George Eastman History of Kodak and Rolled Photographic Film Research Proposal

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George Eastman -- History of Kodak

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George Eastman -- History of Kodak and Rolled

Photographic Film

George Eastman developed the first mass-produced camera and photographic equipment, making amateur photography available to millions of people.

Born in Waterville, New York in 1854, George Eastman invented photographic roll film (1884), and the Kodak (1888) and Brownie (1900) cameras, making affordable, portable photography available to all for the first time (Goldman 69).

He was raised in poverty, "developed" an interest in photography, left school at the age of 14, and went to work. Though he invented the "mass production" camera, his initial interest and inventions were photographic film. His main goal was to improve the quality and speed of the film. Up to that time, photographs were taken by professional photographers using big cameras that utilized heavy glass plates, and the images took a long exposure time (Johnston 3).

In 1877 Eastman became interested in some land to purchase and he decided to photograph it. Unfortunately, the technology of the time with large, heavy equipment and wet-plate photography, was frustrating, bulky, and slow. It required not only the heavy camera and plates, but a cumbersome tripod, dark tent, and developing solution. He finally had to pay a professional photographer five dollars to show him how to use it (

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In 1884, he invented the first roll film -- similar to the film we use today, and in 1888 he invented the Kodak camera. Now, he had convenient roll film and a camera to use them in. So, in 1892, he founded the Eastman Kodak Company which mass-produced the film and cameras. With the invention of his Brownie camera in 1902, his and his company made photography into a popular hobby (Goldman 69).

Research Proposal on George Eastman History of Kodak and Rolled Photographic Film Assignment

However, Eastman's creative life had its difficulties as he fought failure time after time, and competitors who were working on similar technologies. His roll film, though revolutionary, was not considered by professional photographers as high enough quality for them to use. His Kodak camera came already loaded with enough roll film to take 100 pictures before it needed to be returned to his factory for developing -- a slow process. And the Kodak cost $25, a princely sum at the time. However, he sold over 10,000 of them in one year, enough to establish a brand and make his camera very popular.

During the 1890s, he had problems with the emulsion he used and had to take his film from the market while he hired several chemists (and fired them) trying to develop a higher quality emulsion. In 1893, the U.S. And the world went through a significant depression, which, along with the other problems, almost placed the Kodak Company into bankruptcy.

But, Eastman and his company survived, and, finally, he came up with a high-quality emulsion that, he found, even the professional photographers would use, and it could be used for motion picture film, a completely new and upcoming industry. Within a few years, his movie film became his main product and his company was solvent again.

When he came out with the lightweight, inexpensive ($1) Brownie camera just after the turn of the century, he sold over 100,000 of them in a year -- far more than all the Kodak cameras he had sold in the previous 12 years (

His success assured, he turned to generous philanthropy. In 1932, at the age of 77, he took his own life with a pistol, saying that there was no reason to wait to die -- his work was done.

People in Eastman's Life

Maria Eastman, George's mother, was, at all times, the main character in his life. When George was eight years old, his father died leaving his mother at a poverty level. She took in boarders and did whatever she could to put food on the table (Tedlow 75). George left school at a young age to help. It was in his mother's kitchen that he first started experimenting with emulsifiers for film.

Maria was raised a Calvinist and, after her son began to become successful, had a hard time accepting gifts from him since she had, for so long, done without. But mother and son were uncommonly close to each other, especially after Maria's daughter and George's sister, Katie, died of polio in 1870.

In the late 1890s, upon returning from a business trip, George discovered his mother had cancer. Surgery was successful, but her recovery was slow and George spent more time than ever with her, devoted to her care and recuperation.

By 1900, she seemed a content woman and mother. George gave her anything and everything, and she happily accepted, which made both mother and son quite satisfied. Her last two years were spent confined to a wheelchair.

She died in 1907. George, not given to emotional displays, cried all day.

Josephine Dickman

George Eastman met Josephine in 1889 during a trip to London with his mother. They had dinner there with several people, including Josephine and her husband, George, an international businessman. There was a solid connection between George and the couple, and his mother enjoyed Josephine's company very much.

Eastman began to visit the Dickman household regularly and they invited him to attend various social events, clubs, art galleries, antique auctions, and museums, which he accepted.

As far as anyone knows, there was no intimate connection between Mrs. Dickman and Eastman.

In 1893, Eastman replaced William Walker, his London manager, and the man who had introduced him to the Dickmans. His replacement was none other than Josephine's husband.

In 1898, on a business trip, again, to London, Eastman was finalizing the creation of Kodak International, the company which would spread Kodak interests around the globe. George Dickman, visiting Eastman at his London office, began to have severe abdominal pain. He was taken in an ambulance, seemed to recover, but died a few days later.

Eastman's relationship with Josephine grew closer, and, due to her husband's wealth, she established several homes in the U.S. Eastman saw her as often as possible, and their relationship grew to include confidences shared and deep feelings for each other. When Eastman's mother died in 1907, Josephine began to vacation and travel with Eastman.

It was as deep and loving a relationship as could be had between man and woman according to the people around them. They never married, but George took hundreds of pictures of her.

Henry Reichenbach and His Contribution

Eastman met Reichenbach as a result of discussing a chemical process with Dr. Samuel Lattimore, who was head of the Chemistry Department at the University of Rochester and one of this country's leading chemists. Reichenbach was Lattimore's assistant, and a brilliant chemist in his own right. In August, 1886, Eastman offered Reichenbach a position with his company.

Reichenbach and Eastman became quite close in a business sense and shared ideas about new processes and chemicals they might use to solve some of the problems Eastman was having.

Reichenbach was 100% dedicated to research for Eastman. In December, 1888, Reichenbach produced a nitro-cellulose solution that produced a smooth, clear film -- a significant advance but not quite the solution they needed. By 1889, Reichenbach had created an additive for the mixture that could be patented. It was the first transparent, flexible film (Ackerman 61).

The company enjoyed tremendous success in the following years because of this new invention and the first Kodak camera. However, in 1892, Eastman discovered that Reichenbach was conspiring with two other Kodak employees to form a rival company and use the secret formulas that they were now so familiar with. Without hesitation, Eastman fired all three.

He never forgave Reichenbach, who did form a competitive firm, which died out after several years.

How important was Reichenbach to Eastman's success? Without him, it was not assured that Eastman would solve his chemical problem and create the first transparent, flexible film, which was the basis for the success of the Kodak and Brownie cameras and the Kodak company itself. It is probable that Eastman would have found another chemist and the film would have been developed eventually without Reichenbach, but that is supposition. Eastman depended on Reichenbach's invention completely.

William Walker and His Contribution

Walker invented a small camera for amateur photographers he referred to as "Walker's Pocket Camera." It worked, and it beat Eastman to his goal of a camera with interchangeable parts. However, Walker was a habitual complainer, gave up easily, and in 1883, with no business savvy at all, walked away from his invention. In 1884, recognizing his creative, inventive talents, Eastman hired him.

Together they worked on the roller mechanism for roll film which would be the part of Eastman's camera allowing multiples of photos to be taken in a short time merely by rolling the film from one spool to the other. Walker continued his stubborn and complaining attitude, upset anytime the slightest thing went wrong,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

George Eastman History of Kodak and Rolled Photographic Film.  (2009, June 16).  Retrieved January 15, 2021, from

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"George Eastman History of Kodak and Rolled Photographic Film."  16 June 2009.  Web.  15 January 2021. <>.

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"George Eastman History of Kodak and Rolled Photographic Film."  June 16, 2009.  Accessed January 15, 2021.