George Eastman

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George Eastman
Born(1854-07-12)July 12, 1854
DiedMarch 14, 1932(1932-03-14) (aged 77)
Cause of death Suicide by self-inflicted gunshot
Resting placeAshes buried at Eastman Business Park (Kodak Park)
OccupationBusinessman, inventor, philanthropist
Known forPhotography pioneer, Founder of Eastman Kodak
Net worthUSD $84.9 million at the time of his death (approximately $1.55 billion in 2018) [1]
Parent(s)George Washington Eastman (1815–1862) and Maria Kilbourn (1821–1907)
George Eastman Signature.png

George Eastman (July 12, 1854 – March 14, 1932) was an American 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 stock 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, William Kennedy Dickson, Thomas Edison, the Lumière Brothers, and Georges Méliès.

Kodak American company

The Eastman Kodak Company is an American technology company that produces camera-related products with its historic basis on photography. The company is headquartered in Rochester, New York, and is incorporated in New Jersey. Kodak provides packaging, functional printing, graphic communications and professional services for businesses around the world. Its main business segments are Print Systems, Enterprise Inkjet Systems, Micro 3D Printing and Packaging, Software and Solutions, and Consumer and Film. It is best known for photographic film products.

Roll film

Rollfilm or roll film is any type of spool-wound photographic film protected from white light exposure by a paper backing, as opposed to film which is protected from exposure and wound forward in a cartridge. The term originated in contrast to sheet film. Confusingly, roll film was originally often referred to as "cartridge" film because of its resemblance to a shotgun cartridge.

Photography Art, science and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation

Photography is the art, application and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film. It is employed in many fields of science, manufacturing, and business, as well as its more direct uses for art, film and video production, recreational purposes, hobby, and mass communication.


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 Eastman Dental Hospital; contributing to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and the construction of several buildings at the second campus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the Charles River. In addition, he made major donations to Tuskegee University and Hampton University, historically black universities in the South. With interests in improving health, he provided funds for clinics in London and other European cities to serve low-income residents.

Eastman School of Music American music school; the professional school of music of the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York

The Eastman School of Music is the professional school of music of the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York. It was established in 1921 by industrialist and philanthropist George Eastman.

University of Rochester private, nonsectarian, research university in Rochester, New York, United States

The University of Rochester is a private research university in Rochester, New York. The university grants undergraduate and graduate degrees, including doctoral and professional degrees.

Eastman Dental Hospital Hospital in London

The Eastman Dental Hospital is a specialist hospital for dental treatment located in London, England, and a part of the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. It is based on Gray's Inn Road in the Bloomsbury area of Central London.

In his final two years, Eastman was in intense pain caused by a disorder affecting his spine. On March 14, 1932, Eastman shot himself in the heart, leaving a note which read, "To my friends: my work is done. Why wait?" [2]

The George Eastman Museum has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Eastman is the only person represented by two stars in the Hollywood Walk of Fame recognizing the same achievement, for his invention of roll film.

George Eastman Museum film and photography museum and archive in Rochester, New York, United States

The George Eastman Museum, the world's oldest museum dedicated to photography and one of the world's oldest film archives, opened to the public in 1949 in Rochester, New York.

National Historic Landmark formal designation assigned by the United States federal government to historic buildings and sites in the United States

A National Historic Landmark (NHL) is a building, district, object, site, or structure that is officially recognized by the United States government for its outstanding historical significance. Of over 90,000 places listed on the country's National Register of Historic Places, only some 2,500 are recognized as National Historic Landmarks.

Hollywood Walk of Fame Entertainment hall of fame in Hollywood, Los Angeles

The Hollywood Walk of Fame comprises more than 2,600 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street in Hollywood, California. The stars are permanent public monuments to achievement in the entertainment industry, bearing the names of a mix of musicians, actors, directors, producers, musical and theatrical groups, fictional characters, and others. The Walk of Fame is administered by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and maintained by the self-financing Hollywood Historic Trust. It is a popular tourist destination, with a reported 10 million visitors in 2003. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce holds trademark rights to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Early life

Eastman's boyhood home from Waterville, now relocated to the Genesee Country Village and Museum GeorgeEastmanBoyhoodHomeFrontViewOblique.JPG
Eastman's boyhood home from Waterville, now relocated to the Genesee Country Village and Museum

