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George Eastman was born on July 12, 1854, in Waterville NY. Eastman left school at 15 to help support his family after his Father had died. He began working in the photo business. He founded the Kodakl company in 1884. American inventor George Eastman introduced his Kodak No. 1 box camera in 1887 after having perfected dry plate photographic film by 1880.
He brought photography to the masses with his relatively inexpensive cameras, including the Brownie introduced in 1904 and priced at just $1.
Much of Eastman's fortune was donated to institutions of higher education, especially the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Eastman was in severe pain during the last two years of his life and committed suicide leaving behind a note that said: "my work is done why wait".
George Eastman was born on July 12, 1854, in Waterville, New York. His father, George Washington Eastman, ran a business school where he taught bookkeeping and penmanship, but had to work a second job selling fruit trees and roses, which forced him to split his time between Waterville and Rochester, New York. The young George Eastman was thus raised mostly by his mother, Maria (Kilbourn) Eastman, from an early age, and entirely by her after his father died in 1862. In 1870, his older sister Katie, who suffered from polio, died as well, leaving the Eastman household permanently scarred by misfortune.
At the age of 15, the family since having moved to Rochester, Eastman quit school and took a job as an office boy to help support his family. In 1875 he became a junior bookkeeper at the Rochester Savings Bank. By saving scrupulously, he was able to consider a career in real estate and in 1877 made plans to travel to Hispaniola, where a boom in land speculation was underway. Convinced by a friend that he could best document with the trip with a camera, he bought his first photographic equipment.
The excursion never took place, but Eastman was hooked on photography. He sought out the two amateur photographers in Rochester, George Monroe and George Selden, and became their willing pupil. A subscription to the "British Journal of Photography" inspired him to make improvements in dry-plate photography, then an inferior alternative to wet-plate photography (a process in which a glass plate was exposed and developed while wet). These experiments resulted in a formula for gelatin-based paper film and a machine for coating dry plates. He went into business selling dry plates in April 1880, in a room above a music store in the financial district of Rochester.
Eastman's career received a boost when E & H.T. Anthony, the premier national photographic supply distributor of the day, began buying his plates. For a time, he continued to work at the bank, but offered his resignation in September 1881, after being passed over for a promotion that he felt was rightfully his.
For Eastman, the 1880s was a dynamic decade. In 1884, he hired William Hall Walker, a camera inventor and manufacturer, and together they designed the Eastman-Walker Roll Holder, which allowed photographers to advance paper film through a camera rather than handle individual plates. The roll holder came to define the basic technology of cameras until the introduction of digital photography in the late twentieth century. More immediately, it became the basis for the first Kodak camera, initially known as the "roll holder breast camera." The term Kodak, coined for the occasion by Eastman himself, first appeared in December 1887.
While the first Kodak camera was wildly popular with amateurs, the paper film used in it gave mediocre results. Henry Reichenbach, a chemist hired to work on emulsions, was asked to come up with a transparent, flexible film. Success came in February 1889, when Reichenbach attained a solution that, when flowed over glass and allowed to evaporate, would produce a transparent flexible film that could then be cut into strips and inserted into cameras. This film, which was used by Thomas Edison in his early experiments with the motion-picture camera, became the centerpiece of the Eastman empire, although the patent for it was later successfully contested.
In the 1890s the Eastman company fell on hard times with the departure of Reichenbach and a national financial depression, but it had recovered by 1900, the year that the company introduced the Brownie camera, which sold for one dollar. With the coming of the twentieth century, a combination of innovation, perseverance, and hardheaded business sense had put the Eastman company at the forefront of the photographic industry internationally, a position it has never relinquished.
George Eastman never married, although he carried on a long platonic relationship with Josephine Dickman, a trained singer and the wife of business associate George Dickman, and he became especially close to her after the death of Maria Eastman in 1907. A noted philanthropist, Eastman gave away more than $100 million to charities and made a point of doing so during his lifetime, rather than setting up a foundation. He was also an avid traveler and music lover. Facing the prospect of life in wheelchair, he took his own life with an automatic pistol on March 14, 1932.
Eastman the Entrepreneur
George Eastman's major historical importance was as a business entrepreneur. He built a new and rapidly growing multinational corporation that transformed the photographic industry in his time and that provided world-wide leadership for more than a century. Eastman was to the photographic industry what John D. Rockefeller was to the oil industry and James Duke was to the tobacco industry, a determined American entrepreneur of international significance.
Using his introduction of the popular Kodak camera, Eastman remade the small, sleepy American photographic industry that he had entered in 1880. Dominated by a couple of national supply houses and a relatively small number of professional studio photographers the old industry faced a young persistent businessman. He quickly recast the industry into a highly innovative and rapidly growing one, where one massive company came to world prominence.
The Rochester entrepreneur seized the initiative at a time when other American business innovators were likewise facing the new national market that had emerged with the completion of the network of American railroads. Like Eastman, these businessmen confronted profit-shrinking price competition. The most visionary built large corporations, often by acquiring or merging with competitors or by building companies with integrated marketing, production, and raw material supply facilities. Eastman did both.
By the middle 1890s Eastman's earlier experience in the business convinced him that amateur and professional photographers alike were willing to pay a premium price to ensure quality and absolute reliability of photosensitive materials such as roll film, dry plates, and photographic printing paper. Accordingly, Eastman developed an evolving multi-faceted series of business strategies that sought to maintain high profits by competing with product quality, reliability, and improvements instead of competing with lower prices. These strategies involved 1) production of high quality and reliable photosensitive materials 2) continuous improvements in roll-film cameras 3) acquisition of competing companies 4) integration of marketing, production, and raw material supply in one company 5) research superiority in photographic science and technology and 6) development of key personnel to optimize profits and to inherit eventually the top management positions in the company.
Already in the mid-1890s Eastman had articulated strategies of continuous improvements in roll-film cameras that included development of new camera features within the company and purchase of the patents for them from others. Between 1895 and 1898 Eastman even purchased three small camera companies in order to acquire patents.
From 1885 when he had begun to produce photographic printing paper, Eastman fought hard to maintain a significant market share. In order to obtain a competitive advantage, he and Charles Abbott, president of a competing photographic paper company, negotiated in 1898 an exclusive contract for North America for purchase of raw paper from the major international supplier, the General Paper Company. Located in Brussels, Belgium, this company produced the world's best raw paper for photographic manufacturers. Eastman and Abbott then used their control of raw paper to combine the photographic paper division of Eastman Kodak with Abbott's company and two other major photographic paper companies. Within three years Eastman Kodak then acquired this combine and dominated the sector.
Between 1902 and 1904 Eastman turned attention to dry plates, acquiring one English and three major American producers. He not only obtained dominance in that sector but also acquired vital emulsion-making trade secrets that strengthened the quality of roll film and helped maintain world-wide dominance among amateur photographers and cinematographers.
Within a decade George Eastman had consolidated into Eastman Kodak most of the leading American companies scattered in the various production sectors of the industry. Moreover he had shaped his firm into a major multinational corporation with production and distribution facilities around the world. Significantly, Eastman accomplished this consolidation without the "benefit" of powerful J. P. Morgan-like investment bankers.
