Whenever someone tells me it’s too late to try my hand at something new, or that I’m too old to pursue this or that latest obsession, I politely listen, never putting up much of an argument. Experience has taught me that such well-intentioned advice is usually offered more for the benefit of the giver than the recipient.
Nothing seems to get under the skin of early bloomers so much as the thought of a late bloomer succeeding. So while taking my anticipated though undeserved lumps, I smile to myself and think with a mixture of hope and serene detachment of the Haloid Photographic Company.
Merriam-Webster doesn’t even dignify “haloid” with word status, but Dictionary.com defines it as an adjective meaning “resembling or derived from a halogen” and a noun meaning “a haloid salt or derivative from a halogen.”
What does all this have to do with late bloomers? In 1906 Joseph R. Wilson, along with three partners, founded the Haloid Photographic Company in Rochester, N.Y. Unlike thousands of other companies, the photographic-paper manufacturer survived the Great Depression. But it wasn’t until the mid-1940s—and ultimately the 1960s—that the perspicacity of Wilson’s son, Joseph C. Wilson, who succeeded his father as president of Haloid, paid off.
The younger Wilson recognized the potential of a new dry type of printing being developed by inventor and graphic-arts enthusiast Chester Carlson. In 1946, when the 40-year-old son of the founder was in his first year running the company, Haloid signed a contract with Carlson for $10,000—a full 10% of the company’s 1945 earnings—to license his electrophotography technology for commercial use.