography are crude compared to those developed later. D-76 was formulated and designed as a motion-picture negative developer. 35mm still film technique is an evolution of 35mm motion-picture technique. This is something Zone System adherents have trouble grasping. Kodak published the formula for D-76 because it was a motion-picture developer, and it was the practice to publish formulas intended for that field. Kodak also published formulas for professional work, but not all. Dektol, Microdol, Versatol, and other developer formulas have never been published.

D-76 is in almost every way superior to Rodinal, and there is no reason to prefer the latter to the former.

D-76 and its brethren use soft-working developing agents (Metol or Phenidone), mild alkalies, and a high concentration of solvent to achieve both fine grain and good emulsion speed. Rodinal uses a harsh alkali and developing agent. It does not yield as much emulsion speed as MQ-Borax or PQ-Borax developers do.

Re: Rodinal, its true story and formula.

Posted: Sun May 26, 2013 5:44 am
by KennyE
I will put a stop on my posts, until I clear something up.

I came across information on Dr. James H. Stebbin Jr., that I was completely unaware of. His complete //background// and history is coming clear and open, the more I read about this man.

He was a highly respected member of the American Chemical Society and have made and published hundreds of discoveries in chemistry. He was educated at Harvard College.

The reason that I am stopping, is because I came across a piece of information in his magazine, written by Dr John H. Janetcay. That I want to explore.

Thank You.


Re: Rodinal, its true story and formula.

Posted: Sun May 26, 2013 9:16 am
by KennyE
I discovered that hatreds and dislikes, back in the 1890’s, are no different than the way things are today.

Dr. James H. Stebbins, (a professor of “salts”, discovered “eikonogen”, but lost the discovery to Dr. M. Andresen) Dr. J. Hauff (inventor of Amidol), Dr. C. Ehrmann, Dr. Stoltez, Lumiere of Paris, and Alfred Stieglitz; were not fans of Dr. Momme Andresen.

Dr. M. Andresen’s inventions both…, “Eikonogen and Rodinal” were received for what they were, and little praise was given to his inventions by those in the chemistry society.

The doctors of chemistry competed between one and other, and some got the upper hand, and Alfred Stieglitz kept notes on what was going on. It was a mess, and I stupidly walked into it, some 113 years later, by reviewing Alfred Stieglitz’s notes.

There is indeed a sucker born every day.

Ok guys, load up your guns, you get one shot. Make it good.

Thank You


Re: Rodinal, its true story and formula.

Posted: Mon May 27, 2013 11:43 pm
by foolscape
I'm glad that you are passionate about this slice of photographic history. It isn't rare that some foul deeds were done by pioneers of new technologies. To whom goes the patents also goes the spoils. But, to answer your question "What would you think? What would you do?" I would say, "Things happen," and "Nothing different." Yes, it's interesting, but not not Earth shattering. I think that your lead-in to the expose' led me to expect something much bigger was afoot. Don't get me wrong, I don't approve of theft of intellectual property, but there's a lot of water under this bridge.

Thank you for sharing. No need to load any metaphorical guns, or to take a shot.


Re: Rodinal, its true story and formula.

Posted: Tue May 28, 2013 12:58 pm
by KennyE
I want thank everyone for their support. But YAHOO!!!!! I found it.

I was looking for something else. In fact, I was looking for the chemical make up of "edinol". I wanted to see what modern developing agent today that I could use as a substitute for it. When Ka-Boom!!!, theres the information. So I looked further and there it was. Just as they said it was. The United States Commerce fines German company Agfa.

International patent laws states the following and it can be found on the USPTO web site.

If an invention or idea is published in any way, in another country. It can not be patented. Lumiere of Paris, publish the formula in January 15, 1891, a week and a half before Dr. Momme Andresen filed his application.

The United States Department of Commerce, ordered them to publish their new formula for 1 year in the United States, as a fine.

The ad I found was in Anthony's Photography Bulletin 1902, I could not find the date of order, but when I do, I will post.

Here is the link to the Agfa ad, publishing the "Rodinal" formula for all to see. It will never be published again by them. ... &q&f=false

When you click on the link and it appears. Click the clear search button. Go to the in of the bulletin and start going up. Keep an eye on the page count. You are looking for page # xxxvii. To keep a copy of the bulletin, click on the gear symbol and download the PDF.

Thank God, My search has finish in great form.

Thank You


Re: Rodinal, its true story and formula.

Posted: Wed May 29, 2013 8:47 am
by Ornello
I don't follow you. What page are we looking for?

Re: Rodinal, its true story and formula.