Meanwhile, like Rockefeller, Duke, Ford and others, Eastman had begun to bring together within Eastman Kodak the functions previously performed by separate marketing houses, production companies, and material supply businesses. Initially his small enterprise was a manufacturing company but already by the mid-1880s he had begun developing his own sales department, even establishing an outlet in London. In the first decade of the 20th century, he expanded worldwide and bought twenty major photographic retail stores in large cities across the U.S. and in Canada. Meanwhile he had began to control basic raw materials through long-term contracts like that with the General Paper Company. He then gradually built the capacity to produce vitally needed materials such as raw paper, gelatin, chemicals, and lenses. He even bought a coal mine for the company's fuel needs.
Bringing together in one firm the manufacturing, sales, and production of raw materials achieved coordinated, reliable operations that contributed to the growth and increased profitability of the Eastman Kodak Company. In 1912 Eastman hired English photoscientist, Dr. C.E. Kenneth Mees, to create and direct the Eastman Kodak Research Laboratory in Rochester, New York. Eastman offered Mees that his new lab need not produce a practical product for a decade but commanded him with the responsibility for "the future of photography." Mees and other members of Eastman's carefully selected management team indeed ensured the future of the company. It was Eastman's only child, nurtured for half a century by the photographic industry's most visionary entrepreneur.
Eastman Patents a Dry-Plate Process
When George Eastman began to study photography in 1877, pictures were taken using a process called wet-plate photography. He later described this process when recalling his first photographic excursions through Rochester with his mentor George Monroe:
Eastman resolved from the beginning to simplify this process. When he wasn't working at his bank job, he continued experimenting with photography and, to expand his knowledge, took out a subscription to the "British Journal of Photography." The first issue he received, which arrived in February 1878, contained intriguing news: Charles Bennett had developed a formula that made dry-plate emulsions faster.
This was all the encouragement Eastman needed. Untrained and uncredentialed, he began devouring the photographic literature and corresponding with as many fellow amateurs as he could find. He contacted a professional, one Carey Lea, and harangued him with questions until the teacher became the student. Often his mother found in the morning asleep on the floor.
Eastman initially experimented with his formula of ripened gelatin and silver bromide by pouring it from a teakettle onto a glass plate, then distributing it with a glass rod. This method was time-consuming and therefore expensive, however, so he had a coating machine built to his specifications. In his overarching pursuit of simplicity, he also had a camera built that was lighter than the standard ones available. With this system, he took his first dry-plate photograph: a view of the Charles P. Ham building across the street from his window.
Eastman's attention to a coating machine and a lightweight camera show him thinking in terms of manufacturing costs from an early stage. And indeed, at a time when dry-plate innovators clogged the advertising pages of photographic journals, efficiency in production is what would make Eastman stand out. But in 1878 he was still a lowly bank clerk with little capital at his disposal. In a show of some insensitivity, he called on his uncle, Horace Eastman, for a loan, but Horace's wife had just been committed to an insane asylum, and no money was forthcoming for those quarters.
Undaunted, Eastman devised a riskier plan: he would go to London, where the dry-plate business was growing, sell the rights to his coating machine and use the money to start his own business at home. So off Eastman went, $400 drained from his savings account, without a personal contact in London to his name and, more critically, without having procured a patent on his coating machine.
On his first day in London, Eastman marched into the offices of the "British Journal of Photography." The journal's prestigious editor, W. B. Bolton, was incredulous and perhaps even a bit testy a first, but when Eastman showed what he could do, Bolton promised to open doors for him. This led Eastman to Charles Fry, whose partner was Charles Bennett -- the same man whose dry-plate process he had adapted for his own use. Seeing that Bennett and Fry were unable to fill their orders using what was considered the state-of-the-art in the dry-plate business, Eastman returned to America and contacted George Selden, another of his mentors and an accomplished patent attorney. Together they applied for a patent on his coating machine in September 1879.
While waiting for results from the Patent Office, Eastman continued to negotiate with Fry in London. In the end nothing came of it. But by April 1880, when he received a patent for a "method and apparatus for coating plates for use in photography," word of his coating machine was beginning to spread. The implication for photographers was clear: if gelatin dry-plate photography could be made viable, they would no longer have to make their own plates on site but could buy them pre-packaged from a manufacturer.
Eager to take advantage of this momentum, Eastman rented a room above a music store in Rochester's financial district and began turning out dry plates with his coating machine. The factory was a study in ferocious economy, with compartments for everything, right down to his towels. This dedication to efficiency quickly paid off. By July, he had a new, improved coating machine to promote. By August, Edward Anthony, head of the most prestigious national photographic supply house in America, was buying Eastman's plates. Capital arrived before the year was out from Henry Strong, a family friend.
Three years after taking his first photograph, George Eastman was on his way.
Eastman and Mass Production
Although it is not often noted, George Eastman's dream of a camera that could be manufactured for the masses relied on the existence of interchangeable parts. In the late nineteenth century, this was still a largely untested principle, with a rocky history dating back almost to the beginning of the Republic.
The first figure of note to attempt the goal of interchangeable parts was Eli Whitney. Having seen his attempt to market his cotton gin end in disaster, Whitney turned in 1797 to the idea of gun manufacture. At the time, Congress anticipated an attack from Napoleon. Playing on this fear, Whitney was able to initiate the practice of government contracts for arms dealers -- a custom that continues to this day.
The contract was astoundingly generous. Going into effect on June 21, 1798, it called for Whitney to produce 10,000 muskets, the first 4,000 of which would be delivered in a year and a half. For each musket delivered, he would receive $13.40, for a grand total of $134,000, with advances along the way if necessary. What made this handsome sum all the more astonishing was the fact that Whitney had almost no knowledge of gunmaking in a time when the best armories were unable to produce more than 5,000 guns a year.
Whitney set up a factory in East Haven, Connecticut and drove his workers hard, but come his first deadline on September 30, 1799, he had no muskets to show for himself. Indeed, he hadn't even equipped his armory. Thinking quickly, he wrote a letter to Secretary of State Oliver Wolcott, announcing a "new principle" in manufacturing. This principle, he claimed, would revolutionize that arms industry even as it improved the quality of the goods.
"One of my primary objects," he wrote, "is to form tools so the tools themselves shall fashion the work and give to every part its just proportion -- which when once accomplished, will give expedition, uniformity, and exactness to the whole." Intrigued, Wolcott granted an extension, on the condition that Whitney demonstrate his results.
In January of 1801, before an audience that included President John Adams and Whitney's old friend, President-elect Thomas Jefferson, Whitney personally showed how he could fit 10 different locks into the same musket using nothing but an ordinary screwdriver. He then did one better and took 100 different locks apart, scrambled their pieces and put them back together "by taking the first pieces which come to hand." His audience was amazed.
Unfortunately, Whitney's locks were not even remotely interchangeable. As was later discovered, his individual lock components all bore the marks of individually fashioned pieces. Historian Merritt Roe Smith is categorical on the matter: "Whitney must have staged his 1801 demonstration with specimens specially prepared for the occasion."
Many American industrialists blithely claimed interchangeability after Whitney without the slightest proof to back up their claims. Samuel Colt, the inventor of the six-shooter, even teamed up with Eli Whitney, Jr., to enhance the illusion of success. But in fact, the real advances were taking place in England while the Americans fiddled.