Eastman was born in Waterville, New York [3] as the youngest son of George Washington Eastman and Maria Eastman (née Kilbourn), at the 10-acre farm which his parents had bought in 1849. He had two older sisters, Ellen Maria and Katie. [4] He was largely self-educated, although he attended a private school in Rochester after the age of eight. [4] In the early 1840s his father had started a business school, the Eastman Commercial College in Rochester, New York. The city became one of the first "boomtowns" in the United States, based on rapid industrialization. [4] As his father's health started deteriorating, the family gave up the farm and moved to Rochester in 1860. [4] His father died of a brain disorder in May 1862. To survive and afford George's schooling, his mother took in boarders. [4]

Waterville, New York Village in New York, United States

Waterville is a village in Oneida County, New York, United States. According to the 2010 census, its population was 1,583.

Rochester, New York City in New York, United States

Rochester is a city on the southern shore of Lake Ontario in western New York. With a population of 208,046 residents, Rochester is the seat of Monroe County and the third most populous city in New York state, after New York City and Buffalo. The metropolitan area has a population of just over 1 million people. It is about 73 miles (117 km) east of Buffalo and 87 miles (140 km) west of Syracuse.

The second daughter, Katie, had contracted polio when young and died in late 1870 when George was 15 years old. The young George left school early and started working to help support the family. As Eastman began to have success with his photography business, he vowed to repay his mother for the hardships she had endured in raising him. [5]

Polio Infectious disease

Polio, also called poliomyelitis or infantile paralysis, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. In about 0.5 percent of cases there is muscle weakness resulting in an inability to move. This can occur over a few hours to a few days. The weakness most often involves the legs but may less commonly involve the muscles of the head, neck and diaphragm. Many people fully recover. In those with muscle weakness about 2 to 5 percent of children and 15 to 30 percent of adults die. Another 25 percent of people have minor symptoms such as fever and a sore throat and up to 5 percent have headache, neck stiffness and pains in the arms and legs. These people are usually back to normal within one or two weeks. In up to 70 percent of infections there are no symptoms. Years after recovery post-polio syndrome may occur, with a slow development of muscle weakness similar to that which the person had during the initial infection.


U.S. patent no. 388,850, issued to George Eastman, September 4, 1888 George Eastman patent no 388,850.png
U.S. patent no. 388,850, issued to George Eastman, September 4, 1888

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 Black camera, which was the first camera designed to use roll film. In 1889 he first offered film stock, and by 1896 became the leading supplier of film stock internationally. [6] He incorporated his company under the name Eastman Kodak, in 1892. [7] As film stock became standardized, Eastman continued to lead in innovations. Refinements in colored film stock continued after his death.

In an era of growing trade union activities, Eastman sought to counter the union movement by devising worker benefit programs, including, in 1910, the establishment of a profit-sharing program for all employees. [7] Considered to be a progressive leader for the times, Eastman promoted Florence McAnaney to be head of the personnel department. She was one of the first women to hold an executive position in a major U.S. company.[ citation needed ]

Personal life

George Eastman never married. He was close to his mother and to his sister and her family. He had a long platonic relationship with Josephine Dickman, a trained singer and the wife of business associate George Dickman, becoming especially close to her after the death of his mother, Maria Eastman, in 1907. He was also an avid traveler and had a passion for playing the piano. [4]

The loss of his mother, Maria, 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 his 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 reluctance to accept his gifts, George Eastman could never do enough for his mother during her lifetime. He continued to honor her after her death. On September 4, 1922, he opened the Eastman Theater in Rochester, which included a chamber-music hall, Kilbourn Theater, dedicated to his mother's memory. At the Eastman House he maintained a rose bush, using a cutting from her childhood home. [5]

Later years

George Eastman, 1917 George Eastman 7.jpg
George Eastman, 1917

Eastman was associated with the Kodak company in an administrative and a business 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.

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. [8] 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 ranked slightly behind Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and a few others in his philanthropy, 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 also donated $22,050 per year to the American Eugenics Society, a popular cause among many of the upper class when there were concerns about immigration and "race mixing." [9]

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, George Riddell, 1st Baron Riddell. Donations of £50,000 each had been made by Lord Riddell and the Royal Free honorary treasurer. On November 20, 1931, the UCL Eastman Dental Institute opened in a ceremony attended by Neville Chamberlain, then Minister of Health, and the American Ambassador to the UK. The clinic was incorporated into the Royal Free Hospital and was committed to providing dental care for disadvantaged children from central London. It is now a part of University College London. [10]

Eastman also funded Eastmaninstitutet, a dental care clinic for children opened in 1937 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Infirmity and suicide

Memorial at Kodak Park in Rochester. Eastman's ashes lie beneath the Georgia marble monument. GeorgeEastmanMonumentEastSide.JPG
Memorial at Kodak Park in Rochester. Eastman's ashes lie beneath the Georgia marble monument.