Posted: Wed May 29, 2013 8:52 am
by Digitaltruth
FYI: The link that KennyE has provided will only show the full text of the book if it is accessed via in the US. If you are accessing from another country then you may be limited to snippets of the text or no text due to local copyright laws.

Re: Rodinal, its true story and formula.

Posted: Wed May 29, 2013 9:12 am
by Ornello

I am in the US and it appears I can see the entire thing, but I don't know what I am looking for.


I found it. It doesn't say exactly how much caustic to add.

Re: Rodinal, its true story and formula.

Posted: Thu May 30, 2013 8:47 pm
by KennyE

How that we have seen the formula in a Agfa ad era 1902. I feel that it is only fair that I post the formula, which most people already know. But there is a small secret that was missing. It is "lithium hydroxide". I do not recommend using it. It cost $46.16 for 100g at Fisher Scientific, with 25g being $16.45. Expensive. But the sources that I have came across, point to the use of it.

Due to cost, I recommend using Potassium Hydroxide, it will give a little higher pH than Sodium Hydroxide, and it cost far less than Lithium Hydroxide. If you use Potassium Hydroxide, mix in the whole 25 grams into the solution. The same with using Sodium Hydroxide.

Water 150 ml
Sodium Sulfite 90 grams
Para-aminophenol HCI 17 grams,is equal to 10 grams of p-Aminophenol base.
Potassium Carbonate 2 grams
Sodium Hydroxide 25 grams, add it to 100 ml of cold water.
Water to make 500ml

Mixing the formula:

First thing to do, is to ensure that you have all the tools, chemicals, and items needed to mix and produce a good 500 ml of 1891 "Rodinal". Check all of your containers and tools, to ensure that they are "clean and dry". Next, get four Dixie cups to place the chemicals in. Second, get two glass jars, a deep pan, a empty 2 liter apple juice bottle/w cap, and cold water..., about 64 oz.. Pour enough water in the deep pan to nearly fill it and measure 100 ml of water into one of your two jars. Next measure out 25 grams of caustic alkali in one of your Dixie cups and pour that into the jar of 100 ml of water. Stir the caustic alkali to make a solution, while holding the jar in the deep pan of cold water, to keep the caustic solution cool. Or..., when you feel the warmth of the caustic solution, place it in the deep pan of water, continuing to stir until it becomes clear.

Now place the caustic solution to the side. Boil 8 oz. or more of water, once it is boiling..., remove it from the heat. Allow it to cool to 180 degrees F. Measure out the Sodium Sulfite, p-Aminophenol, and the Potassium Carbonate, placing them in Dixie cups. Then add 1 gram of you 90 grams of Sodium Sulfite to 150 ml of hot water, that you will later combine with your caustic solution; and stir until dissolved, followed by the p-Aminophenol HCI, which is stirred until it dissolved. Now add the remaining Sodium Sulfite, then the 2 grams of Potassium Carbonate.

Continue to stir solution for 30 to 45 seconds. Next, get the caustic solution and add it to the reducing agent solution, placing the solution in the deep pan of water to keep it cool. While stirring for an additional 1 to 2 minutes. The solution will now be partially clear.

Pour that solution into the 2 liter apple juice bottle, then add 100 ml of water, cap the bottle and shake like hell for 1 minute. Next pour that solution into a 500 ml bottle and add water to make 500 ml.

Allow the solution to settle for 2 days. Do not filter at this time. On the second day, you will see that residue has settled on the bottom of the bottle. This needs to be filtered, but if there is still items floating about in the solution, do not at this time. Wait another day longer and check again

I use a paper towel, doubled over a container. It is the cheapest method. Just be careful in doing it, or you can go to the market an purchase a coffee filter basket, with filters. This is the first filtering and re-bottling the solution. So allow it to re-settle for another 2 days. Then filter again and top off to 500 ml. You are done and the solution is ready for use.

To use AGFA "Rodinal" production formula, which spanned 1897 to 1940, replace the Potassium or the Sodium Hydroxide with 8-10 grams of "Lithium Hydroxide".

If you use the white powered p-Aminophenol, you may or may not get rose color solution. In that case, you may want to add a bit of eosine for color. Photography Formulary p-Aminphenol HCI, will ensure that your "Rodinal" is rose colored.

Be careful in using some drain cleaners. Because some has metal in them. You may have to filter the metal out, and that can be a mess and dangerous. I went to a local wine making store in my area and purchase a bag of caustic soda pellets. Caustic soda is use for cleaning out wine barrels.

My next project is "Parodinol" treated with p-Aminphenol HCI, Phenidone, Ascorbic Acid and Borax. I will post my findings.

Thank You