Henry Maudslay grew up around the dockyards of Woolwich, where he made himself useful at an early age by making and filling cartridges for the local arsenal. At the green age of 13, he caught the eye of the famous locksmith and plumbing genius Joseph Bramah. But Maudslay was too bright to abide another genius very long. When Bramah refused to give him a raise, he struck out on his own.
By 1797, Maudslay had set up his own shop and developed a slide rest lathe, which improved on earlier lathes both in the speed and the precision with which it could cut metal. In effect, Maudslay's lathe, which incorporated a blade of crucible steel mounted on accurately-planed triangular beams, allowed him to do work on a large scale while retaining the locksmith's or the clockmaker's precision.
The year 1808 found Maudslay in Portsmouth, turning out wooden rigging blocks, which were used largely aboard naval ships to move guns into firing position quickly. At that time, a vessel of the third class required 1,400 blocks, all of which were made by hand. This was no problem for Maudslay, who could produce 130,000 blocks a year.
Maudslay's work opened the way for the making of interchangeable parts, and he soon became highly sought after by aspiring engineers. Among his many apprentices was Joseph Whitworth, who developed measuring instruments accurate to a millionth of an inch. This was a vital step, because interchangeability relied on precisely tooled parts, which naturally had to be measurable in order to be made.
Whitworth went on to describe a method for standardizing screw threads in an 1841 paper titled "A uniform system of screw-threads." The first standardized screws soon followed, and with them mass production was finally within reach.
In an era when handmade machinery was still the norm, attempts to apply precision tooling to particular products necessarily came on a case-by-case basis. The most famous example, of course, is Henry Ford's Model T car, which first rolled off his assembly lines in 1909. But in fact, George Eastman got there before Ford.
While Eastman recognized early that his profits lay in film sales, he also knew that he would sell no film at all if his cameras did not work. The Eastman-Walker Roll Holder, introduced in the 1885, showed how well he had considered this problem. Though it contained 17 separate parts, his company was able to handle a high volume of orders from the very beginning. This became even more obvious in 1888, when the roll holder was incorporated in to the Kodak "roll holder breast camera" and sales jumped to 5,000 units in six months. Though this product did break down at times, the parts were in fact interchangeable and therefore relatively easy to repair, even as Eastman kept up with sales.
After a century of bogus claims, the slogan of at least one American -- Kodak's "You press the button, we do the rest" -- represented more than an empty boast.
Eastman Markets the Kodak Line
Eastman's marketing career essentially began in 1885, when he introduced the Eastman-Walker Roll Holder, which allowed a series of exposures to be advanced through the camera. With this invention, a whole new concept in photography was launched -- a camera anyone could use. His challenge was to make that concept clear to a public accustomed to thinking of photographic equipment as forbidding and obscure.
Eastman's first stroke was perhaps his most brilliant. A brand name, as he saw it, "must mean nothing. If the name has no dictionary definition, it must be associated only with your product." To this end, he coined and trademarked the term Kodak, which was easy to remember and difficult to misspell.
First used in December 1887, the name caught on like wildfire. In almost no time, Kodak was being used as noun, verb, and adjective alike. People who used the product came to be known as Kodakers, and the letter K became fair game for anyone who could figure out how to incorporate it into a name: Kola, Kristmas, Kolumbus Day. The Kodak Kid and Kodak Komics sprouted up, as did *Captain Kodak*, a novel for young adults by Alexander Black. A bogus Kodak Company set up shop in Florida, and countless others kept Eastman's legal department busy chasing down infringements of the trademark.
The name was an auspicious start, but it was hardly the only strategy that Eastman marshaled. From the very beginning, he recognized that the lifeblood of his business lay in children, who would keep photographers interested long after the novelty of the camera had worn off. The early Kodak ads show this wisdom at work, as he took pains to depict family events in connection with his product. A one-time amateur painter, he even showed a certain flair for design in these ads, running them in big-block print with elegant line drawings at a time when the typical ad was busy with information. According to tradition, it was also Eastman who hit upon the idea of the bright yellow packaging that even today stands out on shelves full of merchandise.
After the blush of success, however, it became obvious that Eastman was stretching himself too thin, so he began casting around for someone to take over the job of advertising for the company. He found exactly the right man in Lewis Burnell Jones, a graduate of the University of Rochester then working for a Syracuse newspaper, whom he hired in March of 1892. Dapper and lanky, Jones became a mainstay at the Eastman company for the next four decades.
Jones showed his innate understanding of where the photography business was headed when he told an interviewer that "it was the charm of photography not just this little black box that must be sold to the public." Indeed, he did not even need instructions in the company plan. One day, Eastman called him into his office and asked him why his copy was so good. When Jones ventured that it was because it had been written for the public and not for the boss, Eastman told him: "From now on I don't want to see any ads until they're printed." With this agreement, the public came to read slogans such as "If it isn't an Eastman it isn't a Kodak," "Picture ahead! Kodak as you go!" and the hard-sell "The snapshot you want tomorrow you must take today."
Perhaps the most effective advertising technique to come out of the Eastman company, though, involved not words but an image: the Kodak Girl. It was Eastman, the perennial bachelor, who sprung this idea (though he borrowed it, admittedly, from the Gibson Girls campaign) on the public in 1888, when he outfitted an outdoorsy young woman in a striped dress and had her picture taken with a camera in her hand. At first, the Kodak Girls were rendered in line drawings, but in 1901, with improvements in half-tone, printing, photography, the first photographically illustrated Kodak Girl appeared in a newspaper ad.
An independent-minded traveler, the Kodak Girl was conveniently both a photographer and a photographic subject, and over the years many a boy (and man) became a secret admirer, while countless girls copied her look. As late as the 1960s, the tradition lived on, as models trimmed out in striped suits descended on the beaches of England, snapping pictures of whomever happened to be there. By this time, of course, Eastman's advertising campaign had become so thoroughly engrained in people's minds that no one had to be informed of its meaning. Taking pictures of beautiful girls with Kodak cameras in their hands, who were taking pictures themselves, was simply something that everyone did.
The Kodak Camera Starts a Craze
The introduction of the Kodak camera of May 1888 was a dramatic event. Although it cost $25 (a great deal of money in those days, but less than the cost of wet-plate cameras), it was easy to use, as Eastman made clear with his advertising slogan: "You press the button, we do the rest."
And people did press the button. By August, Eastman was having trouble filling orders as Kodak cameras made their way into the public arena. President Grover Cleveland owned one, though he was apparently slow to learn to turn the key that advanced the film, as did the Dalai Lama, who took his with him when he left Tibet for the first time. Gilbert and Sullivan paid Eastman the ultimate compliment by immortalizing his product in song for the operetta "Utopia":
Then all the crowd take down our looks In pocket memorandum books. To diagnose Our modest pose The Kodaks do their best: If evidence you would possess Of what is maiden bashfulness You need a button press-- And we do the rest!
The appearance of Eastman's cameras was so sudden and so pervasive that the reaction in some quarters was fear. A figure called the "camera fiend" began to appear at beach resorts, prowling the premises until he could catch female bathers unawares. One resort felt the trend so heavily that it posted a notice: "PEOPLE ARE FORBIDDEN TO USE THEIR KODAKS ON THE BEACH." Other locations were no safer. For a time, Kodak cameras were banned from the Washington Monument. The "Hartford Courant" sounded the alarm as well, declaring that "the sedate citizen can't indulge in any hilariousness without the risk of being caught in the act and having his photograph passed around among his Sunday School children."