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 two years of her life in a wheelchair, [5] she also may have had a spine condition but that is uncertain. Only her uterine cancer and successful surgery are documented in her health history. [4]

Eastman suffered from depression due to his pain, reduced ability to function, and also since he had witnessed his mother's suffering from pain. On March 14, 1932, Eastman died by suicide with a single gunshot through the heart. His suicide note read, "To my friends, my work is done – Why wait? GE." [2]

Raymond Granger, an insurance salesman in Rochester, was visiting to collect insurance payments from several members of the staff. He arrived at the scene to find the workforce in a dither. At least one chronicler said that fear of senility or other debilitating diseases of old age was a contributing factor. [11]

His funeral was held at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Rochester; his coffin was carried out to Charles Gounod's "Marche Romaine" and buried in the grounds of the company he founded, at what is now known as Eastman Business Park. [12]


Eastmanistitutet 2008f.jpg

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. [13]

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. [14]

During his lifetime Eastman donated $100 million to various organizations, with most of his money going to the University of Rochester and to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to build their programs and facilities (under the alias "Mr. Smith"). He was one of the major philanthropists in the United States during his lifetime. [15] [16] The Rochester Institute of Technology has a building dedicated to Eastman, in recognition of his support and substantial donations. MIT installed a plaque of Eastman on one of the buildings he funded. (Students rub the nose of Eastman's image on the plaque for good luck.) Eastman also made substantial gifts to the Tuskegee Institute and the Hampton Institute in Alabama and Virginia, respectively. [17]

Security Trust Company of Rochester was the executor of Eastman's estate. [18] His entire estate was bequeathed to the University of Rochester. [19] The Eastman Quadrangle of the River Campus of the University of Rochester was named for him. [20]

Eastman had built a mansion at 900 East Avenue in Rochester. Here he entertained friends to dinner and held private music concerts. The University of Rochester used the mansion for various purposes for decades after his death. In 1949, it re-opened after having been adapted for use as the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark, [21] and is now known as the George Eastman Museum,

Eastman's boyhood home was saved from destruction. It was restored to its state during his childhood and is displayed at the Genesee Country Village and Museum. [22]


Honors and commemorations

George Eastman
commemorative issue, 1954 George Eastman stamp 3c 1954 issue.JPG
George Eastman
commemorative issue, 1954
A first day cover honoring George Eastman 1954 USPOD George Eastman 1954 First Day Cover.jpg
A first day cover honoring George Eastman 1954
Meridian marker and Eastman memorial UniversityOfRochesterMeridianMarker.jpg
Meridian marker and Eastman memorial


An often-repeated urban legend recounts that photographer and musician Linda McCartney (née Eastman, first wife of Beatle Sir Paul McCartney) was related to the George Eastman family, but this is not true. Her father was of Russian Jewish ancestry and changed his surname to Eastman before becoming known as an attorney. [26]

At least one biographical film has been made about George Eastman. It was an independent production made in the 1940s, apparently never preserved and mostly lost to time titled either The Life of George Eastman or George Eastman: Some Scenes Form His Life. The film, aired on television for a time into the 1960s, ends with his development of all-color negative film.[ citation needed ] In 1981, the short film The Lengthened Shadow of a Man about Eastman was made, [ citation needed ] the title of which comes from the T. S. Eliot poem 3. Sweeney Erect. [27]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Ansco company

Ansco was the brand name of a photographic company based in Binghamton, New York, which produced photographic films, papers and cameras from the mid-1800s until the 1980s. In the Late 1880s ANSCO's predecessor, Anthony and Scovill, bought the Goodwin Camera & Film Company. Hannibal Goodwin invented the flexible photographic film, which should have made Anthony Scovill the leader in the amateur photography business. But George Eastman copied the patented process and immediately set out to compete against Anthony Scovill. The ruthless behavior of Eastman nearly drove the now named ANSCO out of business, but a settlement in 1905 saved the company from bankruptcy. Eastman Kodak got away cheaply on this legal proceeding. In 1928 AGFA merged with ANSCO to allow it to compete in the worldwide photographic market like its competitors, Kodak and Zeiss. This joint company added many AGFA cameras and accessories to its sales in the USA as a result of this. In the months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the US Government seized AGFA-ANSCO. This now government-run business continued to survive as a hostile alien property. During this period, the organization was renamed GAF. Throughout the postwar period the concern sold rebadged versions of cameras made by other manufacturers, including Agfa and Chinon. A Minolta-built Ansco model was the first 35 mm camera in space and their film was used in space, too.

