GAF Gets Exposure With Joseph Gordon-Levitt

GAF Super 8

WAYNE, N.J. – GAF, once known as General Aniline and Film, is the nation’s leading name in roofing. It has roots as old as 1842, with the E. Anthony & Co. photography enterprise of Binghamton, N.Y. and General Aniline Works, a textile dye company.

GAF,  now headquartered in Wayne, N.J., claims its founding as 1886, but it has a long history in film, a business that it exited in 1977. General Aniline and Film was associated with other film brands, including Anthony & Scovill, which later became Ansco. Later on GAF purchased Sawyer’s, which owned View-Master. At its height, it rivaled Kodak in the market for slide projection and movie cameras. As a child, yours truly had the ubiquitous GAF Pana-Vue, a hand held, battery operated slide viewer, a “purchase” likely gleaned from Green Stamps.

Through various mergers (including Agfa and the notorious I.G. Farben company) it merged into GAF, a conglomerate with interests including film, chemicals, broadcasting, paint and roofing. Because of the German ownership and war interests, from 1942 to 1965 it was run by government appointed directors. Interestingly, it spun a bit out of control when it turned into a classic 1970s conglomerate. The core of the company that survives today is the roofing company Ruberoid, maker of the first asphalt shingle, and another hit product, Tite-On Shingles. The broadcasting division owned WNCN, a New York City classical station. The station is now Q104.3, a classic rock station distinguished by its “babes” of the day in “thongs.” A pitiful aircheck of the switch from classical to alternative rock appears HERE.

This week, the brand got a big plug in Entertainment Weekly in a profile of actor/filmmaker Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He is holding a GAF Super 8 movie camera, undoubtedly just a prop from an antique store. Perhaps he makes the roofing brand a bit more hip, but it really does is point up some value in GAF as a video and electronics brand.

Through its partnership with Disney, GAF became the kid-friendly photography brand. Not only did GAF sell the stereoscope toy View-Master, it made official slide photos for just about every tourist attraction in the U.S. The company had numerous innovations in film, and at one time had many patents.

During its time as a conglomerate, GAF did not do the correct thing in dumping its older brands that included Ansco and Sawyers. Today, ANSCO the camera brand, registered June 25, 1940 by GAF of Binghamton, is now owned by W. Haking Enterprises Limited, 1401 Devon House, 979 Kings Road Quarry Bay Hong Kong.

The GAF brand, as far as I can determine, is not being used on electronic equipment. Perhaps GAF might want to look into re-entering the business, not as a maker of cameras, but as a licensor of the brand to other companies in personal electronics, photo archiving and the like.


  • Garland Pollard

    J. Garland Pollard IV is editor/publisher of BrandlandUSA. Since 2006, the website has chronicled the history and business of America’s great brands.

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