Hilariousness, however, was the key. Where the daguerreotype and its wet-plate successors had required stillness from their subjects, the Kodak camera was able to capture their spontaneity. So convincing were these new images of people that today it is difficult to believe that anyone had had any fun at all in the age of the daguerreotype.
Did the snapshot simply record emotions that had eluded cameras before, or did it actually change the way people felt about themselves? The question may be unanswerable in the end, but it is certainly true that the Kodak camera caught on America at exactly the moment when America was reaching new heights of liveliness. Everywhere, the tempo was picking up. The first automobiles were appearing on the streets. Telephones were beginning to grace the homes of ordinary citizens. Motion pictures, made possible partly through Eastman's contribution of celluloid film, were actually recording all this activity and then speeding it up in presenting it to viewers.
Of course, during this same time, the very embodiment of fun had also sprung up at the edge of New York City. Coney Island, famous for so many things, was a veritable photogenic heaven. Where once visitors there had to be content with the Camera Obscura Observatory (erected in 1883), they suddenly held the power of the images in their hands: snapshots on the Ferris Wheel, snapshots on the roller coasters, they could take snapshots almost anywhere.
In yet another example of serendipity, the Brownie camera, which brought the price of a Kodak camera down to a truly democratic dollar, was introduced in 1900, just as Coney Island was undergoing a postcard explosion. In 1898, with the improvement of printing techniques and the increase in transportation speeds, the cost of postcards were lowered from two cents to one, and postcards began to scatter from Coney Island at an astonishing rate: on a single day in September 1906, an astonishing 200,000 postcards were postmarked from Coney Island.
While the photographs on the Coney Island postcards were not, by and large, taken with Brownie cameras, they were nonetheless powerful emblems to their recipients, who saw for the first time how much fun photography could be. The twentieth century had arrived, and with it, the image of a smiling America.
Eastman Kodak Introduces Full Color Photography
With the coming of the twentieth century and its intoxicating rhythms, many innovators intensified their search for the means to render photography in full color. George Eastman was as interested as anyone in conquering the problem. Indeed, convinced (correctly) that color photography would be mostly the province of amateurs, he dedicated himself to finding a process that not only could offer the complete spectrum of colors but would be simple to use. He eventually found one, although it would not turn out to be simple to develop.
In 1910, when Eastman established a color laboratory at Kodak Park under the leadership of MIT graduate Emerson Packard, lantern slides and hand-colored prints were enjoying tremendous popularity. Among the more successful marketers of lanterns slides were the Lumiere brothers, who a decade earlier had stunned the world with their projected motion pictures. The Lumieres offered to sell their lantern-slide operation to Eastman, but a visit to their Paris offices revealed a family operation in disarray, and Eastman, a prim bachelor with strict business standards, left in disgust.
Nevertheless, the European trip had strengthened Eastman's resolve. "I spent a good deal of time on new developments in color," he wrote of the trip, "which I hope will develop into something commercial." At Kodak Park, he instructed Packard to proceed as best he could without infringing on the Lumiere patents.
A series of efforts led by Packard and other Kodak employees resulted in the first signs of victory: a process that used red and green filters and transformed negatives directly into positives. Dubbed Kodachrome, the color process would no doubt have gone to market, but progress was stalled by the outbreak of World War I. Adding insult to injury, Eastman's Kodachrome prints received poor reviews at a March 1915 demonstration at the Royal Photographic Society and at the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.
At this impasse, two complete amateurs entered the story and saved the day. Leopold Damrosch Mannes and Leopold Godowsky, Jr., both sons of famous musicians, had met as schoolmates and been drawn together by their mutual interest in sonatas and the Brownie camera. After seeing an early color movie, Mannes and Godowsky became convinced that they could do better and built a three-lens camera that combined the three primary colors projected as light. This had already been done by others, but in their excitement the failures of others did not seem worth exploring.
The two went on to college and met again in New York after graduation, whereon they fell to photographic experimentation again. With the help of impresario S. L. (Roxy) Rothafel, they were able to use the projection booth at the Rialto to produce their first dark, fuzzy pictures. Soon they had surpassed the efforts of others and were photographing a part of the color spectrum on double-layered plates -- in the bathtubs and sinks of their homes.
Their parents did not approve of these scientific forays, however, and so in 1922 they turned to George Eastman for financial help. Eastman proved non-committal, but two years later, Mannes and Godowsky were able to ingratiate themselves with C.E. Kenneth Mees, director of the Eastman Kodak Research Laboratory, and with that slender entree, to receive funding from other sources.
In 1930 the Eastman Kodak Company made improvements in color-movie technology, but it still lagged behind the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation. Mees, anxious to remain at the forefront, finally agreed to hire Mannes and Godowsky. (By this time, Eastman himself, ill and five years into his retirement, was far from the action at Kodak Park.)
With the Eastman School of Music at their disposal, the duo were finally able to hit their stride, although their methods were confusing to those around them. At the school, they were known as "those color experts," at Kodak Park, as "man and God." Working in a completely light-tight darkroom, they timed their plate developing by whistling Brahms at two beats to the second, leaving their colleagues to wonder what had become of the famed Kodak efficiency ethic.
Doubts about Mannes and Godowsky increased as the Great Depression wore on. Mees, by then a vice president, could only hope for the best as he stalled other departments filled with accomplished chemists and pressured the musicians for results. Under these conditions, Mannes and Godowsky developed first a two-color film and then a three-color one, both of which could be easily used by amateurs.
The Kodachrome name was revived, and on April 15, 1935, Kodachrome motion picture film went on sale. Shortly after that, Eastman Kodak introduced Kodachrome film for color slides. The process by which this film was developed was -- and still is -- maddeningly complex, but as with everything else at Kodak, the amateur did not have to worry about that, since developing was handled by the company. Vivid color photography for everyday use had become a reality.
Eastman Becomes a Mystery Donor to MIT
On February 29, 1912, Frank Lovejoy, then the general manager of Eastman Kodak, wrote George Eastman, suggesting that "you may be willing to lend a helping hand, and I am writing to say that I should welcome an opportunity of placing the plans before you." The help Lovejoy was requesting was a donation to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, of which he was an alumnus.
MIT was planning to build a new campus, and though its board of trustees included such financial heavyweights as T. Coleman du Pont and engineer Arthur D. Little, they could only come up with $500,000 of the $750,000 needed for the plan. With Eastman in mind, Richard Cockburn Maclaurin, the president of MIT, had contacted Lovejoy, hoping he would act as an intermediary.
Eastman was extremely careful about where his money went and was apt to micro-manage its use. He was known to demand that the buildings he funded be constructed with a minimum of ornament so as to cut cost, a habit that led Claude Bragdon, who designed several building funded by Eastman, to compare his attitude to "that of Pharaoh." Alternately, Eastman might insist on extra expenses to create the proper effect, as when the University of Rochester was expanding its hospital, and he demanded the stairwell corners be painted white, on the theory that "only a hardened sinner would spit in a white corner." Most important perhaps was Eastman's lifelong interest in guarding his privacy, a requirement that became less sustainable with each bequest he made.
But Eastman had also long admired MIT. Not only were two of his top assistants, Lovejoy and engineer Darragh de Lancey, graduates of the school, but he had read several of Maclaurin's annual reports to MIT's trustees and was familiar with his plans.