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You Press the Button, We Do the Rest

"You Press the Button, We Do the Rest" was an advertising slogan coined by George Eastman, the founder of Kodak, in 1888. Eastman believed in making photography available to the world, and making it possible for anyone who had the desire to take great pictures. Until then, taking photographs was a complicated process that could only be accomplished if the photographer could process and develop film. With his new slogan, Eastman and the Eastman Kodak Company became wildly successful and helped make photography popular.


  1. Klepper, Michael; Gunther, Michael (1996). The Wealthy 100: From Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates—A Ranking of the Richest Americans, Past and Present. Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Publishing Group. p. xiii. ISBN   978-0-8065-1800-8. OCLC   33818143
  2. 1 2 Lindsay, David "George Eastman: The Final Shot". American Experience . PBS. Retrieved August 30, 2013.
  3. McNellis, David (September 10, 2010). Reflections on Big Spring: A History of Pittsford, NY, and the Genesee River Valley. AuthorHouse. p. 147.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Brayer, Elizabeth (1996). George Eastman: A Biography. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN   0-8018-5263-3. (University of Rochester Press, 2006 reprint: ISBN   1-580-46247-2. pp.12-19)
  5. 1 2 3 "Maria Eastman article". American Experience. PBS. Retrieved August 5, 2012.
  6. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on May 15, 2013. Retrieved December 7, 2018.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. 1 2 "George Eastman." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. Edited by Thomas Carson and Mary Bonk. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 1999. Retrieved via Biography in Context database, January 26, 2018.
  8. Ford, Carin T. (2004). George Eastman: The Kodak Camera Man. Enslow Publishers, INC.
  9. Spiro, Jonathan (December 15, 2009). Defending the Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grant. UPNE. p. 353. ISBN   9781584658108.
  10. Black, Nick. Walking London's Medical History.
  11. Sandburg, Carl (1936). The People, Yes (First Harvest Edition 1990 ed.). Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc. ISBN   0544416929., Chapter 7
  12. QUIGLEY, KATHLEEN (March 18, 1990). "Splendor Restored At Eastman House". The New York Times .
  13. "George Eastman". Retrieved March 23, 2018.
  14. "About CGR". Center for Governmental Research Inc. (CGR). Retrieved September 1, 2011.
  15. The Philanthropy Roundtable Hall of Fame, George Eastman
  16. Ford, Carin T. (2004). George Eastman: The Kodak Camera Man. Enslow Publishers, Inc.
  17. Ackerman, p. 466
  18. Morrell, Alan (January 7, 2017). "Whatever Happened To ... Security Trust?". Democrat and Chronicle .
  19. "After 40 years, two collections of George Eastman's papers reunite at the George Eastman Museum". George Eastman Museum. January 31, 2017.
  20. "University of Rochester: Campuses and Landmarks". University of Rochester.
  21. National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service.
  22. "Genesee Country Village and Museum". Genesee Country Village.
  23. "Eastman monument a reminder of what was, what could be". Democrat and Chronicle . Rochester, New York. April 2, 2014. p. 1B. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
  24. "George Eastman Issue". Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Retrieved July 3, 2014.
  25. "Hutchison (Charles F.) Collection". Rochester, New York: University of Rochester . Retrieved July 4, 2017.
  26. Skanse, Richard (April 20, 1998). "Linda McCartney Dies at 56". Rolling Stone .
  27. "3. Sweeney Erect. T.S. Eliot. 1920. Poems". Retrieved February 1, 2019.

Further reading

Business positions
New office Treasurer of Eastman Kodak
Succeeded by
Title last held by
Henry A. Strong
President of Eastman Kodak
1921 – April 7, 1925
Succeeded by
William G. Stuber
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Raymond Poincaré
Cover of Time Magazine
March 31, 1924
Succeeded by
George V