Maclaurin and Eastman met on March 5 at the Hotel Belmont in New York City, and the meeting spilled over into the evening as Maclaurin waxed eloquent on his plans for the new campus at MIT. As the meeting finally drew to a close, Eastman asked, "What sum will be needed?"
"Two and a half million," Maclaurin replied.
Eastman immediately agreed to send a check in that amount, on one condition: that his gift remain anonymous. Maclaurin happily accepted these terms, although it put him in an unusual quandary. The term "anonymous giver" was altogether too clumsy for everyday use. After a time, he decided on "Mr. Smith" as a pseudonym and gave the public two small clues: Mr. Smith did not live in Massachusetts, and he had never attended MIT.
The creation of Mr. Smith was the closest Eastman ever came to cultivating a public persona. It became a kind of a game to guess his identity, though no one did. MIT students went so far as to write lyrics on the subject, which were sung to the tune of "Marching Through Georgia":
Bring the good old bugle, boys, and we'll sing another song,
Of "Mr. Smith" and Dupy and the Corporation throng
Of loyal Tech alumni, almost ten thousand strong,
Who give--what we want--when we want it.
Hurrah! Hurrah! for Tech and Boston beans,
Hurrah! Hurrah! for "Smith," who'er that means
May he always have a hundred million in his jeans,
So we'll get -- what we want -- when we want it.
And so it went for another eight years, during which time Eastman donated $20 million in cash and Kodak stock to MIT. So safe was his identity that in 1916 he attended a banquet to celebrate the new campus and even joined in as the alumni toasted the marvelous Mr. Smith.
Eastman continued to keep Maclaurin busy trying to satisfy his demands. In 1918 he offered MIT $4 million in Kodak shares if matching funds could be found by December 31, 1919. Finally, seeing that these stipulations were wearing Maclaurin down, Eastman agreed, as a consolation prize, to reveal himself as the mystery donor at the annual alumni dinner on January 10, 1920.
The revelation that Mr. Smith was George Eastman, the famous recluse of Rochester, was front-page news. Maclaurin did not live to enjoy it, however. Exhausted from raising the $4 million to match Eastman's request, he had come down with pneumonia in December 1919, and Maclaurin died a week later, at the age of 50. His speech revealing Eastman's identity had to be read by others.
Eastman went on to become one of the major philanthropists of his era. On December 10, 1924, he held a press conference to announce that, besides retiring from Eastman Kodak, he would donate the majority of his fortune rather than hold onto it. In the short term, this meant $30 million in bequests that he had earmarked for four institutions. Two of these were institutions of higher learning for African Americans -- the Hampton Institute and the Tuskegee Institute. The others were the University of Rochester, where he had already established the Eastman School of Music. For the remaining eight years of his life, he continued to give smaller amounts to favorite causes such as dental clinics and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.
His reasons were plain enough. "If a man has wealth," he declared in 1923, "he has to make a choice, because there is the money heaping up. He can keep it together in a bunch, and then leave it for others to administer after he is dead. Or he can get it into action and have fun, while he is still alive. I prefer getting it into action and adapting it to human needs, and making the plan work."
Eastman Retires and Goes on a Safari
In 1917, Eastman, having given the world permission to smile, decided he might be permitted himself, and put it exactly that way. "I never smiled until I was forty," he said. "Since then, I have tried to win back something of the fun that other men had when they were boys."
This remark is rather curious, in that Eastman had been dedicated to the fine art of the vacation for decades. Having first thrown himself into his career after an trip to Hispaniola fell through in 1877, he had been traveling ever since--at first to London, then on bicycle tours of Europe and Russia, camping trips out West and, if all else failed, getaways to Oak Lodge, his North Carolina retreat.
But there was also a certain frustrated quality to his constant globetrotting. Upon returning home, he was typically quick to let people know how much fun his trips had been, yet fun is the one thing that seemed to be lacking. Eastman's notion of relaxation was to plan out every moment in the itineraries of his traveling companions, right down to the courses of their meals. In this respect, it makes some sense that he would feel the urge to make his final expeditions more dramatic than usual. If he was going to break through his own net of control, it would take more than a bicycle tour through St. Petersburg.
Fittingly, the plan was linked to film. In the early 1920s, Martin Johnson, an exclusive sales agent for Kodak cameras and supplies in Missouri, and his wife, Osa, traveled to Africa and returned with a film, "Trailing African Wild Animals." Martin Johnson approached the motion-picture department at Kodak, asking for backing for another safari. When Eastman gave them $10,000, they began tempting him to join them sometime.
Shortly after retiring from his own company in 1925 at the age of 72, Eastman took the Osa and Martin Johnson up on their offer, and once again, the Eastman mode of travel came to life. Martin Johnson wrote Eastman that he could travel as if going to London, and so he did. More than 200 small boxes of uniform size were shipped out of Kodak Park, assembled and numbered so as to end up on the appropriate native porters' heads. Once they were in the Kedong Valley of Kenya, far from civilization, Eastman rolled out the day's fare: corn meal and graham flour that had been sterilized back at Kodak Park, caviar and vintage wine served in crystal goblets on linen-spread table.
At the time, big game hunting was on the wane, and many species were already considered endangered. As it was, however, Eastman managed to have plenty of excitement without firing a shot.
While out on the hunt one day, the party encountered a rhinoceros. Eastman saw that its horns were unsuitable for trophy-taking purposes, so he decided to film it instead. As the Martin and Osa Johnson looked on, he moved within 20 feet of the beast, filming as he approached. Apparently, the camera was giving him trouble, because he failed to react at first when the rhino lowered its head and charged. He simply stood there, waiting until the animal came within 15 feet before stepping out of the way. For a moment, the rhino became more enraged and, in a second charge, came within two paces of Eastman, at which point it was brought down by a shot from one of the horrified onlookers.
A second safari in 1928 garnered Eastman several trophies for his wall, but after his brush with death, it was all an anticlimax. Inevitably, whenever he showed his rhino film to viewers back in the States, he was admonished for his foolhardiness. For once, he seemed to enjoy the reaction. To a friend he wrote: "The affair could not have been more perfect if it had been staged and was the opportunity of a lifetime."
Indeed, after a lifetime of heavily engineered adventures, George Eastman had finally experienced his Kodak moment.
George Eastman: The Final Shot
The end of a life often explains a great deal about how it was lived, and the manner of George Eastman's death is no exception.
At the age of 74, Eastman had grown noticeably thin and weak, and he had difficulty standing. Two years later, his gait had become slow and shuffling. A doctor of today would have diagnosed spinal stenosis, but even without a name to describe his condition, he knew that an invalid's life was in store for him. Having seen his mother live out her last two years in a wheelchair, he also knew well what that meant.
Normally tight-lipped about his personal affairs, Eastman had been letting slip how he felt about his circumstances. One occasion found him confessing to a friend that there wasn't much left to live for. A more vivid expression involved one of his extravagant domestic routines. He had long employed Harold Gleason, an organist, to perform for him in his own home as he ate his morning breakfast. One of Eastman's most common requests was *Marche Romaine*, from a Gounod opera, and, as his health deteriorated, he gradually came to refer to this piece as "my funeral march."
On March 14, 1932, Eastman invited some friends to witness a change of his will. After some joking and warm conversation, he asked them to leave so that he could write a note. Moments later, he shot himself once in the heart with an automatic pistol. The note found by the household staff read simply: "To my friends, My work is done--, Why wait?" When his casket was carried out of the Eastman House, the accompanying music was *Marche Romaine*.
Suicide is inevitably a puzzling act, and all the more so when carried out by an inventor, because it is so rare. Indeed, besides Eastman, only two famous American inventors have died by their own hand.
One of these was John Fitch, who in 1787 demonstrated his steamboat, the first working example of such in the world, to the attendees of the Constitutional Convention, only to be derided and scorned by the crowd. Pressing ahead, Fitch organized steamboat excursions between Philadelphia and Trenton to less than enthusiastic acclaim. The situation reached the height of absurdity when the Patent Office issued patents to both Fitch and his rival, James Rumsey, for essentially the same invention. Fitch's complaints to Thomas Jefferson, who as Secretary of State was also empowered to prosecute patents, were to no avail. On July 7, 1798, in a boardinghouse in Bardstown, Kentucky, Fitch wrote a note that lamented "Nobody will believe that poor John Fitch can do anything worthy of attention," and ended his troubles with a draught of poison.
Edwin Armstrong suffered much the same misfortunes as Fitch. The inventor of FM radio, the super-regenerative circuit and the superheterodyne -- all of which represented enormous leaps forward for radio -- Armstrong was mired for most of his life in lawsuits. The bitterest of these contests was with David Sarnoff, the mastermind behind RCA. By 1954, when it was clear that Sarnoff would win the rights to use FM radio technology, Armstrong put on an overcoat, a scarf and pair of gloves, removed the air conditioner from his 13th-floor apartment in New York City. and jumped. (Sarnoff's first reaction upon hearing the news was to say: "I did not kill Armstrong.")
George Eastman suffered some of the same problems as did these two Inventors -- most notably the crushing weight of patent battles. Like them, he ultimately lost the fight for one of his most cherished inventions for him it was transparent flexible film, the patent for which was awarded posthumously to Hannibal Goodwin. Yet for all that, Eastman went on to build a hugely successful business, which neither Fitch nor Armstrong was ever able to do.
One might forgive Eastman because he was suffering from a debilitating disease, but it is not quite enough to interpret his suicide as an exercise of his right to die (which he supported on a political level). Successful inventors, having seen the benefits of perseverance, typically do not go gentle into that good night. Thomas Edison suffered Bright's disease and a host of other illnesses in his final years, yet he plowed ahead with his characteristic dynamism right to the very end. George Westinghouse, for his part, approached death with plans to design an electric wheelchair that would help him get around. And, in fact, Eastman himself had known severe emotional pain, if not physical agony, many times during his life as he watched his loved ones die around him.
But Eastman parted company from his famous contemporaries in another respect as well. In addition to being optimists, inventors have generally found it difficult to keep their personalities in check. Their profession encourages them to brag and complain and, as often as not, to lose themselves entirely in their own enthusiasms, as Edison did when he embarked on a half-serious plan to communicate with the dead. For an inventor to appear mad almost comes with the territory.
If there is one thing that can be said about Eastman, it is that he was a rational man. Throughout his life, he sounded the same themes again and again -- adventure, happiness and control, and the greatest of these was control. The early death of his father and his family's subsequent poverty stamped him with an insatiable need for stability, which he found in bachelorhood and a financial empire and held close ever after. As far as he was concerned, there was no world beyond the one he could dominate. Even when he punctuated his labors with travel, his drive for order went with him in his compulsion to plan out every last detail of his itinerary. In this light, Eastman's career can be seen as act of self-sacrifice. With one of his cameras in hand, it became possible to capture an instant of abandon, even happiness, and so we came to possess, as part of our human heritage, images of people smiling on adventures large and small. Of course, Eastman was often caught in camera in far-off locations as well, but in the end one fact is inescapable: one must look long and hard to find a picture of George Eastman smiling. In harnessing his impulses, he gave the world an experience that he never permitted himself.
Having borrowed the word "snapshot" from a hunting term to describe a bullet fired at random, Eastman proved unable to do anything haphazardly -- certainly not hunting or even photography, both of which he approached with the same fastidiousness he brought to industrial manufacturing. It is perhaps the supreme irony of his life, then, that the last bullet he fired was no snapshot at all, but the final step in an event carefully designed to bring out the desired results. It was, in other words, simply the most efficient thing to do.
George Eastman - History
With the slogan "you press the button, we do the rest," George Eastman put the first simple camera into the hands of a world of consumers in 1888. In so doing, he made a cumbersome and complicated process easy to use and accessible to nearly everyone.
Just as Eastman had a goal to make photography "as convenient as the pencil," Kodak continues to expand the ways images touch people's daily lives.
A handwritten farewell
Finally deciding to take matters into his own hands, Eastman ended his life with a single gunshot to the heart on March 14, 1932, at the age of 77.
The handwritten note above and his death certificate (shown below) are both on display at George Eastman House museum in Rochester, New York.
Cause of death appears to read: &ldquoSuicide by shooting self in heart with a revolver while temporarily insane.&rdquo
George Eastman was cremated, and his ashes buried on the grounds of Kodak Park (now known as Eastman Business Park) in Rochester, New York &mdash on the site of the empire he created.
The Colonial Revival mansion, built between 1902 and 1905, served as George Eastman’s primary residence until his death in 1932. Today, visitors can explore the historic mansion on their own or on a guided tour, offered daily. Live music performances are offered in the mansion most Sunday afternoons throughout the year.
On the main floor, visitors enter from the museum through the Palm House and Colonnade, which also provides access to the Schuyler C. Townson Terrace Garden. Past the Colonnade, visitors enter the Dining Room and continue into the Conservatory, the center of the mansion. The Billiard Room, Library, Great Hall, and Living Room are all accessible from this large two-story room. Up the Grand Staircase on the second floor, visitors will see the restored bedroom suite of Maria Kilbourn Eastman (George Eastman’s mother), the north and south organ chambers behind latticework, the Sitting Room, exhibitions related to George Eastman and Eastman Kodak Company, and the Discovery Room, with hands-on image-making activities for kids.
The third floor, now used for museum offices, once housed Eastman’s screening room and workshop, as well as living quarters for household staff. Museum members can go behind the scenes to the third floor and the basement on the monthly Upstairs/Downstairs tours.
George Eastman - History
Great Museums: Picture Perfect: George Eastman House
Located on historic East Avenue in Rochester, New York, this special showcases the 12.5-acre museum site that was the urban estate of George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak Company. The Museum focuses on the 150-year history of the art, technology, and impact of photography and motion pictures — media that continue to change our perception of the world. The 1910 Colonial era house, where Eastman lived and died, offers a glimpse into the private world of this marketing genius who invented the word “Kodak” and made photographers of us all!
George Eastman (July 12, 1854 – March 14, 1932) was an American innovator and entrepreneur who founded the Eastman Kodak Company and popularized the use of roll film, helping to bring photography to the mainstream. Roll film was also the basis for the invention of motion picture film in 1888 by the world’s first film-makers Eadweard Muybridge and Louis Le Prince, and a few years later by their followers Léon Bouly,Thomas Edison, the Lumière Brothers, and Georges Méliès.
He was a major philanthropist, establishing the Eastman School of Music, and schools of dentistry and medicine at the University of Rochester and in London contributing to RIT and the construction of MIT‘s second campus on the Charles River and donating to Tuskegee and Hampton universities. In addition, he provided funds for clinics in London and other European cities to serve low-income residents.
In the last few years of his life Eastman suffered with chronic pain and reduced functionality due to a spine illness. On March 14, 1932 Eastman shot himself in the heart, leaving a note which read, “To my friends: my work is done. Why wait?”
U.S. patent no. 388,850, issued to George Eastman, September 4, 1888
Eastman was born in Waterville, New York to George Washington Eastman and Maria Eastman (née Kilbourn), the youngest child, at the 10-acre farm which his parents bought in 1849. He had two older sisters, Ellen Maria and Katie. He was largely self-educated, although he attended a private school in Rochester after the age of eight. His father had started a business school, the Eastman Commercial College in the early 1840s in Rochester, New York, described as one of the first “boomtowns” in the United States, with a rapid growth in industry. As his father’s health started deteriorating, the family gave up the farm and moved to Rochester in 1860. His father died of a brain disorder in May 1862. To survive and afford George’s schooling, his mother took in boarders.
Maria’s second daughter, Katie, had contracted polio when young and died in late 1870 when George was 16 years old. The young George left school early and started working. As George Eastman began to experience success with his photography business, he vowed to repay his mother for the hardships she had endured in raising him.
In 1884, Eastman patented the first film in roll form to prove practicable he had been tinkering at home to develop it. In 1888, he perfected the Kodak camera, the first camera designed specifically for roll film. In 1892, he established the Eastman Kodak Company, in Rochester, New York. It was one of the first firms to mass-produce standardized photography equipment. The company also manufactured the flexible transparent film, devised by Eastman in 1889, which proved vital to the subsequent development of the motion picture industry.
He started his philanthropy early, sharing the income from his business to establish educational and health institutions. Notable among his contributions were a $625,000 gift in 1901 (equivalent to $17.5 million in present day terms) to the Mechanics Institute, now Rochester Institute of Technology and a major gift in the early 1900s to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which enabled the construction of buildings on its second campus by the Charles River. MIT opened this campus in 1916.
George Eastman never married, because he carried on a long platonic relationship with Josephine Dickman, a trained singer and the wife of business associate George Dickman, and he became especially close to her after the death of his mother, Maria Eastman, in 1907. He was also an avid traveler and music lover.
His mother, Maria, was his main family for the majority of his life, and her death was particularly crushing to George. Almost pathologically concerned with decorum, he found himself unable for the first time to control his emotions in the presence of friends. “When my mother died I cried all day”, he explained later. “I could not have stopped to save my life”. Due to his mother’s hesitancy and refusal to take his gifts, George Eastman could never do enough for his mother during her lifetime. Thus, after she was gone, George opened the Eastman Theater in Rochester on September 4, 1922, among its features was a chamber-music hall dedicated to her memory: the Kilbourn Theater. And long after that, a rose cutting from her childhood home still flowered on the grounds of the Eastman House.
George Eastman, 1917
Eastman was associated with Kodak company in an administrative and an executive capacity until his death he contributed much to the development of its notable research facilities. In 1911, he founded the Eastman Trust and Savings Bank. While discouraging the formation of unions at his manufacturing plant, he established paternal systems of support for his employees.
He was one of the outstanding philanthropists of his time, donating more than $100 million to various projects in Rochester Cambridge, Massachusetts at two historically black colleges in the South and in several European cities. In 1918, he endowed the establishment of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, and in 1921 a school of medicine and dentistry there.
In 1925, Eastman gave up his daily management of Kodak to become treasurer. He concentrated on philanthropic activities, to which he had already donated substantial sums. For example, he donated funds to establish the Eastman Dental Dispensary in 1916. He was one of the major philanthropists of his time, ranking only slightly behind Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and a few others, but did not seek publicity for his activities. He concentrated on institution-building and causes that could help people’s health. From 1926 until his death, Eastman donated $22,050 per year to the American Eugenics Society.
George Eastman donated £200,000 in 1926 to fund a dental clinic in London, UK after being approached by the Chairman of the Royal Free Hospital, Lord Riddell. This was in addition to donations of £50,000 each from Lord Riddell and the Royal Free honorary treasurer. On 20 November 1931, the Eastman Dental Clinic opened in front of Neville Chamberlain and the American Ambassador. The clinic was incorporated into the Royal Free Hospital and was committed to providing dental care for disadvantaged children from central London.
Infirmity and Suicide
In his final two years Eastman was in intense pain caused by a disorder affecting his spine. He had trouble standing, and his walk became a slow shuffle. Today it might be diagnosed as a form of degenerative disease such as disc herniations from trauma or age causing either painful nerve root compressions, or perhaps a type of lumbar spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal caused by calcification in the vertebrae. Since his mother suffered the final 2 years of her life in a wheelchair, she also may have had a spine condition but that is unknown—only her uterine cancer and successful surgery is documented in her health history. If she did have a musculoskeletal disorder, perhaps George Eastman’s spine condition may have been due to a congenital disease, such as Ankylosing Spondylitis, degenerative disc disease, or a variant of Ehlers-Danlos collagen disorder—conditions known to be inheritable but usually presenting earlier in age. Eastman grew increasingly depressed due to his pain, reduced ability to function, and also since he witnessed his mother’s suffering from pain. On March 14, 1932, Eastman committed suicide with a single gunshot through the heart, leaving a note which read:
“To my friends, My work is done – Why wait?”
His funeral was held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Rochester he was buried on the grounds of the company he founded at Kodak Park in Rochester, New York.
A First Day Cover Honoring George Eastman 1954.
During his lifetime Eastman donated $100 million to various organizations but most of the money went to the University of Rochester and to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (under the alias “Mr. Smith”). The Rochester Institute of Technology has a building dedicated to Eastman, in recognition of his support and substantial donations. In recognition of his donation to MIT, the university installed a plaque of Eastman (students rub their noses on the plaque for good luck.) Eastman also made substantial gifts to the Tuskegee Institute and the Hampton Institute. Upon his death, his entire estate went to the University of Rochester, where his name can be found on the Eastman Quadrangle of the River Campus. The auditorium at Mississippi State Universities Dave C. Swalm School of Chemical Engineering is named for Eastman in recognition of his inspiration to Swalm.
His former home at 900 East Avenue in Rochester, New York was opened as the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in 1949. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1954, the 100th anniversary of his birth, Eastman was honored with a postage stamp from the United States Post Office. In the fall of 2009, a statue of Eastman was erected on the Eastman Quad of the University of Rochester.
In 1915, Eastman founded a bureau of municipal research in Rochester “to get things done for the community” and to serve as an “independent, non-partisan agency for keeping citizens informed”. Called the Center for Governmental Research, the agency continues to carry out that mission.
Eastman had a very astute business sense. He focused his company on making film when competition heated up in the camera industry. By providing quality and affordable film to every camera manufacturer, Kodak managed to turn its competitors into de facto business partners.
In 1926, George Eastman was approached by Lord Riddell, the Chairman of Royal Free Hospital, to fund a dental clinic in London. He agreed to give £200,000, which was matched by £50,000 each from Lord Riddell and Sir Albert Levy, the Royal Free’s honorary treasurer. The Eastman Dental Clinic was opened on November 20, 1931, by the American Ambassador in the presence of Neville Chamberlain. The building, which resembled the Rochester Dispensary, was totally integrated into the Royal Free Hospital and included three wards for oral, otolaryngology and cleft lip and palate surgery. It was dedicated to providing dental care for children from the poor districts of central London. In a similar manner, Eastman went on to establish dental clinics in Rome,Paris, Brussels, and Stockholm.
George Eastman - History
Eastman believed that a brand name should have no dictionary definition so that it was associated with the product alone. He coined the term Kodak because he thought the word was easy to remember and difficult to misspell.
Photos: Courtesy George Eastman House
A junior bookkeeper innovated processes and equipment to simplify photography, introduced the concept of the "snapshot," and created a way for millions of consumer-photographers to document their lives and preserve memories.
Losses Early in Life
George Eastman was born on July 12, 1854, in Waterville, New York. He lost his father when he was eight, and was raised by his mother, Maria. His older sister, Katie, died of polio in 1870, while George was still a teenager. If anyone could capitalize on a tool like photography -- which could document loved ones' likenesses for all time -- it would be someone like Eastman.
Pupil and Inventor
Invented in the 1830s, photography was a well-established professional occupation by the 1870s, but it was not a hobby for the masses. It required a knowledge of chemistry, mastery of cumbersome equipment, and an interest in laborious wet-plate processes. Eastman, in his early twenties, became the pupil of two Rochester, New York, amateur photographers, George Monroe and George Selden. He experimented in dry-plate photography, and developed a formula for gelatin-based paper film and a machine for coating dry plates. He went into business selling dry plates in April 1880, and soon resigned from his bookkeeping position at a local bank to focus on his fledgling company.
In 1885, with camera inventor William Hall Walker, Eastman patented the Eastman-Walker Roll Holder, which allowed photographers to advance multiple exposures of paper film through a camera, rather than handle individual single-shot plates. The roll holder would define the basic technology of cameras until the introduction of digital photography. It also became the basis for the first mass-produced Kodak camera, initially known as the "roll holder breast camera," which retailed for $25 and started a photography craze. The term "Kodak" was coined by Eastman himself in 1887. In 1889, Eastman hired chemist Henry Reichenbach, who developed a transparent, flexible film which could be cut into strips and inserted into cameras. Thomas Edison would order the film to use in the motion-picture camera he was developing -- and it would soon become the centerpiece of the Eastman empire.
Photography for the Masses
During the 1890s, Eastman expanded his business, buying patents and investing in research and development. Faster films and smaller cameras meant photography could produce more spontaneous pictures -- "snapshots." In 1900, he introduced the "Brownie" camera, which sold for $1 and was a bullseye in the mass market. Eastman's insight was that his chemists could do the "photo finishing," but anyone could take pictures with a simple camera like the Brownie. Eastman had hit on a memorable slogan: You press the button, we do the rest." His business grew rapidly, helped by jingles and ads positioning the brand as an essential tool for preserving memories. A 1902 ad lectured, "A vacation without a Kodak is a vacation wasted." A blizzard of profits enabled Eastman to build a 50-room mansion in Rochester.
Eastman continued to improve photography, introducing innovations including a process for color photography which he called Kodachrome. A generous philanthropist, Eastman gave away more than $100 million to charities, mostly in Rochester, during his lifetime. As he aged, he had increasing difficulty standing and walking. He could foresee living out his last years as his mother had, an incapacitated invalid. Facing the prospect of life in a wheelchair, he took his own life with an automatic pistol on March 14, 1932. His suicide note read, "To my friends. My work is done --, Why wait?"
Growth and new developments
Eastman expected that photography would soon become more popular, and in 1892 he established the Eastman Kodak
Daylight-loading film and cameras soon made it unnecessary to return the cameras to the factory. Eastman's old slogan changed to "You press the button, we do the rest, or you can do it yourself." A pocket Kodak was marketed in 1897, a folding Kodak in 1898, noncurling film in 1903, and color film in 1928. Eastman film was used in Thomas Edison's (1847) motion pictures Edison's incandescent (glowing with intense heat) bulb was used by Eastman and by photographers specializing in "portraits (photographs of people) taken by electric light."
Eastman's staff worked on other scientific problems as well as on photographic improvements. During World War I (1914) his laboratory helped build up America's chemical industry to the point where it no longer depended on Germany. Eventually America became the world leader.
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George Eastman was a renowned American inventor, businessman and founder of the Eastman Kodak company. He was born in 1854 in New York to George and Maria Eastman. His father died in 1862, when Eastman was 8 years old and one of his sisters died when he was 16. As a result, he felt the burden of responsibility and dropped out of school at an early age to begin working in order to support his mother financially. He was mostly self educated, and started off his career with odd jobs at insurance companies and banks.
At the age of 24, Eastman planned a trip to Santo Domingo when his colleague advised him to document the trip. The photography equipment however, was bulky and expensive. Eastman began to think of ways to make photography more manageable. He cancelled his trip, bought some photography equipment and began to research extensively on alternative methods of photography. He collaborated with amateur photographers and other inventors and by 1880, he had developed a gelatin based paper film. At this point he left his job and founded a small photography company. In 1885 he obtained a patent for a “roll holding device” that he had invented together with another inventor named William Hall Walker. Together the two of them had invented a much smaller and cheaper camera.
Eastman named his company “Kodak” (later changing it to “Eastman Kodak”) and launched the first Kodak camera in 1888. It was a compact box shaped device which could take 100 pictures and cost only $25. He coined the slogan “You press the button, we do the rest” in order to promote his products. His company also developed flexible film that could easily be inserted into cameras. This was a huge success and was even adapted by Thomas Edison for use in motion pictures. In the 1890’s the company suffered some financial setbacks due to the depression but recovered again by 1900 with the launch of the Brownie Camera for the price of $1 which was a huge success. Eastman also developed an unbreakable glass lens for use in gas masks and a special camera for taking pictures from planes, which was used in World War I.
Gerorge Eastman was never married, and had a close platonic friendship with his friend George Dickman’s wife named Josephine Dickman. He was very close to his mother and credited all his success and fortune to her as she had dedicated her entire life to helping him prosper. When Eastman’s mother died, he admitted to having cried for days at her loss. He established the Eastman Theatre in Rochester, New York and named the chamber music hall “Kilbourn Theatre” in her honor (Kilbourn was his mother’s maiden name).
Eastman was a great philanthropist and gave away huge chunks of his fortune to needy and deserving people. During his lifetime, he is thought to have given around $100 million to universities, hospitals, dental clinics and research facilities. He sometimes used the alias “Mr. Smith” when making donations as he never wished for publicity and fame. Some of the notable organizations he donated to were MIT, Rochester University and the Royal free Hospital. He established several charitable organizations of his own initiative such as Eastman Dental Clinics in London, Rome, Paris, Brussels and Stockholm.
In 1932, George Eastman committed suicide by shooting himself in the heart. The cause of this was a painful and degenerative spine disease which made it difficult for him to function normally. He left a suicide note which read “My work is done – why wait?”. Eastman’s legacy lives on and he will always be remembered and appreciated for his contribution to widespread commercial and personal photography. His net worth at the time of his death was US $95 million. After his death, his house in Rochester was converted into the “George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film“.